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Family of young Prince Rupert man refutes autopsy report

The family of Justin Brooks recently received the autopsy into the young man's death.
The family of Justin Brooks is refuting the findings of the Coroner's report.

The family of Justin Brooks, the 21-year-old male who was discovered deceased at the Rotary Waterfront Park in March 2013, recently received the autopsy into the young man's death.

Brooks' mother, Cheryl Ryan, said the autopsy came to the same conclusion Prince Rupert RCMP did — Brooks drowned on that cold, early March morning. A BC Coroner's Service spokesperson said the autopsy could not be released to the Northern View for privacy reasons, but the Province newspaper released an article on the subject last week that states "Coroner Joy Sundin rule Brooks ... died accidentally from drowning and said acute alcohol intoxication was a factor in his death".

"I don't believe it was an accident, suicide or a slip and fall," said Ryan.

"I keep going through the autopsy report. It's bothering me."

Brooks passed away between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on March 4. Prince Rupert RCMP ruled out foul play last April, which sparked a complaint from Brooks' family, who claim RCMP told them Brooks was beaten up by a group of young people shortly before his passing.

"The autopsy says he has head injuries, bruises and scratches on his head, torso, face and legs. Everywhere," said Ryan.

"It said they couldn't determine if it was from a slip and fall or from the beating. But I can tell you what I saw when we saw him in the casket. It was from the beating. They can't tell me anything different. I've had this feeling since the beginning. Someone had to have put him in the water ... we're not done. We're still raising money to keep the investigators going ... we know more than what we got out of the RCMP [because of the investigators]."

Ryan claims when the two private investigators went to the Prince Rupert RCMP detachment for the case files and information, they were refused.

She said she then signed an authorization for communication so private investigators could access RCMP files on the investigation.

But Const. Matt Ericson, spokesperson for the Prince Rupert RCMP, said this is standard practice for RCMP.

“The process is that anybody who wants information has to go through our access to Freedom of Information and Privacy, which goes through Ottawa through an application process,” he said.

Ryan told the Northern View that Prince Rupert RCMP claim Brooks had a knife on him the night he died, something she hadn’t told media previously.

“When we went to the cop shop to pick up his wallet on March 7, they tried to give us a knife with his stuff,” she said, adding the private investigators informed the family the individuals who allegedly beat up Brooks prior to his passing all had different descriptions of the knife he was said to be carrying.

“This leads me to believe that there wasn’t a knife.”

Ryan believes her son’s investigation follows the pattern of the deaths of other young aboriginal Rupertites, including 16-year-old Emmalee McLean and 13-year-old Kayla Rose McKay who were both found deceased in or around water.

“It’s just like the other cases at the waterfront. It’s easier to say it was an accident, slip and fall or suicide than actually getting to the bottom of it,” she said.

“But it’s just going to make us push harder.”

Ericson declined to comment further, stating it would be inappropriate for the RCMP to comment on the Coroner’s report.