The family of a 24-year-old man shot and killed by police in Port Hardy say he didn’t deserve to die and are demanding answers from authorities.

James Reginald Hayward, also known as James Butters, was shot and killed during a confrontation with police in the middle of a main road Wednesday morning, leaving family members reeling.

“I’m absolutely devastated,” Hayward’s stepmother Jessica Egan said through tears Thursday. “I’ve lost a son. My daughters have lost a brother. He was our family, he was ours.”

Police said the suspect was reportedly brandishing a knife and making threats toward security staff at a firefighting staging area set up at Port Hardy Secondary School Wednesday morning.

When officers tracked him down at Highway 19 and Granville Street, a confrontation occurred and the suspect was shot, according to RCMP.

Police didn’t release details of the confrontation or confirm the victim’s identity.

Witnesses told CTV News they saw the man wielding a knife in the intersection of Highway 19 and Granville Street when he was shot twice by an officer.

He fell to the ground for a moment before getting back on his feet, and that’s when officers fired three or four more shots at him, according to one witness.

No officers or members of the public were injured. The Independent Investigations Office was called in to probe the shooting and have since taken over the case from RCMP.

Egan, who raised Hayward, said she can’t understand why police resorted to discharging their firearms.

“There was no Taser used? I don’t understand. We pay for that stuff so that cops don’t do this,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense. How long did they try to talk him down from the situation?”

His sister, Vanessa Hayward, said James being involved in an altercation with police was “totally out of character.”

“He was a loving person, he always talked about his future,” she said. “He tried to encourage all the kids to stay out of trouble. That was not like him.”

An online petition has since been launched by Vanessa and other family members who say they’re seeking justice for Hayward’s death.

Many comments on the petition are from supporters who believe police were in the wrong.

“This was my niece’s son,” one writes. “What would a peace officer need to shot to kill anyone with a knife. When is a plea for help an invitation to kill.”

“James was not a bad guy,” wrote a friend, Gary David. “Most all the kids carry some type of weapon for protection when walking around town these days.”

Because ballistics, firearm analysis, an autopsy and collision reconstruction reports must be completed, his family could wait up to a year to find answers, according to the IIO.

“I want to see the secondary investigation possibly prove that the cops did not need to use the force that they did. They didn’t need to do that. There were other options,” Egan said.

Eight members of the IIO were sent to Port Hardy to probe the incident.

RCMP officials said they won’t comment on the incident until the investigation is complete.

Court documents show a person with the same name, James Reginald Butters, has several criminal convictions in Port Hardy in 2012 and 2013 including assault, break and enter, robbery, unlawful confinement and uttering threats.

With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Joe Perkins