Tragedy begets hope for those in need

Toy and food drive planned in honour of slain South Surrey man

The mother of a young South Surrey man killed by police more than a year ago is determined to ensure that his final moments will not be all he is remembered for.

Jennifer Brooks said a toy and food drive – dubbed Hudson’s Hope and set for Dec. 11 at the site where her son Hudson died – is about celebrating his life.

“I don’t want just the last 10 minutes of his life, the horrific circumstances, to be what it’s all about,” Brooks told Peace Arch News Monday, outside the South Surrey RCMP detachment.

“It’s to honour Hudson.”

The 20-year-old died around 2:30 a.m. on July 18, 2015, after what police initially described as a physical struggle outside of the 1815 152 St. detachment. It also resulted in an officer transported to hospital with a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.

The incident spurred immediate and repeated calls for justice.

More than a year later, Brooks learned that her son had been unarmed, shirtless and shoeless when he was shot at close range.

In October, officials with the Independent Investigations Office – which investigates police incidents that result in death or injury to determine if officer action or inaction contributed to the outcome – announced that a report would be filed to Crown counsel “for consideration of charges” in connection with Hudson’s death.

His mother at the time described the move as “a huge step… relief,” and pledged to put pressure on Crown to approve a charge.

Monday, however, she said she will wait until the new year to determine if that pressure is needed.

For now, she is focusing on the toy and food drive – an idea that came to her while reflecting on her son’s life, the positive messages she’s received about him since his death and how she could give back to the community in his name.

Brooks cited one story from a senior who told of meeting Hudson when he stepped in to stop an older fellow from bothering her. Hudson sat with the senior until she felt reassured, Brooks heard.

“She said he was a beautiful boy,” Brooks said. “I’m still getting messages like that.”

Toys and non-perishable food items will be accepted at the memorial site from 3-5 p.m. on Dec. 11. The food will be donated to Sources’ White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank; the toys will go to the Salvation Army.

Word of a chance to promote the effort brought around two dozen of Hudson’s friends and family members out to the memorial site late Monday afternoon.

Among them was Deanna Koltai, the mother of Hudson’s friend Danika, who died two months ago of an accidental overdose.

Brooks said Danika had been a huge supporter of Brooks’ family and the Justice for Hudson campaign after Hudson died, and Koltai said her daughter would “definitely” have wanted to be part of the Dec. 11 effort.

“I know she would’ve been here,” Koltai said.

Joni Coombs, who used to work with Brooks, said anyone wanting to donate but unable to make the Dec. 11 event may drop items off at Seung-Ri Black Belt Academy in South Surrey, at 2-2355 King George Blvd.

Noting collections for the cause are also underway in Chilliwack and Abbotsford, Coombs said she is confident the drive will be a success.

Brooks had no doubt that Hudson would approve of the holiday plan. He had always been the type of person to help others, she said.

“He really did look out for everybody else,” she said.

“I had the worst Christmas of my life last year. I said, we’ve got to turn this around. That’s what Hudson would’ve done.”

Jennifer Brooks

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