The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the oversight body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia, is investigating after a woman was found dead in the Victoria suburb of Oak Bay around 9: 30 on the morning of Saturday, May 27, 2017. Police officers had some interaction with the woman Friday evening, hours before she was found dead but neither Victoria police nor the IIO are providing any more information to the public. This lends a curious air of mystery to the situation. The BC Coroners Service is also investigating. The victim has not been named.
Monthly Archives: May 2017
It is among the rarest of occurrences in Canada that a killer cop is ever charged for taking the life of a civilian. Oversight agencies, which are not autonomous or independent of police, prosecutors, and judges work to ensure that the state protects the state and killer cops are legitimized. On Wednesday, May 24, 2017 one of those rare events occurred with the laying of charges against Montreal police officer Christian Gilbert who killed 46-year-old Bony Jean-Pierre on March 31, 2016.
Murder charges against police are unheard of and officer Gilbert has been charged with manslaughter. He shot Jean-Pierre in the head with a rubber bullet, a projectile that police routinely use, as in protests for example, and which police propagandists pose as non-lethal. The charges were announced by Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP). Officer Gilbert was released under a promise to appear on July 6, 2017.
The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations), Quebec’s investigation unit, which now examines incidents of police harm to civilians was not established when the investigation into Jean-Pierre’s killing was initiated. Instead the charges come, incredibly, following an investigation by Quebec provincial police, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
The Montreal North community, long angered by police targeting and violence organized and mobilized in response to the police killing of Jean-Pierre. At least 100 people participated in a march and rally in June. At that time some cars and banks were vandalized and objects thrown at the police station in a community uprising. The march occurred on what would have been the 26th birthday of Fredy Villanueva, a young man shot and killed by police in 2008 when Montreal policed moved aggressively to break up a game of dice in a park. Yes, he was killed for playing dice. The killing of Fredy Villanueva highlighted the racist targeted policing practices of Montreal police, reinforced by the killing of Bony Jean-Pierre.
Bogus “Suicide By Cop” Used to Excuse Constable Musicco in Killing Rhett Mutch but No Reasons Given for Inquest Finding
This project has documented the bogus nature of “suicide by cop” as a means to excuse police killings of civilians. It is a form of copaganda used as a legitimation tool by so-called oversight agencies (none of which are autonomous and independent from police with powers of compulsion) and state inquests to justify police killings of civilians to an anxious and critical public. The reasons for the bogus nature of this claim are numerous and have been laid out here previously. The claim is only applied after the fact in diverse situations and ignores the fact that unlike in other suicides the victim is killed, not by their own actions, but by the conscious decision of someone who chooses to use lethal force rather choosing not to kill.
Once again this phony “finding” has been used to legitimate the lethal actions of a killer cop. The killing of 20-year-old Victoria youth Rhett Mutch by police constable John Musicco has been declared a suicide by a coroner’s inquest in findings announced May 19, 2017. Incredibly the inquest report offered no reasons for why the jury classified the killing as a suicide. Constable Musicco had already been cleared by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the body that examines cases of police violence against civilians in British Columbia.
Musicco shot Mutch in the neck killing him on November 1, 2014. At the time he was shot the young man was alone in the basement of his mother’s house and posed no threat to his mother (who was safely outside the house) or to the general public.
The report even noted in detail an exchange between Marney Mutch, the victim’s mother, and police officers in which she told them that her son would not hurt anyone. She also informed them that drawn guns would only frighten her distraught son further. She told the inquest that one of the officers held a gun that looked like “a bazooka.” This is another problem of “suicide by cop” excuses. They ignore the role of police actions in changing victim’s interactions. In her view, as stated in the report: “This is really overkill.” She wanted to stay in the house with her son but officers refused her request.
Brandon Maurice was shot and killed by a Sûreté du Québec officer on November 16, 2015 in Messine (near Maniwaki) following a vehicular pursuit. On May 19, 2017, the province’s chief coroner, Catherine Rudel-Tessier, ordered an inquest into the teenager’s killing by police. The inquest will be overseen by deputy chief coroner Luc Malouin. It cannot assign blame but can only make recommendations to address future such incidents. These are typically ignored or not implemented by police agencies under review.
Montreal police investigated their provincial colleagues, completing their examination in June 2016. Quite predictably they found for their colleague and concluded that no charges would be brought against their fellow officer. Yet the officer had fired wildly in the general direction of the driver, said to have been Maurice, and only luckily avoided hitting a passenger in the vehicle.
Maurice’s family was not satisfied with that investigation and found it illegitimate for police to be investigating police. In the words of Brandon Maurice’s mother, Dominique Bernier in 2016: “Police officers protect each other.” Indeed they do. The family’s view, quite reasonable, is that investigations cannot be impartial when police investigate their colleagues. The family believes the officer used force that was excessive for a stopped car starting to drive away from an officer.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the unit that investigates case of police harm to civilians in the province, is examining the death of an as yet unnamed 32-year-old man in RCMP custody on Saturday, May 13, 2017. The man was in custody at the Fort McMurray RCMP detachment for supposedly drug-related offenses. Unverified police claims state that the man asked to make a phone call at about 2:45 AM Saturday morning. Four minutes after he was moved to a secure room to make the call, RCMP claim they entered the room to find the man on the floor in some medical distress. He was supposedly treated by paramedics at the scene but died two hours later in hospital. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed.
More than two years ago a Victoria mother’s plea for help for her son ended with police taking the young man’s life. Rhett Mutch was shot and killed inside his mom’s home by Constable John Musicco. Mutch posed no threat to the public. In a 911 call made by Marney Mutch she told the operator that her son would not do anything to physically hurt her. While Musicco was, predictably, cleared of any wrongdoing in killing Rhett Mutch by the provincial investigation unit for British Columbia, a coroner’s inquest is looking into the killing.
Rhett Mutch was killed by Constable Musicco on November 1, 2014. Marney Mutch had called 911 after her son broke into the basement of her home on Dallas Road in Victoria. Several police officers entered the home, killing Mutch within only minutes of their arrival.
The inquest which started May 15, 2017 has focused on misinformation apparently passed from the 911 operator to police. In the 911 call, which was played for the coroner’s jury, Marney Mutch said that her son had a knife, but would not use it to hurt her and further told the operator that he was holding it by his stomach. In the dispatch audio, a police dispatcher is heard saying that Rhett Mutch was holding the knife to his throat.
Victoria Police Sergeant Gregory Holmes, the supervisor the day of the incident testified to the jury on Monday, May 15 but could not answer why police responded with force if Marney Mutch was not in danger and simply wanted help for her son. It is not clear either why police went after Rhett Mutch who was by then alone in the house, his mother having left safely when police arrived.
Eight investigators of Quebec’s BEI (Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, Bureau of Independent Investigations) are examining the police killing of a 41-year-old man in the town of Beauceville, approximately 90 kilometers south of Quebec City. The provincial police, the Sureté du Québec (SQ), claims its officers were responding to a 911 call at around 9:45 AM regarding a domestic dispute. The victim was shot at least once. None of the SQ claims has been independently verified.
Inquest into Police Killing of Craig McDougall Sees No Racism Despite Mistreatment of Family, Eight Year Delay
Racism and policing have gone hand and hand in the Canadian context. From the settler colonial violence of the RCMP through contemporary practices from carding to assaults upon racialized people and communities. The settler colonial character of the Canadian state continues in the current context in the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of Indigenous people and the exertion of violence, often lethal violence, against them.
Not surprisingly the Canadian state and the various institutions of criminal justice have stridently denied claims of racism. Inquiries into police violence typically offer findings that diminish or deny the part of racism in police actions. Such an outcome was delivered again on May 12, 2017 with the results of the inquiry into the killing of Craig McDougall, a young Indigenous man, by Winnipeg police, a force with a long and notorious history of racist violence.
Twenty-six-year-old Craig Vincent McDougall was shot and killed by police outside his father’s home on Simcoe Street in Winnipeg on August 2, 2008. Police claimed to be responding to a 911 call when they arrived at the home in the early hours of August 2. They suggest that found McDougall outside the house holding a cell phone and a knife. One officer shot him with a taser. He was then shot with a firearm which killed him. A private investigator who examined the case has cast doubt on the assertion that Craig McDougall held a knife at the moment he was shot.
Incredibly, the victim’s family members were immediately arrested and put in handcuffs on the front lawn, an act of what criminologists term the dramatization of evil, designed to denigrate and humiliate people targeted by the system. Jonathan Rudin, an expert witness on Indigenous people, policing, and the criminal justice system, testified that the treatment of McDougall’s family after the young man was shot exemplified systemic racism as the victims were assumed by police to be criminals and were treated as such.
Still, despite the actions of police, the inquest concluded that there was no evidence of racism in the police actions. It offered the typical statist finding that police were justified in their actions. In the inquest report, Associate Chief Judge Anne Krahn wrote there was “no evidence of racism direct or systemic in the moments leading to the shooting of Craig McDougall.” The judge found the arrest of McDougall’s father and uncle to be a simple misstep. In her words: “there were missteps in the immediate aftermath of the shooting when Craig McDougall’s uncle and father were left handcuffed and detained without lawful authority.” Such is the normalization of racism in the Canadian criminal justice system. Atrocious actions become mere missteps.
Critics point out that treating the family members in such disrespectful and accusatory fashion exemplifies racism. One might add the little regard shown for the family or the community in the eight year delay between the killing and the inquest report. It could be suggested that such an egregious delay would never be accepted in the case of a killing (by anyone) of a white, privileged victim. Of course police, and police associations, seek to delay and divert inquests to benefit their own interests.
The inquest report even contradicts its own conclusions by making recommendations that imply racism by police. Among these recommendations are that the police service should consider delivery of implicit bias training for its members at regular intervals (a recognition of racist assumptions) and work with Indigenous organizations to develop programs.
A matter of seconds. That was all the time that transpired before Surrey RCMP officers decided to shoot and kill Hudson Brooks after encountering the youth, as revealed in newly released audio of the killing.
Most of the significant questions about the RCMP killing of Hudson Brooks outside an RCMP community policing detachment in south Surrey, British Columbia remain unanswered almost two years after the 20-year old was shot by police on July 18, 2015. His family has persistently sought answers, both of police and the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province.
In March 2017 police audio of the killing of Hudson Brooks was posted on YouTube. Notably, the clip was not released to family by police who have been uncommunicative regarding the killing. The audio was apparently posted by a user who regularly uploads recordings of police-involved incidents from radio traffic and scanners. The 2 minutes and 41 seconds of audio reveal the chaos of police actions and confirm the quick move by officers to deploy lethal force with virtually no interaction with, or attempt to communicate with the young man who would become their victim.
After hearing the audio, Jennifer Brooks, Hudson Brooks’ mother responded: “It was devastating. It was so heartbreaking. There was no ‘stop, put up your hands,’ nothing. Within seconds of them calling upon him, he was shot. He didn’t stand a chance. How this went so wrong so quickly is unfathomable” (quoted in Chan 2017).
The audio confirmed what the family and some commentators have managed to piece together about the killing, from witnesses and available limited reports. Up front a female voice is heard describing Hudson Brooks. At the 52 second point, a male voice is heard saying: “I got something right here coming directly at me.” In a matter of mere seconds later: “I need help now. I need help now.” Then the call of “shots fired.”
The tape does confirm what many have suspected for some time, that the RCMP officer who was shot during the encounter actually shot herself. In the audio a female voice can be heard saying, “I shot myself.” This is followed by a male voice calling for emergency services: “Suspect is critical. We need a code. We need it now.” This is noteworthy because police initially used the shooting of an officer to suggest to the public that Hudson Brooks was armed and inflicted the wound, thus justifying, in their view, the deployment of lethal force.
The IIO has requested that the recording be taken down. Jennifer Brooks, however, says that while she would not listen too it again she supports it being publicly available so long as it does not impact the ongoing IIO investigation. In her words: “Otherwise, the public needs to hear what happened” (quoted in Chan 2017). And answers are needed now. Why did police shoot? And why did they jump to shoot so quickly? Why did officers panic to such an extent that one would shoot herself and what does this say about the safety of any public into which such panicky officers are deployed? Too much time has passed with minimal to no information from police or the IIO.
The video can be found at:
Chan, Cheryl. 2017. “Audio of Surrey RCMP Shooting of Hudson Brooks Posted Online.” Vancouver Sun. March 30. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/he-didnt-stand-a-chance-audio-of-police-involved-shooting-of-hudson-brooks-posted-online
A 20-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound and died during an encounter with Nunavut RCMP in Pond Inlet. RCMP claim they responded to a report of a man in a cemetery with a firearm. At some point during the encounter the man was shot. He was taken to the local health care facility where he died. Police claim the youth was suicidal but this has not been independently verified. As in other instances of police killings of civilians in Nunavut, the case is being investigated by Ottawa Police Department officers. It is in no way an independent and transparent investigation.