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.

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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