Monthly Archives: January 2018

SIU Ends Investigation into Toronto In-Custody Death from Dec. 6, 2017

The director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, has abruptly and without full explanation announced that he is ending the investigation into an incident that left a 46-year-old man unconscious in a cell on December 5, 2017. The SIU reports that Toronto police arrested the man on the evening of Dec. 6, 2017, and put him in a cell at their division. According to the SIU, the man was found unresponsive in his cell four hours later and was taken to hospital. He was returned to police custody the following day.

In announcing the end of the investigation on January 30, 2018, the SIU said only that the man was not seriously injured, so the incident did not fall under the agency’s purview. This is a curious statement to say the least. No details have been released about the nature of the injuries so the public has no way of gauging their seriousness. In addition, something happened to the man related to his death in custody and that requires some explanation. Actions like this can only contribute to public questions about the role of the SIU and its closeness to police institutions in Ontario.


SIU Investigating In-Custody Death of 27-Year-Old in St. Catharines, Ontario (Jan. 27, 2018)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario is investigating the death of a 27-year-old man in St. Catharines on January 27, 2018. According to the SIU, officers with the Niagara Regional Police Service arrested a 27-year-old man on Friday, January 26, in response to a robbery at a pharmacy. The SIU reports that the man was taken to a hospital and admitted to intensive care. He was pronounced dead there on the afternoon of Saturday, January 27. No details have been released publicly about the cause of death, the name of the victim, or the officers involved. It has not been independently confirmed publicly that the man was involved in the alleged robbery in question.


Man Shot and Killed by Calgary Police (Jan. 27/28, 2018)

A man shot by Calgary police on the evening of January 27, 2018, died in hospital early in the morning of January 28. The man was said to be in his forties.

According to Deputy Chief Bob Ritchie of the Calgary Police Service, officers were dispatched to an apartment building in the 600 block of 68th Avenue Southwest on reports of a disturbance at around 9 PM on the evening of the 27th. A man was said to be shouting and throwing things in a second floor hallway. According to Ritchie, police spent almost 30 minutes talking to the man before things escalated in some way, not specified by police. At some point the man allegedly jumped from a balcony on the second floor and was shot by police. He was taken to hospital and died around 2:30 AM on January 28. The officer who shot the victim is reported to be a patrol member with 10 years of service with the force.

The victim did not have a criminal history. The killer cop is now on 30-day leave. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the killing. None of the claims made by police gave been independently confirmed publicly.

Calgary media have profiled the neighborhood in an attempt to portray it as crime prone and justify the police killing. Reporting that police have been called to the same street, years earlier and with no relation to the current victim and case, is copaganda and must be opposed.


Dates Scheduled for Coroner’s Inquest into Killing of Brandon Maurice (17) by Provincial Sûreté du Québec

On January 23, 2018, it was announced that the public coroner’s inquest into the killing of 17-year-old Brandon Maurice by Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officers in the Outouais will be held over the period of April 9-13, 2018. Maurice was shot and killed by SQ officers following a police vehicular pursuit on November 16, 2015. The inquest was initially planned to be held in the fall of 2017.

The inquest will be held at the Palais de Justice in Gatineau. It will be overseen by deputy chief coroner Luc Balouin. Among those now named as being called for testimony are Dave Constantin and Frédérick Fortier of the Sûreté du Québec and Detective-Sergeant Mélanie Simard of the Montréal Police Service, which oversaw an investigation (by no means independent) into the killing.


Thirty-Four-Year-Old Man Dies Following Encounter with Regina Police Services (Jan. 16, 2018)

A 34-year-old man has died following a period in care of the Regina Police Service in the morning of January 16, 2018. According Regina police, officers were dispatched to a residence in a south Regina neighborhood, on Pasqua Street, at around 6:30 AM. Police say they arrived on the scene and found the man in distress. He was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

There is no oversight body to investigate police harm to civilians in Saskatchewan. Police and the Office of the Chief Coroner will jointly investigate the death. The Regina Police Service has requested that the Ministry of Justice appoint an independent observer to provide oversight and review the investigation. None of the claims made by police have been independently verified publicly. Results of any investigation will remain questionable because of a lack of real, meaningful independence from police.


Third Trial for Killer York Regional Cop Remo Romano for Killing Natasha “Carla” Abogado

On February 12, 2014, York Regional Detective Remo Romano struck and killed 18-year-old pedestrian Natasha “Carla” Abogado while driving at speeds of 115 km/h in a 60 km/h zone on a busy Toronto street. January 17, 2018, found Romano on trial for the third time for the killing.

His first trial in May 2016 ended in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a verdict. He was acquitted in a second trial later that year but the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a retrial based on flaw’s in the trial judge’s charge to the jury. Romano is pleading not guilty. At the outset of the current trial, Superior Court Justice Todd Ducharme told the jury not to research the case, including what happened in the previous proceedings.

Detective Romano struck Abogado while she was crossing mid-block to her family’s home on the south side of St. Clair Avenue East, on her way home from a part-time job. Romano was speeding eastward on St. Clair Ave. E., trying to catch up with other police surveillance members of Project Litterbox, a YRP surveillance investigation into a series of non-violent commercial break-ins where around $500,000 in cosmetics and perfumes had been stolen. He was driving an unmarked truck with no sirens or flashing lights. Romano was trying to catch up to the other officers because he had been at the station retrieving another officer’s firearm that had been forgotten in a desk drawer.

According to the opening statement by Crown attorney Rebecca Schwartz, Romano was driving 115 km/hr in a 60 km/hr zone near a seniors’ health centre. Detective William Newton, who travelled in a police vehicle behind Romano, stated that no arrests were imminent as they sped along the busy avenue. He said that Romano was simply “trying to catch up to the action” (Mandel 2018).

Witness Dorota Taylor saw two police vehicles speed past her. In her testimony: “I thought they were racing because of how close they were to each other and the speed that they were going” (quoted in Mandel 2018).

The jury was told that a senior collision reconstructionist from the Special Investigations Unit, the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, will testify that if Romano had  been doing even 80 km/hr that night (instead of nearly twice the legal limit) he would have been able to avoid hitting Abogado.

We need to remember that killer cop Romano was speeding at twice the legal limit with no lights or sirens to catch up with surveillance team members who were working on a case protecting wealth for private companies, not responding to any immediate threat (and certainly no violent one) to the public. He simply wanted to be part of “the action.” And he killed Natasha Abogado to do so.

 

Further Reading

Mandel, Michele. 2018. “Third Trial for Speeding York Cop in Death of Teen.” Toronto Sun January 17. http://torontosun.com/news/local-news/mandel-third-trial-for-speeding-york-region-cop-accused-of-dangerous-driving-causing-death


Death of Dale Culver, of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations: Formal Complaint Raises Questions About Racism, Intimidation of Witnesses in RCMP Arrest

The British Columbia C Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has raised questions of “racial bias” and excessive force by RCMP officers in the arrest of Dale Culver (35) of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations who died in custody following the arrest in July 2017. In an official complaint filed January 16, 2018, to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, the BCCLA also claims that the RCMP in Prince George, BC, told witnesses to delete video footage of the Culver arrest. According to police reports, Culver complained of shortness of breath after arrest and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Culver’s cousin, Debbie Pierre, said she was not informed of his death until 24 hours later. She then found video footage of the arrest posted on social media. In her words: “It was horrific” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). The family had questions about Culver’s death and contacted the BCCLA to get some answers.

Police reports suggest the RCMP responded to a call about a man allegedly “casing vehicles.” This claim has not been independently confirmed nor has it been explained what that assumption was based on by caller or police. Police struggled with Culver physically.

It is reported that pepper spray used in Culver’s arrest. When he was put in the back of a police vehicle he appeared to have difficulty breathing. An ambulance was called and Culver collapsed when taken out of the police car. He was pronounced dead in hospital a bit after midnight on July 19, 2017.

According to executive director Josh Paterson, BCCLA has spoken with “a number of people, including eyewitnesses” who allege RCMP instructed people to delete video footage of the arrest (Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). The association questions whether “explicit or  implicit racial  bias” played a role in the encounter and arrest. BCCLA says it has been told there were “several hours” between the initial call to police and the arrival of RCMP on the scene (Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). This raises obvious questions about Culver was approached and, specifically, whether it was because he was Indigenous.

In the words of the BCCLA complaint:

“We question on what information or basis the member or members of the RCMP began their interaction or questioning of Mr. Culver, and/or a request to identify himself, in the first place.” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018)

Debbie Pierre is left with the same question. In her words: “Was Dale targeted because of Dale or was he targeted because of his being Indigenous” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018).

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is also investigating, as it does in cases of police harm to civilians in the province. IIO chief civilian director Ron MacDonald says the IIO was independently aware of allegations of witnesses being told to delete video footage. He also said the IIO was aware of questions regardding police use of force and the timing of Culver’s arrest.

Culver had three children, the eldest of whom is now 14.

 

Further Reading

Kurjata, Andrew and Audrey McKinnon. 2018. “BC Civil Liberties Association Files Complaint Alleging RCMP Told Witnesses to Delete Video of Arrest” CBC News January 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/civil-liberties-iio-pg-rcmp-1.4489925


SIU Lets Off OPP Cop Who Killed 45-Year-Old Man in Nipigon in 2016

On January 11, 2018, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, released the decision of its investigation into the fatal police shooting of a 45-year-old Nipigon man by a Ontario Provincial Police officer in November of 2016. The SIU has concluded that no charges be laid. This is the too typical outcome of SIU investigations.

According to the SIU report, police were called to a Nipigon residence at around 6:59 PM on November 26, 2016. They report that a woman wanted a man removed from her home as he had allegedly been drinking and was being verbally aggressive with neighbors.

Two OPP officers attended the residence and met the woman on the street. The SIU reports that police claim that when they arrived on the front lawn of the Nipigon home, the 45-year-old man allegedly came out of the house holding a kitchen knife in his right hand down by his side (not in a threatening manner). An OPP officer took the decision to deploy a taser on the man.

Once the man was tasered, officers allege he “winced in pain and stepped back into the house” before stepping outside again. This time it is claimed that the man held the knife pointed forward but parallel to the ground. An OPP officer then shot and killed the man.

According to the SIU, officers called Emergency Medical Services at about 7:17 PM. EMS officials recorded that the victim had no heart beat or heart activity during his transport to the hospital. He was pronounced dead soon after. The SIU report listed the cause of death as a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.


Killer Quebec Cop Simon Beaulieu Let Off by Courts After Driving Over Guy Blouin

The state protects the state. Killer cops are rarely charged in Canada. And when they are, they are typically acquitted, even in cases in which they have obviously acted in a dubious, reckless, or murderous manner.

Quebec City police officer Simon Beaulieu backed his police car over Guy Blouin on September 3, 2014, killing the 48-year-old. Beaulieu used this lethal force against Blouin for no other reason than a baseless suspicion that Blouin had stolen a bike. This was apparently a case of class-based police profiling of a working class person in a working class neighborhood. Blouin had, in fact purchased his bike. Officer Beaulieu was charged in October 2015 of criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death after he struck and killed Blouin.

On Friday, January 12, 2018, killer cops Beaulieu was found not guilty on both counts by Quebec Court Judge René de la Sablonnière. A not surprising result, no matter how unjust.

De la Sablonnière said the elements of proof presented to him did not show without a reasonable doubt that Beaulieu’s actions that day were dangerous, despite the fact that he sped backwards the wrong way on a one way street and drove over a cyclist who had, in fact done nothing wrong and posed no threat to the public or the officer. The judge concluded: “This was a sad and unfortunate accident” (quoted in Page 2018). But actively driving backwards over someone on a bike is not an “accident.”

The judge reached his conclusion despite the fact that the Crown prosecutor’s expert witness was a Sûreté du Québec crime reconstruction expert (another cop) who testified the police cruiser was going 44 kilometers per hour when it struck Blouin. The judge simply decided to side with the defense version of events which posed the police cruiser’s speed at 22 kilometers per hour. Why side with defense (posing a self-interested estimate) against one provided by a police expert (usually believed unquestioningly in cases against civilians)? The answer is that the state is always predisposed to protect the state in cases of police harm to civilians, under even the most egregious circumstances.

Incredibly, De la Sablonnière said Beaulieu made sure the coast was clear before backing up. This despite that obvious case that it was not clear—as evidenced by the fact that he ran Blouin over. How could he have ensured the coast was clear? Then the judge blamed faulty ABS brakes, a scenario only raised by a defense promoted and provided witness. Said de la Sablonnière: “He could not foresee there was a problem with the brakes” (quoted in Page 2018). But why was he speeding backward toward someone on a bicycle anyway? That is the question.

Throughout his ruling De la Sablonnière repeated that in order for a person to be found guilty of criminal negligence, his actions had to be significantly out of step with what is considered to be normal behavior. But he made sure to stress that normal or expected behavior had to be considered differently for police officers than for civilians (see the contradiction there—normal defined as different for some).

Stuart Edwards, a member of a citizens’ committee from the working class Saint-Roch neighborhood where the accident happened, pointed out that the reasoning behind the ruling is hard to accept (Page 2018). And clearly it is for anyone not ready to accept class-profiling of poor ad working class people or to treat police in a privileged manner within a legal system that otherwise brags of “equality before the law” (yes, we know that is a myth).

Said Edwards, from the committee formed in response to Blouin’s killing and who was present in court at each step in the trial: “That’s a judicial impunity for a policeman, because he’s a policeman. I don’t buy that. I’m personally disappointed. I don’t accept this — I think it’s wrong” (quoted in Page 2018).

As should we all. And Edwards noted that the committee is very much concerned with the effect the not guilty ruling will have in the community. It validates the exertion of lethal force by police against people in a poor and working class community under any circumstances and  with impunity.

The city’s “police brotherhood” confirmed that concern saying the court decision recognizes that society must give special consideration to police officers. That sounds a lot like a threat.

 

Further Reading

Page, Julia. 2018. “Quebec City Police Officer Acquitted of All Charges in 2014 Death of Cyclist.” CBC News January 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/verdict-police-officer-guy-blouin-trial-1.4483566


SIU Investigating Death of Woman in Tichborne, Ontario, After Police Contact (Jan. 13, 2018)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating after a 49-year-old woman was found dead in her home in Tichborne, Ontario, near Kingston. According to the SIU, the woman’s body was discovered at around 5:30 AM on the morning of Saturday, January 13, 2018.

Provincial police had had an earlier encounter with the woman when they came across what they described as a suspicious vehicle parked near Tichborne. The SIU report that the woman was found alive outside the vehicle, while the driver had allegedly fled on foot. According to the SIU, police took the woman back to her home and left. Four hours later emergency responders were called to the home where the woman was found dead. No other details have been provided publicly. It has not been reported publicly how the woman died or why police found the vehicle to be suspicious.

Tichborne, Ontario, is approximately 130 kilometers southwest of Ottawa.