FORT MACLEOD — Doctors for an RCMP officer convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of a drunk man in police cells say he’s in no shape to testify at a fatality inquiry into the incident.
On Wednesday, inquiry lawyers Neil Boyle and Glenn Epp told court that they have received email correspondence from former constable Mike Ferguson’s psychologist and his physician.
Both have indicated Ferguson is not emotionally or physically capable of testifying, saying for him to be forced to do so would place his health in serious jeopardy.
Ferguson now lives in British Columbia.
The mother of Darren Varley, the young man who was fatally shot by Ferguson, says the family is upset that the former officer might not have to testify.
She told the inquiry that if Ferguson would just face up to the process, it would be a step toward her family being able to trust the RCMP again.
“There isn’t a person in Pincher Creek who thinks the RCMP are worth anything,” she said.
It has been painful to hear her son characterized in court as a drunk when she knew him to be a kind and helpful person with many friends, she added.
When Redman asked Varley what she would ask Ferguson if he was present, she said she’d want to know why he never dealt with his anger issues.
The inquiry has heard from both witnesses and law enforcement officials that Ferguson had a bad temper. In one instance, he attacked another officer at a shooting range.
There were also complaints by support staff, a female officer and civilians, including a youth Ferguson allegedly assaulted in a jail cell, and a basketball referee Ferguson chest-butted after a game.
Varley, 26, and a group of friends had been drinking at a bar when one of them was injured and the group ended up at the local hospital.
Witnesses testified during the first part of the inquiry last October that when Ferguson was called to the scene, he arrived already angry and hostile toward Varley and the others, telling them he didn’t like drunks.
They said the officer punched Varley with no provocation and refused his sister’s pleas that she just take her brother home.
Shortly after Varley was placed in a cell by Ferguson, a scuffle erupted and Varley was shot twice, once in the abdomen and once in the head.
Ferguson maintained he acted in self-defence because Varley had grabbed his gun.
Ferguson was originally charged with murder and was tried three times, with two of the trials resulting in hung juries. At the third trial, he was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
He applied to the Supreme Court to be exempted from the four-year, mandatory minimum sentence set for manslaughter involving a gun, but in 2008 the high court unanimously ruled against him.
Judge Derek Redman said the correspondence from the psychologist and the physician managed to get Ferguson excused from testifying in October, when the inquiry began, and again for this week.
But he said he’s concerned about how the medical evidence was received and he wants it given under oath or by a sworn affidavit.
The inquiry has now been adjourned for several weeks until those two witnesses can be called.