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TWU security guard found guilty of Langley manslaughter

Guard tackled man and held by the neck for around 10 minutes
BC Supreme Court in New Westminster. (File photo)

A former security guard at Langley’s Trinity Western University has been found guilty of manslaughter after he put a suspected burglar in a lethal neck restraint.

Jack Cruthers Hutchison was found guilty of causing the death of Howard Hill by Justice Catherine Murray, in an April 26 decision in New Westminster Supreme Court.

The incident began on Sept. 30, 2020, when the campus was still largely in lockdown during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and students who lived in residence were largely isolated.

In the middle of the day, a tall man in black was reported wandering through various student residences, rifling through items in dorm rooms.

“He seemed out of it. He clearly was not a resident. Students called security,” Murray wrote in her ruling.

The court would later hear that Hill suffered from schizophrenia and had not taken medication in four months before the incident.

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Hutchison was the sole security guard working on the Langley campus that day.

When Hutchison spotted Hill near Robson Hall, Hutchison identified himself as security. Hill took off running and Hutchison gave chase, tackling the other man as he was headed towards a student standing near the edge of a field. There was a struggle with punches thrown on both sides, before Hutichison got Hill in a headlock.

“Mr. Hutchison placed Mr. Hill in a neck restraint and held him there until police arrived. When police finally got there, Mr. Hill was unconscious,” said Murray. “He died in hospital a couple of days later after he was taken off life support.”

A pathologist’s opinion was that Hill’s death was caused by prolonged pressure on vital blood vessels on one side of his neck, cutting off the oxygen supply to the man’s brain.

Hutchison was charged with manslaughter, with the Crown prosecutors arguing that Hill was killed during an illegal assault. Hutchison argued that he was acting in self defence and the defence of others, and that Hill’s death was an accident.

Murray detailed evidence collected from eyewitnesses and medical professionals.

Langley RCMP arrived about 12 minutes after a 911 call, which was made by a student shortly after Hutchison tackled Hill.

When the first officer arrived on the scene, he found Hill was limp and unresponsive. The officer immediately began CPR, and Hill was rushed to Royal Columbian Hospital by ambulance when Emergency Health Services arrived.

Murray agreed with the defence to a point, saying that when Hutchison first tackled Hill, he was acting in the defence of students at the school, as well as in self-defence.

“However, as time went on, the nature of the incident changed,” Murray said.

Several witnesses said that Hill said three to four times that he could not breathe. They saw him stop moving roughly five minutes before police arrived.

“At some point, it was clear that Mr. Hill was no longer a threat to anyone,” Murray wrote. “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.”

She did not believe Hutchison’s contention that Hill suddenly went unconscious the moment police arrived.

Hutchison has not yet been sentenced.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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