Saskatchewan

Testimony wraps up at coroner's inquest into in-custody death of Jeremy Sabourin in Moose Jaw

A coroner's inquest of the death of Jeremy Sabourin has concluded in Moose Jaw, Sask., after three days of testimony delving into how Sabourin was able to conceal a weapon he used to shoot and kill himself while he was in the cells of the Moose Jaw Police Service. 

Sabourin shot and killed himself in Moose Jaw Police Service cell in 2021

The main entrance of the stone court house in Moose Jaw.
The coroner's inquest into the death of Jeremy Sabourin, being held at the courthouse in Moose Jaw, has heard from 13 witnesses over three days. (Alexander Quon/CBC)

WARNING: This story contains description of a death by suicide.

The third and final day of testimony in the coroner's inquest of the in-custody death of Jeremy Sabourin has concluded.

Through the three days of testimony, the inquiry has delved into how police officers from multiple agencies failed to detect a small five-shot revolver that Sabourin had concealed on the inside of his pants after his arrest in 2021.

Sabourin would later use that weapon to shoot and kill himself while he was in the cells of the Moose Jaw Police Service. 

Over the inquest's three days, 13 witnesses have testified at the courthouse in Moose Jaw. The six-person jury will be charged by coroner Blaine Beaven on Thursday morning. 

A coroner's inquest is not meant to determine guilt. Juries in coroner's inquests are tasked with determining how, when and where a person died.

The jury can also make recommendations on how similar incidents can be avoided in the future.

If you missed a loaded firearm when searching someone, it was not a thorough search.- Rod Zoerb, trainer at Saskatchewan Police College

The death of Jeremy Sabourin

Sabourin, described in an obituary as a member of the Saskatchewan Handgun Association and a local safety officer for several years, was 40 years old when he was arrested by the Assiniboia RCMP detachment on Oct. 6, 2021.

The jury has heard that at the time of Sabourin's arrest, he had been wanted for nearly a year on an outstanding warrant for a sexual assault charge.

RCMP officers testified that Sabourin was known to be the type of person who would carry a firearm in a vehicle or on his person.

A man in a tan jacket holds a fishing road while looking back at the camera.
Jeremy Sabourin is shown fishing in an undated photograph. (Ross Funeral Service)

Sabourin was also known to be a "borderline" freeman of the land, or sovereign-citizen believer. That is a belief system that is known to question law enforcement and reject lawful authority. 

The jury heard conflicting testimony about how many times Sabourin was searched while in the custody of RCMP.

Testimony confirmed Sabourin was physically searched two separate times by different officers: once when he was arrested and again when he was taken back to the RCMP's Assiniboia detachment.

Some officers testified that they believed Sabourin was searched a third time when he was going to be transported to Moose Jaw. Others testified that search did not occur.

A metal-detecting wand was available to the RCMP officers for use in a search, but the jury has heard that no officer used the tool. 

When Sabourin was transported to the Moose Jaw Police Service later on Oct. 6, he was not searched by Staff Sgt. Chris Flanagan, the officer in charge of the cell block. 

WATCH | Inquest into Sask. man's self-inflicted gunshot wound death in police cell gets underway:

Inquest into Sask. man's self-inflicted gunshot wound death in police cell gets underway

1 month ago
Duration 2:01
Jeremy Sabourin shot himself while he was in the custody of Moose Jaw Police Service, according to testimony heard Monday morning.

Flanagan testified that RCMP Const. Paul Evans, who transported Sabourin to Moose Jaw, had said the prisoner had already been searched.

Flanagan took Evans at his word and did not search Sabourin himself, despite a policy that required all prisoners to be searched before they are placed in a cell. 

That same policy requires all individuals being placed in cells to be swiped with a metal-detecting wand, but Sabourin was not wanded down by Moose Jaw police. 

The next day, Sabourin was supposed to be taken to court to appear on the warrant. Instead, he shot and killed himself with the concealed firearm. 

Searching for answers

The RCMP officers who searched Sabourin testified that they believed they carried out a proper search of a suspect in custody.

Const. Paisley Armstrong, an officer at the Assiniboia detachment, testified at least one of the searches was "textbook."

However, at least one other witness disagreed. 

Rod Zoerb was a member of the Moose Jaw Police Service at the time of the incident. He's now a trainer at the Saskatchewan Police College, including instructing students on how to search suspects while they are in custody. 

Zoerb rejected the notion that the searches performed by police were thorough. 

"If you missed a loaded firearm when searching someone, it was not a thorough search," said Zoerb.

RCMP Sgt. Brett Kovar testified Wednesday that the RCMP conducted an internal review of their officers' conduct in their dealings with Sabourin and his death.

Kovar said the only deficiency the review found was related to the lack of using a metal detecting wand.

The evidence provided by various police officers indicates that no one at the Assiniboia RCMP detachment faced disciplinary proceedings as a result of Sabourin's death.

Flanagan confirmed that for his role in the death he was demoted from staff sergeant, the highest-ranking operational role in the Moose Jaw Police Service, to constable, the lowest rank.  

In the months after Sabourin's death, the Moose Jaw Police Service reinforced the policy requiring prisoners to be searched before being placed in cells. 

The local RCMP division in Saskatchewan also updated its policy around using a metal-detecting wand. When a prisoner is placed into a cell, officers are now required to use the metal-detecting wand before and after a physical search is carried out. 


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  • This story originally reported that RCMP Sgt. Brett Kovar said the only deficiency an internal review found was related to the lack of a search warrant. In fact, the deficiency was the lack of a metal-detecting wand during searches.
    Apr 18, 2024 10:16 AM CT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexander Quon is a reporter with CBC Saskatchewan based in Regina. After working in Atlantic Canada for four years he's happy to be back in his home province. He has previously worked with the CBC News investigative unit in Nova Scotia and Global News in Halifax. Alexander specializes in data-reporting, COVID-19 and municipal political coverage. He can be reached at: Alexander.Quon@cbc.ca.