Monthly Archives: February 2019

Police Shooting Leaves Man Dead at Queensborough Landing Mall in New Westminster, BC (Feb. 24, 2019)

A police shooting has left a man dead at the Queensborough Landing mall in New Westminster, British Columbia, on Sunday, February 24 at around 9:40 PM.

According to the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO), the unit that examines cases of police harm in the province, police claim they responded to a report of a man with a firearm at the rear of the Walmart at 805 Boyd Street. The IIO reports that two officers at the scene fired their weapons. The encounter left the man dead. The IIO says it is investigating the cause of his death and whether the shots that caused the man’s death came from his own firearm or from those of the police at the scene.

It has been reported that the man was experiencing mental distress. No other information has been publicly released. It has not been independently confirmed that the victim had a weapon let alone discharged it.

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Winnipeg Police Shoot and Kill Machuar Mawien Madut: South Sudanese Migrant in Mental Health Crisis (Feb. 23, 2019)

Winnipeg police shot and killed Machuar Mawien Madut, a 43-year-old South Sudanese migrant whom community members have said was struggling with mental health issues due to separation from his family. The Council of South Sudanese Community of Manitoba identified Madut as the victim shot by police on Saturday, February 23, 2019.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, reports that police were called to 82 Colony Street at 9:43 AM regarding a man armed with a hammer potentially breaking into a suite. Madut was shot by police and taken to Health Sciences Centre where he later died.

Sandy Deng, a member of the community, rejects the police explanation of the killing. In her words:

“It breaks my heart. This is a typical stereotype for a lot of people who come from marginalized communities, because there’s always a justification for a shooting. He was a human being. He was supposed to be supported. He was one day away from seeing his mental health specialist, and instead of mobile crisis being called, the police were called.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

Madut and his family fled war in Sudan, coming to Canada in 2003. He had four children who moved to British Columbia with his wife after the couple separated a couple of years ago and Madut had struggled with mental health since then.

Deng described him as a very kind man:

“He came to the community here all the time to hang out, he never really bothered anybody. Apart from that, he had been living with a lot of challenges, including mental health, language barriers, adjustment to this new community.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

The Council of South Sudanese Community of Manitoba had been working with health services, including the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Manitoba’s Employment and Income Assistance Program, to help Madut with his mental health issues.

On Saturday, before he was shot by police, Madut had been moving furniture out of his apartment for as yet unknown reasons. A cousin, Ayei Madut, said the man had been dealing with a broken door in his apartment.

Ayei Madut also questions why police responded , and so immediately, with lethal force. In his words:

“I’m really not trusting the police, because we assume they have all the resource how to deal with people with mental issues, with different background. For me I can’t even trust them because this situation, I could do it better than whatever they did.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

Alexa Potashnik, president of Black Space Winnipeg, also directed skepticism toward Winnipeg police. As she notes: “This just unfortunately is a reminder that police brutality and violence happens in all areas across our country and we need answers” (quoted in CBC News 2019).

She adds that violence against Black people by police must be addressed in Winnipeg. In her view:

“There’s no justice or accountability from the Winnipeg police department and this is unacceptable and it’s an inexcusable act of violence toward the South Sudanese community, toward the black community. We’re not going to take this lying down and we’re going to show up and demand justice for our community.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

The killing by police of a Black man and man experiencing mental health distress highlights ongoing issues of police violence and use of lethal force in Canada.

The Council of South Sudanese Community of Manitoba will hold a rally outside police headquarters on March 1 to demand answers “and shed light into the gaps that we have in mental health services and how police officers might not be well-equipped to deal with people with mental health issues and language barriers” (quoted in CBC News 2019).

Machuar Mawien Madut is the third person shot by Winnipeg police already in 2019.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2019. “’It’s Devastating’: South Sudanese Condemn Fatal Police Shooting of Man with Mental Health Issues.” CBC News. February 25. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/man-shot-police-south-sudanese-community-1.5032314


Killer Ottawa Cops Identified as Thanh Tran and Daniel Vincelette: Shot Greg Ritchie of Saugeen First Nation

Greg Ritchie, a 30-year-old Ojibwe man from Saugeen First Nation near Owen Sound, Ontario, has been identified as the man shot and killed by Ottawa police on January 31. Family members have spoken publicly to say he was experiencing mental health crises and was heading to a pharmacy to pick up medication when he was shot and killed by police. The responding officers have been identified as Ottawa constables Thanh Tran and Daniel Vincelette. Witnesses have reported hearing more than two shots. Tran is a repeat offender. He and another officer had been charged, in September 2011, with assault causing bodily harm following the arrest of an intoxicated 50-year-old homeless man.

Family members say Ritchie, who had been taken from his mother and placed in foster care, had struggled with mental health issues from a young age. He had moved to Ottawa to live with his brother and his partner. Ritchie’s sister-in-law reports that he was in good spirits the morning he was killed, having received his Ontario Disability Support Program payment and going out for a coffee. He then set out to get his medication, suffering a headache and recovering from a concussion. He had been a customer at the pharmacy at Elmvale Acres Mall since arriving in Ottawa.

Police allegedly received a call about a “suspicious incident.” This is a painfully poignant description given that Ritchie’s family says he had an ongoing fear that people viewed him suspiciously because of the way he looked and because of his Indigenous identity.

In the words of his sister-in-law, Chantel Ritchie:

“And the thing is, that’s not the kind of guy he is. He gets scared…and that’s the saddest part. We know that he was in complete and utter terror in a moment like that. He’s scared of just going into a grocery store…of just being in a crowd, because he’s afraid that people want to do something to him or don’t like him because of the way he looks.

“And honestly, we’ve seen it. People just take one look and that’s it. He’s First Nations, he’s been homeless before, and he is afraid. People just take all of that in one look and then make assumptions and then act on it. And it just really hurts that we weren’t there to be able to calm him down because there’s no way that any of this would have happened if we were there. There’s no way.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

Chantal Ritchie says Greg Ritchie felt better around family and was very involved in learning about his culture. She worries that cultural materials he carried with him might have been misinterpreted as weapons by the police who killed him. In her words:

“I could tell right away he suffered from mental illness, but when he was around family he was very happy. He was very into his culture and learning about his ancestors. He did sometimes exhibit that he feels the pain of what happened to his people…but he was just happy to be around family and to be at powwows and helping at those events.

“He was sometimes hired to keep sacred fires going at ceremonies, and spent time in woods and rivers looking for arrowheads. It also comforted him to recreate arrowheads and other artifacts.

“Those things he keeps on his person because it makes him feel safe. We always tell him, don’t bring it with you anywhere, because we were afraid of this very thing happening.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

One witness, Shireen Moodley, reports hearing multiple rapid-fire gunshots

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2019. “Greg Ritchie ID’d as Man Shot and KIlled by Police at Mall.” CBC News. February 1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-fatal-police-shooting-family-1.5000285