A woman who was held at gunpoint by her former partner says the RCMP were skeptical of her earlier complaints of harassment, with an officer at one point asking if she would be willing to take a lie-detector test, a coroner's inquest has heard.
The inquest into the November, 2012, death of the woman's former boyfriend, Mehrdad Bayrami, 48, began on Tuesday. Mr. Bayrami was killed by police after he took the woman hostage, though he released her hours before the fatal shot was fired. The case drew considerable attention when the officer who pulled the trigger was charged with second-degree murder, but the case was stayed by the Crown.
Tetiana Piltsina, Mr. Bayrami's former partner, told the inquest she ended their relationship months before the shooting. She said Mr. Bayrami then began following her and would call dozens of times a day. He also destroyed items in her house, slashed her tires and called people she knew to say "awful things" about her, she said.
Ms. Piltsina testified that the RCMP in Richmond, B.C., where she lived, offered little help initially. She said Mr. Bayrami had also contacted police to allege she was making threats against him.
"They were kind of skeptical of what I'm telling them. It was hard for me," she said.
Ms. Piltsina also took the inquest jury through the day of the hostage-taking. She said she had just pulled into the casino parking lot, where she was working, when she saw a man wearing a reflective vest over his clothing.
She said she initially thought the casino had hired a security guard for the employee lot. But when she got out of her car, the man ran toward her. It was Mr. Bayrami.
Ms. Piltsina testified that he pulled out a gun and told her she had to leave with him. She was forced into the car and said Mr. Bayrami fired two shots as she tried to break away. She was not hit but suffered a cut to her head during the struggle.
She was able to leave after police arrived, noting that Mr. Bayrami ultimately released his grip on her sweater and told her to go.
Ms. Piltsina could not recall exactly how many times she spoke with Richmond RCMP about Mr. Bayrami before she was taken hostage. She said it was "quite often," but the case was not taken seriously until a specific officer, Corporal Dustine Rodier, became involved.
Cpl. Rodier, who is now stationed in New Brunswick, testified on Tuesday by phone. She said when she first learned of the case in October, 2012, and reviewed the file, she became worried.
"After reading everything, I was extremely concerned for her safety and saw that something needed to be done immediately," she said.
Cpl. Rodier said a surveillance team began tracking Mr. Bayrami's movements. She also reached out to the Crown. The officer said Mr. Bayrami was arrested after he placed a GPS unit on Ms. Piltsina's car, though he was ultimately released from custody.
Cpl. Rodier did not criticize any officers who worked on the case before her.
Mr. Bayrami's mental health was a consistent theme on the first day of the inquest. Dr. Manoj Singhal said Mr. Bayrami became a patient in August, 2012, and the doctor last saw him about two weeks before the shooting. Mr. Bayrami died in hospital 10 days later.
Dr. Singhal said Mr. Bayrami came to see him for a sore arm, but he determined the man was depressed. Mr. Bayrami told the doctor he had suicidal thoughts and hadn't slept in about a week, the inquest heard. The doctor said he prescribed Mr. Bayrami an anti-depressant and he seemed to be improving.
The inquest is scheduled to hear testimony over five days. The officer who fired the fatal shot is expected to testify on Thursday.
An inquest jury can make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances, but it cannot assign blame.