Family of woman killed in NS mass shooting accuses commission of ignoring information about their loved one

The union representing RCMP members is responding to the family of a woman killed in the Nova Scotia mass shooting after an allegation Heather O’Brien was still alive when police reached her.

O’Brien’s family released a statement Thursday night after the Mass Casualty Commission presented its findings on what happened when Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien were shot and killed just before 10 am on April 19 on Plains Road in Debert, NS

The presentation prompted O’Brien’s family to share what they believe wasn’t shared — that the VON’s Fitbit registered a pulse for hours after police radioed she had died.

Documents released by the commission reveal one of the initial responding police officers said O’Brien had a faint pulse when they arrived, but that life flight and EHS did not attend due to the active shooter situation. He then said they “had to let her die.”

However, another officer told the commission an initial pulse reading was inaccurate and upon re-checking, he confirmed she was deceased.

The O’Brien family takes issue with those statements and said O’Brien’s Fitbit device registered a pulse until 6 pm on April 19.

“We know this information is controversial. We also know that it has been used in cases in the US to pinpoint time of death,” the statement read.

“Once again, we are disappointed that the public is not getting this information, and instead being forced to read through thousands of documents to find anything. If it does not fit their narrative, it is not published.”

The Fitbit data was acknowledged in the documents, noting the commission is investigating whether readings on O’Brien’s Fitbit can shed light on events.

“Anybody reading the foundational document at the time would’ve been, yes, aware that Fitbit data would’ve been presented but they would’ve had no conception whatsoever of what that data may have meant or why the family submitted it in the first place,” said Adam Rodgers, a criminal lawyer.

Brian Sauvé, the president of the National Police Federation, is calling for the commission to question the medical examiner on the Fitbit activity, as well as the time and cause of death, during upcoming public proceedings.

“This expert evidence will be helpful to dispel current ongoing and inflammatory speculation, which is harmful for everyone involved,” Sauvé said.

“The allegations of neglect of duties being asserted by the O’Brien family and repeated in the media against our EMRT members are extremely serious, striking at the core of their commitment to serve and protect, and dishonouring their service on April 18 and 19. ”

The commission’s Investigations Director Barbara McLean said the commission has received information from the O’Brien family and is continuing its investigation.

“The foundational documents, including their source materials such as witness statements, help explain what we have learned so far and identify what topics we need to explore further,” said McLean.

“The commission’s investigation into what happened and why will continue to evolve and grow throughout our work. That includes building on the information gathered for this foundational document. We continue to ask questions and seek answers to inform our final report.”

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