Manitoba First Nations Police shot and killed 23-year-old Benjamin Richard on Long Plain First Nation on the evening of April 2, 2019. The victim’s identity was confirmed publicly by his sister Patricia Richard. She reports that she called police after speaking with her mother because she believed her brother to be ‘freaking out’ and shooting out of the house where her mother lives.
Patricia Richard had hoped police would protect her brother, not shoot him. She is upset at how police handled the situation, believing it could have and should have ended differently.
She has since said that her mother told her: “They went rushing in there. Everything happened too quick. She said they didn’t have to [shoot him]. He wasn’t threatening anyone, he just snapped on himself” (quoted in CBC News 2019)
The victim’s niece, Tammy Smith, said she was outside the house in a pickup truck with Richard’s mother when three officers spotted Richard through a window and started shooting at him. She describes a chaotic, reckless, rush to lethal force. In her words: “I was backing up to see if I could see Ben, when all the shots came from the (police). I’m pretty sure they all unloaded their clips. We just started screaming” (quoted in Rollason 2019).
She echoed the family’s feelings of anger over how the situation was handled: “It should not have escalated to that point. They should have waited for more people. They should have tried to wait it out. They were all outside, shooting through the walls and windows. They never even entered the house…” (quoted in Rollason 2019)
Witnesses suggest that the victim was only firing his weapon into an empty field and the ceiling of the house. They say he posed no threat to anyone, but was simply upset. She relates: “His mother, last week, called the [police] to take him to the hospital so he could be assessed. But when they came and talked to him, they said he wasn’t a threat to anyone. Then a week later, they come back and shoot him” (quoted in Rollason 2019).
Patricia Richard has said that in her view the officers were “trigger-happy.” She suggests: “They knew my brother needed help a few days before anything happened. He was unstable. Everyone saw the signs” (quoted in Rollason 2019).
And she concludes: “I believe what happened could have been 100 per cent preventable” (quoted in Rollason 2019).
Smith remembers Benjamin Richard in these terms: “He was kind, caring and always thinking of others more than himself. The world lost a great man. My heart breaks” (quoted in Macdonnell 2019).
According to the Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Manitoba, it was notified by Manitoba First Nations Police that officers had responded to a report of a man armed with a firearm in a residence at around 6 PM. During an encounter at least one office fired a weapon, striking the man. The victim, Benjamin Richard was pronounced dead on the scene. Three officers involved in the case are now on administrative leave.
CBC News. 2019. “Man Shot Dead by First Nations Police Force in Manitoba, Family Says.” CBC News April 3. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-first-nations-police-long-plain-1.5082537
Macdonnell, Beth. 2019. “Man Dead after Officer-Involved Shooting on Long Plain First Nation.” CTV News April 3. https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/man-dead-after-officer-involved-shooting-on-long-plain-first-nation-1.4363800
Rollason, Kevin. 2019. “Officers Called ‘Trigger-Happy.’” Winnipeg Free Press April 4. https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/officers-called-trigger-happy-508094702.html