Monthly Archives: January 2017

SQ Killer Cop François Laurin Convicted of Dangerous Driving Causing Death

It is extremely rare for police officers to be so much as charged in any case where they kill a civilian. Where they are charged it us usually for a lesser associated offense. Convictions for any offense related to killing civilians are obviously even less common. On January 27, 2017, a rare conviction of a killer cop was arrived at in a Québec court for a killing almost five years earlier. François Laurin, an officer with Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force was found guilty of dangerous driving causing death in the killing of 25-year-old Éric Rompré.

Officer Laurin was responding to an emergency call on June 16, 2012 when his speeding vehicle slammed into another car on Highway 148 near Papineauville, Québec. The victim in the crash was Éric Rompré the driver of the car hit by Laurin. The officer was travelling at the extreme speed of 180 km/h when he crashed into the victim’s vehicle. Incredibly the dire matter of great public safety and security that had Laurin travelling at such dangerous speed was meeting a colleague on the force to help transport an intoxicated person at Rockfest in nearby Montebello. The Crown in the case questioned why Laurin felt the need to travel at such a high speed for a call of that banal nature.

Laurin’s lawyers tried a common, and often successful ploy, in cases where an officer is actually charged with an offense. They attempted to have the trial set aside because of delays between the filing of charges and the start of court proceedings. In the Canadian context prosecutors have seen the commencement of trials for police stalled leading to the dropping of charges.


Gatineau Police Kill Woman Experiencing Mental Distress, Nadia Racine (January 25, 2017)

It is a situation that is happening far too frequently in the Canadian policing context. Experiencing mental distress is levied a death sentence when police are sent to intervene. On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, Nadia Racine (34) died from injuries sustained during a violent arrest by Gatineau police the day before. Racine was injured and had been taken to hospital after police arrested her in her apartment at 24 Rue Charles-Albanel.

Sadly police were responding to a simple noise complaint called in by a neighbor who heard banging and screaming coming from the victim’s apartment. Shawn Lescard, who lives in the apartment directly above hers recounted: “It sounded like she was getting beaten. I wanted to save her life. I thought she was getting beaten and that’s why I called the cops. Now…she’s passed away” (quoted in CBC News 2017). Calling the cops too often ends fatally when mental health issues are involved and should not be an option when someone is experiencing mental distress. Lescard called the Gatineau police non-emergency phone line. He was shaken by news of his neighbor’s death:  “She seemed like a good person. Quiet. She [kept] to herself. It’s pretty sad the way she went” (quoted in CBC News 2017).

According to the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations), the provincial body that examines police harm to civilians in Quebec, Gatineau police said officers responded to the noise complaint at around 6:14 PM Tuesday. BEI spokesman Martin Bonin-Charron reports that when police arrived at Racine’s apartment they received no answer at the door and then forced their way in. Inside the apartment they claim to have found Racine in a state of “mental distress.” According to Bonin-Charron: “She was banging her head around the apartment” (quoted in CBC News 2017). The BEI has not said anything about the arrest that led to Racine’s injuries that did report police put her in handcuffs. According to the BEI: “The police officers, they handcuffed her before realizing she was in [medical] distress” (quoted in CBC News 2017). It is not clear why police handcuffed someone who at most was suggested as a victim of assault based on the call put in by the neighbor Lescard. One might well note the contradiction in the police reports already though. On one hand they say they entered the apartment to find the victim in distress but on the other hand they claim to have handcuffed her before realizing she was in distress.

The BEI has assigned eight investigators to this case. They are not an independent oversight body and as a result will be joined in the investigation (and monitored) by the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police.

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “Woman Fatally Injured During Arrest by Gatineau Police, Identified.” CBC News. January 26. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/woman-dead-gatineau-bureau-enqu%C3%AAtes-ind%C3%A9pendantes-1.3952975


Killer Cop Ace Stewart Receives Only $1500 Fine for Killing 5-Year-Old James McIntosh

How much value does the criminal justice system place on the lives of people killed by police? The general answer is very little. The system that so easily and readily imposes itself on the lives of non-police charged with offenses is less ready to act when the offender is a cop. In the specific case of young victim James Christian McIntosh, only five when struck and killed by RCMP Constable Ace Stewart (49) on September 15, 2015 in Penticton, BC, the courts have determined the value of life at $1500. This is the decision of the court and Justice James Threlfall delivered on January 23, 2017. And this decision is clearly more about the killer being a police officer than any regard for equal application of justice.

Constable Ace Stewart drove into and killed James McIntosh in a proper crosswalk while the boy was out for a walk with his father and brother. Stewart did not slow down or stop his vehicle despite being aware that pedestrians on the street were urging him to do so. He claims he did not know what they meant so he ignored them. Until it was too late. He continued his vehicle even after striking the boy, running over him in the large pickup truck. James McIntosh sustained massive head injuries as a result.

The killing has been devastating for the McIntosh family. Father Brian who was walking with James and as a trained paramedic tried to save his son, has been diagnosed with PTSD. Brother Caleb has been deeply impacted. In the words of mother Elizabeth: “Not only is Caleb struggling with the loss of James, but having witnessed the accident and feeling somehow responsible because he couldn’t protect James has been a struggle for him” (quoted in Boyd 2017). According to Elizabeth McIntosh since the killing Caleb’s “existence has destabilized” (quoted in Arstad 2017).

In cases where police kill civilians there is invariably an effort in the courts, media, policing institutions, and among police supporters to portray the officer who killed as a victim as much as the person they killed. This played out in the trial of Ace Stewart. Neville McDougal, Stewart’s counsel claimed: “Everyone in this case is a victim” (quoted in Boyd 2017). Never mind that only one person is dead as a result of officer Ace Stewart’s actions, five-year-old James McIntosh.

The favor shown the RCMP constable is clear. According to the lawyer: “The cases clearly say, we are not sentencing you for causing death, we are sentencing you for your momentary inadvertence” (quoted in Mangione 2017). Incredibly the prosecutor, Crown counsel Peter Juk, told the court: “This is not the very worst driving, the very worst set of facts” (quoted in Fries 2017). This is how prosecutors treat police killings of civilians.

Interestingly it seems that officer Stewart’s macho cop identity may have played a role in this horrible situation. Crown counsel Juk noted in his submissions that the vehicle Stewart was driving when he hit James McIntosh, a 2015 Chevy Silverado, had been modified at the Chevrolet dealership to be lifted substantially. The truck was raised more than four inches over its original height. The truck also had wider than average tires. Stewart wanted to be seen as a tough guy on the road.

The judge used Stewart’s macho driving choices as a reason to justify the lenient court decision. According to Threlfall: “The increased height of Constable Stewart’s truck due to aftermarket modifications increased the truck’s blind spot area for objects immediately beside or in front of the truck 62 per cent over the original unmodified vehicle” (quoted in Boyd 2017). Yet while prosecutor Juk did argue Stewart’s obligation to drive more, rather than less, carefully given such known consequences of his modification of the truck, this did not seem to play into the judge’s decision. The judge did view the constable’s history of policing favorably in considering the sentence, of course.

Neither did evidence of Constable Ace Stewart’s extensive record of speeding offenses dating back to 1996. Here is another case of a police officer getting away with multiple violations over the course of decades with little to no consequence or accountability until finally these identifiable and documented activities finally lead to the death of a civilian. And even then, the result is a $1500 fine and Constable Ace Stewart is off to drive recklessly again.

The charge of driving a motor vehicle without care and attention under the Motor Vehicle Act could have carried a six-month sentence.

 

Further Reading

Arstad, Steve. 2017. “Police Officer Enters Guilty Plea in Traffic Death of Five-Year-Old Penticton Boy.” Infonews.ca. January 23.  http://infotel.ca/newsitem/police-officer-enters-guilty-plea-in-traffic-death-of-five-year-old-penticton-boy/it38918

Boyd, Dale. 2017. “RCMP Officer Fined for Crash that Killed Boy.” Penticton Western News. January 23. http://www.pentictonwesternnews.com/news/411563625.html

Fries, Joe. 2017. “Mountie Who Killed Boy in Traffic Accident Fined $1,500.” Kelowna Daily Courier. January 23. http://www.kelownadailycourier.ca/news/article_7c9b6790-e1fd-11e6-9b9d-f75aff13f6bb.html

Mangione, Kendra. 2017. “Mountie Fined $1,500 in Crash that Killed Five-Year-Old.” CTV News. January 23. http://bc.ctvnews.ca/mountie-fined-1-500-in-crash-that-killed-5-year-old-1.3253526


Hamilton Police Target Brother of Police Victim Tony Divers After He Criticizes Them

Police are vindictive. This characteristic of vindictiveness comes to the fore powerfully, along with other regulars secretiveness, defensiveness, and self-righteousness in situations where police respond to critics when they have killed someone. This vindictiveness was clearly on display on January 12 in Hamilton, Ontario when police arrested Edward Divers moments after he made a presentation at the Hamilton Police Services Board critical of police actions in the killing of his brother Tony Divers in September of 2016.

This vindictiveness is emphasized by the fact that Edward Divers was arrested on an 11-year-old warrant for a failure to appear. The use of failure to appear charges to criminalize people is a scandal in Canada where it is routinely laid against poor, homeless, and street involved people who may lack resources to ensure appearances at court appointed times or who have irregular schedules. Growing numbers of people are being detained solely on the basis of failure to appear charges. In the Divers case the Crown actively opposed his release but he was finally released on bail.

The family believes they have been specifically targeted by police. And any observer might well ask why and under what circumstances the police investigated Divers and came across the decade-old warrant. A reasonable conclusion is that they went searching for anything on Edward Divers knowing of his criticisms of police and intention to present at the Police Board meeting.

Divers has been living with sisters in Hamilton since October 2016, shortly after his brother’s killing. Despite this he was not arrested until he came forward to criticize police and made application to speak at the Police Board. Divers criticism ahs extended to the chief who he has suggested acts more like a politician than a human in addressing police use of lethal force.

Police Board member Councillor Terry Whitehead, justified police by saying blandly: “They have a responsibility to protect the public” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Yet it is not clear how the public is in need of protection for a failure to appear.

Divers’ sister, Yvonne Alexander described the operations police put in place to apprehend the failure to appear suspect. In her words: “They had police at every exit unbeknownst to us during the meeting. Then as soon as we walked over the threshold out of city hall, five cops arrested him. They wouldn’t tell us why” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

We can surmise that it had everything to do with a grieving brother simply daring to question a force that has killed his brother. And which is used to acting vindictively, viciously, with impunity. They do it because they can.

 

Further Reading

Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “Grieving Brother Criticizes Police, Gets Arrested on 11-Year-Old Warrant.” CBC News. January 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/grieving-brother-criticizes-police-gets-arrested-on-11-year-old-warrant-1.3934145


Multiple Killer Cop Monty Robinson Loses Perjury Appeal in Dziekanski Case

Benjamin “Monty” Robinson the RCMP officer who has killed two people, most infamously Robert Dziekanski on October 14, 2007, has lost the appeal of his conviction for perjury in that case. The panel of Appeal Court judges in British Columbia upheld a lower court’s decision that found Robinson lied during a public inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of Robert Dziekanski. In the majority decision Justice Mary Newbury wrote:

“The judge’s findings cannot in my view be said to have been unreasonable. I have little doubt that ‘viewed through the lens of judicial experience,’ the appellant had a ‘clear reason and motive to deny’ that he and his colleagues had discussed the incident and colluded in their evidence before the inquiry. The court was not left with any reasonable doubt on this point.”

Robinson had been sentenced to two years less a day for perjury in that case.

The Dziekanski killing gained international attention and shone a light on practices of public deception and lying in the RCMP. Robinson was the senior of four officers who confronted 40-year-old Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver International Airport where the Polish traveller who spoke no English had been left without support for almost 10 hours in the arrivals terminal. RCMP almost immediately upon encountering Dziekanski used a taser on the man multiple times before pinning him to the ground causing his death on the scene. RCMP public spokespeople initially said Dziekanski had been irate and aggressive during the encounter and suggested he was drunk. The phony “excited delirium” claim was even suggested. Until the civilian video surfaced showing that in fact Dziekanski was compliant with officers, did not threaten them, and was in fact moving in the direction they suggested. The RCMP had clearly lied to the public in an effort to frame Dziekanski for his own death (a common endeavor in police killings).

The public display of deception by RCMP prompted the inquiry at which Robinson and fellow officer Kwesi Millington were found to have perjured themselves by colluding and then lying on testimony. Millington lost his appeal in a unanimous decision in July 2016.

Robinson would go on to kill 21-year-old Orion Hutchinson hitting the young motorcyclist with his SUV on October 28, 2008. His two children were in the vehicle at the time. In that case Robinson was convicted of obstruction of justice. It was found that the Mountie had used his police training to avoid charges of impaired driving by claiming that after the crash he went home and drank two shots of vodka to “calm his nerves” (a police ploy to cover drinking before the crash). The court heard that he had bragged to party guests that his training gave him a way to deal with drunk driving charges. Robinson was given a conditional sentence of 12 months in that case.

The fact remains that RCMP officer Monty Robinson killed two civilians. He has not been charged or held accountable for those killings.


Jimmy Cloutier Identified as Man Killed by Montreal Police at Old Brewery Mission, January 6, 2017

The 38-year-old man shot and killed by Montreal Police on Friday, January 6, 2017, has been identified as Jimmy Cloutier, a homeless man who made use of shelter services at the Old Brewery Mission. The Old Brewery Mission  reported that Cloutier was a long-time client who had attended the shelter especially for meals and changes of clothing. Shelter director Matthew Pearce said that Cloutier had participated in a program at Maison Claude-Laramée for homeless people with mental health issues, a program run jointly by the shelter and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute (CBC 2017). Cloutier had no attended the shelter for four years after completing the program. Pearce reported that over the past year, Cloutier had been a “fairly frequent visitor” and seemed fine the day of the shooting, stopping by the cafeteria to get coffee (CBC 2017).

Surveillance camera video from the police killing of Cloutier shows the victim tossing a cup of liquid, presumed to be coffee from the shelter, on the ground before bending over, apparently to set something else down, before then picking up a bag and walking out of the view of the camera (CTV Montreal 2017). Cloutier is pursued by several police officers clearly holding firearms. The man was shot and killed only seconds later. Police claim that he was armed and made some “aggressive gesture” at them, but this has not been independently confirmed.

Indeed homeless people on the scene were upset that the police had used lethal force against Cloutier and deployed it so quickly. They have asked why no alternatives were attempted first. Police became aggrieve with homeless people on the scene who merely raised questions about the actions taken by police. Those wondering why police chose not to use less-lethal options have continued to raise concerns. According to Milosz Janda, the Old Brewery Mission social counsellor: “They just want to find out what was the reason for such behaviour? Why was it done that way? Why weren’t other possible approaches there?” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017).

Cloutier is the fourth homeless person known to have been killed by Montreal police officers in the past few years. This fact is not lost on Old Brewery Mission director Matthew Pearce. He points out the awful history of police engagement with poor and homeless people. According to Pearce: “Four incidents of confrontation with the police, and four deaths. Not injuries – deaths. I have to feel that in each of those there were other options that could have been pursued” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017). He suggests that police are too fearful and stressed out by homeless and street involved people.

The circumstances of the police killing of Jimmy Cloutier are all too familiar for family members of other homeless people killed by Montreal Police. Pierre Magloire’s brother Alain was shot and killed by police two years ago. Magloire’s response to this latest killing was dismay. In his words: “I was, like, ‘Again? Oh my God.’ How come we are at the same place we were two, three years ago?” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017). He echoes the belief that police are too panicked in dealing with people who may be experiencing distress: “They are not ready to deal with someone. They are getting afraid very fast” (quoted in CTV Montreal 2017).

These killings are extreme forms of the poorbashing that police regularly inflict on homeless people. It extends from habitual police practices of harassment, intimidation, bullying, and violence. It reflects police perspectives that view homeless people as “problems” or unworthy victims, or detritus.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “Video Shows Final Moments of Old Brewery Mission Client, Shot to Death by Police.” CBC News. January 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/old-brewery-mission-shooting-victim-identified-1.3928900

CTV Montreal. 2017. Questions Raised by Homeless Shelter after Deadly Police Shooting.” CTV News. http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/questions-raised-by-homeless-shelter-after-deadly-police-shooting-1.3235204


RCMP Kill Ralph Stephens on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation in Alberta (January 7, 2017)

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Canada have their origins as a colonial military force. Their history is one of settlerism and class domination on an ongoing basis. They continue in the present to police and regulate and repress Indigenous communities through targeted violence. This must be remembered in any case of RCMP contact with Indigenous people and communities in Canada.

Alberta RCMP shot and killed Ralph Stephens, 27, on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation near Morley on Saturday, January 7, 2017. Stephens died in hospital about and hour after being shot. Police claim they were on the reserve to execute a warrant for first-degree murder charges related to the death of Lorenzo “Billy” Bearspaw, also 27, whose body was found on the reserve on January 6 after he was reported missing on January 3 by a family member. The other men pursued by RCMP, John Stephens, 29, and Deangelo Powderface, 22, have both been taken into custody by the force. John Stephens was arrested directly prior to the killing of Ralph Stephens. Major Crimes with assistance from the RCMP Emergency Response Team were involved.

No one has said why police opened fire on the victim. Nothing has been reported to suggest he confronted or attacked police. Police have only said that Ralph Stephens “engaged police” but this has not been corroborated by any independent sources or witnesses. Several people were said to be in the residence at which Stephens was killed when the shooting happened.

The dangerous nature of this police action and the prospect it will stoke justified anger toward RCMP are clear. Police seem concerned with dampening any response. Chief Superintendent Tony Hamori, the officer in charge of Southern Alberta made an appeal with no note of accountability or reasons for adherence: “I also urge calm in the community while the investigations take place” (quoted by Anderson 2017).

Community members describe a chaotic scene after police arrived on the scene. According to Gerald Powderface, a relative of Ralph Stephens: “My family told me it happened so quick, even my cousin was asking them ‘Have you shot my boy?’ They didn’t even answer him, they just dragged him out of the house without no shoes and they’re throwing people out of the house left and right. They didn’t even answer his question, ‘Have you shot my boy? What happened, what’s going on here?’” (quoted in Anderson 2017).

The community has come to the family’s care and support. According to Gerald Powderface: We have a community here that support each other on every matter, especially a matter like that. They all come to the house. There was a lot of people there last night when I left” (quoted in Anderson 2017).

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the RCMP actions in killing Ralph Stephens. RCMP continue to maintain an active presence on the reserve since the shooting.

Whatever one might think about this particular case the fact remains that an historic settler colonial force built on dispossession, expropriation, and genocide continues to police Indigenous communities across Canada.

 

Further Reading

Anderson, Drew. 2017. “Man Shot by RCMP on Stoney Nakoda Reserve is Dead.” CBC News. January 8. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/stoney-nakoda-morley-rcmp-shooting-died-1.3926701