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Family of Summerside man killed by police in limbo while SiRT investigation drags on

Jaime Skiffington (sister), Kim Skiffington-Baglole (aunt) and Buddy the dog at Kim’s home. Both women are family to Jeremy Stephens, 32, of Summerside, who was killed by police in May, 2018. Almost nine months later they are still waiting for answers about why Stephens was shot.
Jaime Skiffington (sister), Kim Skiffington-Baglole (aunt) and Buddy the dog are shown at Kim’s home. Both women are family to Jeremy Stephens, 32, of Summerside, who was killed by police in May 2018. Almost nine months later they are still waiting for answers about why Stephens was shot. - Colin MacLean
SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

She remembers cheering for him and telling him that his mom was there.

She remembers saying they loved him and begging him to come back – long after the paramedics and hospital staff declared him dead.

In a lot of ways, Ruby Skiffington feels like she never left the Prince County Hospital on the morning of May 27, 2018.

She believes many in her family feel the same.

“Everybody is stuck on that day,” said Ruby.

“It’s like life is frozen in time. Even when you’re out and you’re laughing – you feel guilty for laughing because … Jeremy is not there. It almost feels like a betrayal.”

Ruby is a maternal aunt of Jeremy Stephens, 32, of Summerside, who was shot by Summerside Police Services officers on May 27 as they tried to arrest him on suspicion of his involvement in a violent robbery the night before.

 

“Everybody is stuck on that day. It’s like life is frozen in time. Even when you’re out and you’re laughing – you feel guilty for laughing because … Jeremy is not there. It almost feels like a betrayal.” -Ruby Skiffington

Stephens’ death has been under investigation by the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) for nearly nine months. His family is frustrated by the length of time the investigation is taking. Those who spoke with the Journal Pioneer feel unable to move on with their lives until they get some answers.

Because the case is still being investigated, little information has been released to the public or Stephens' family. Most of what they know has been pieced together through rumour, what police told the media early on in the investigation or from information released during the court cases of the three other men arrested and charged in connection with the same robbery.

“We can’t move forward with this still being stuck in limbo,” said Kim Skiffington-Baglole, Ruby’s sister and another of Stephens’ aunts.

“My brain is working overtime all the time trying to figure this mess out because nobody is telling me anything,” added Jaime Skiffington, his sister.

The women said the death has had a real impact on their large family. Some have lost jobs, others have withdrawn from their loved ones and whenever they gather, the death is all they can speak of. They are constantly hearing new rumours and theories as to the series of events that led to the shooting or about how the investigation is progressing.

“We’re (originally) a Newfoundland family. We’re all about laughing and joking and carrying on – trying to make everybody feel happy. But it’s almost like that fire is going out,” said Ruby.

A #JusticeForJeremy decal. Jeremy Stephen’s family has been using the slogan as their mantra since the Summerside man died.
A #JusticeForJeremy decal. Jeremy Stephen’s family has been using the slogan as their mantra since the Summerside man died.

 

Stephens was a troubled young man and had more than his fair share of run-ins with the law, they concede. But he was still one of their own and was loved.

The family, they said, is pinning a lot on the SIRT report. They have so many questions.

What is the status of the officers who shot Stephens? What is the weapon he was supposedly holding when he was shot? Why wasn't a conductive energy weapon (TASER) used instead? The list goes on.

They are hoping SIRT will help shed some light on those questions, but they also see it as a first step on a longer journey.

It’s just been so long to have to wait to take that first step, said Kim.

“I don’t think we’re going to get closure in this SIRT report. This report is going to be a stepping stone. It means that, whatever happens, we can do something – move forward,” she said.

Summerside Police Chief David Poirier declined to comment on this story as it involves an ongoing investigation. Poirier has previously expressed condolences, on behalf of Summerside Police Services, to Stephens’ family.

The Journal Pioneer did not receive a response from SIRT regarding an offer to comment, but SIRT director Felix Cacchione has previously said he is limited in what he can say.

The SIRT office has indicated that its process is nearing completion but has not provided a firm timetable as to when the final report into Stephens’ death will be released.

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