TYSON WHITNEY PHOTO Friends and family of James Reginald Hayward stand behind his memorial bench on the three-year anniversary of his death, which is just mere feet from where he was shot and killed by a Port Hardy RCMP officer.

VIDEO: Memorial bench unveiled for Vancouver Island man killed by police

James Hayward was shot by police in Port Hardy after refusing to drop a large knife in 2015

Three years after his death, the James Reginald Hayward memorial bench was officially unveiled in front of a large crowd of friends and family, just mere feet from where he was shot and killed by a Port Hardy RCMP officer.

James’ family had asked the District of Port Hardy for the memorial to be erected back in November of 2017, which the district graciously approved.

Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood went on record with the Gazette back in November, saying he was “happy that we found a respectful way to remember James, which is a good thing.”

James’s aunt, Nora Hayward, said she thinks her family is happy with the memorial. “The bench is wonderful, it’s in a prominent place, and it’s right across from where the accident happened.”

READ MORE: Hayward’s family still looking for answers

Nora noted she started a Gofundme page to raise money for the memorial plaque to be put on the bench, stating the funds were quickly raised within 24 hours. “I want this to remind people of what happened,” she said, adding, “I want this to be a place where people can go and remember James and think about James, and to remember that things like this don’t need to happen.”

In a previous interview with the Gazette, Nora stated James had a criminal record (his criminal record includes convictions for assault, unlawful confinement, break-and-enter and robbery) and that he had told her he was bi-polar, but had stopped taking medication after getting out of jail.

READ MORE: Memorial bench approved for James Hayward

Nora added James was only 24-years-old and was “just starting out in life — he’d just started talking about having children, and it’s sad. He was trying to get his mental health issues dealt with properly.”

“That’s one of the main reasons I’m trying to fight so hard,” she added. “Not just to remember James as he was and for what he was, but to stop this from happening again.”

In July of 2015, James was confronted by the Port Hardy RCMP approximately 300 metres away from the Port Hardy Secondary School track. James moved towards the police with a large knife in his hand and was shot to the ground.

Witnesses said he then got up and continued toward the police and was shot again and again fell, this time not getting back up. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. An autopsy was conducted on July 13, 2015. The pathologist found that there were five entrance wounds, two complete exit wounds and one partial exit wound on his body. There was no drugs or alcohol found in his system.

Eyewitness reports from the day of the incident said the body lay out in the summer heat for more than eight hours, due to no one being able to move Hayward until the coroner had authorized the removal after gathering all the evidence needed.

READ MORE: RCMP officers cleared in 2015 fatal shooting

The officer who fired his weapon declined to be interviewed or provide any report to the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which is his right pursuant to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The IIO cleared the Port Hardy RCMP officer of any wrongdoing on July 26, 2017.

Marten Youssef, Acting Director, Public Engagement & Policy for the IIO, confirmed that after the IIO had reviewed all of the evidence collected, “We came to the conclusion there clearly was an action creating a threat to the officers,” which ultimately meant the matter would not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges.

A coroner’s inquest has been granted and will be held sometime in Spring of 2019. Inquests are formal court proceedings, with a five-person jury, held to publicly review the circumstances of a death. The jury hears evidence from witnesses under subpoena in order to determine the facts of the death. The presiding coroner is responsible to ensure the jury maintains the goal of fact finding, not fault finding.

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