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B.C. security guard who used chokehold guilty of manslaughter

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Image Credit: Cliff MacArthur/provincialcourt.bc.ca

Less than six months after George Floyd was notoriously choked to death by police officers, a security guard at Trinity Western University in Langley was called on to restrain a mentally ill man scaring students on campus.

He held the man in a chokehold for several minutes, long enough that he was unresponsive by the time police arrived. The man died in hospital and last week, the security guard was convicted of manslaughter.

Jack Cruthers Hutchison, 51, was called to the university Sept. 30, 2020, where a man later identified as Howard Hill was wearing all black while walking around in student residences at the height of COVID pandemic measures, according to a recent decision.

Students said Hill appeared to be either on drugs or experiencing mental illness. He was not a student and stood out immediately. Several students called for security worried for their safety or possible theft.

Hill was age 30, 6’3” and weighed 195 pounds. Hutchison is 5’4” and 150 pounds and was dealing with the issue alone.

When he tried to stop him, Hill took off running. Hutchison gave chase and tackled him. They fought for a few minutes and Hutchison suffered a broken rib in the scuffle until he got Hill in a headlock and managed to subdue him. Hutchison was assisted by several students, who he told to call 9-1-1 and spoke several times of urgency for police to arrive.

In the 13 minutes it took for police to arrive, they found Hill unresponsive.

Hutchison admitted to his actions but pleaded self defence. Justice Catherine Murray accepted that he was acting in his capacity to protect himself and others, until he wasn’t.

“Several witnesses that were watching from a distance… saw that Mr. Hill was no longer moving,” she wrote. “At some point, it was clear that Mr. Hill was no longer a threat to anyone. Therefore, I cannot accept that there continued to be reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Hill was using force or threatening force against Mr. Hutchison or others once he stopped moving.”

Hutchison was in good physical shape and was trained in martial arts.

“He acknowledged that he was aware that restraining someone by the neck was dangerous and testified that he maintained an airway for Mr. Hill while restraining him,” Murray wrote. “I accept that Mr. Hutchison did not intend to hurt Mr. Hill and that he certainly did not intend to cause his death. However, that is not the legal test. The question is whether restraining Mr. Hill in a headlock for a prolonged period of time was reasonable in all of the circumstances.

“I find that it was not… When Mr. Hill stopped resisting, he was no longer a threat to Mr. Hutchison or anyone else, and the nature of Mr. Hutchison’s response became disproportionate.”

A sentencing date is not yet known.


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