Category Archives: Indigenous Victims

Killer Winnipeg Cop Justin Holz Could Face Additional Charges in Cody Severight Killing

On Friday, October 13, 2017, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth told the city’s civilian police board that additional charges could be coming against Constable Justin Holz  for allegedly driving while impaired and fleeing the scene after hitting and killing pedestrian Cody Severight on October 10, 2017.  Smyth told the board that the results of a breathalyzer have not yet been analyzed and could bring about the further criminal charge of driving with a blood alcohol concentration over .08, which is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 milliliters of blood. Constable Holz has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene.

Smyth also told the police board that further disciplinary action could be taken against Constable Holz once the investigation is complete. This could come even before the case goes to court. Holz is presently on administrative leave with pay but Smyth acknowledged that future disciplinary action could include dismissal of the officer.

This is not the first time a Winnipeg police officer has hit and killed someone while driving after an evening of drinking. In 2005 officer Derek Harvey-Zenk killed Crystal Taman after driving home from an all night drinking party with other officers. Several charges were initially brought against Harvey-Zenk, including impaired driving causing death, but all except dangerous driving causing death were stayed in a highly controversial plea bargain. Harvey-Zenk was eventually sentenced to two years less a day to be served at home.

Upon hearing about Constable Holz killing Cody Severight while driving after drinking, Robert Taman, Crystal Taman’s husband, expressed sadness and dismay. Taman, who became an advocate for police reform after the killing of his wife, offered a stark assessment of prospects for change among police:

 

“But it never changes. So if it doesn’t change [that means] they don’t find it important enough to change, so it’s going to continue until the organization, the association, somebody steps up and says, ‘That’s enough.’” (quoted in CBC News 2017)

 

So no one should hold their breath awaiting additional charges or further disciplinary actions from police. Despite what the chief says.

The Independent Investigation Unit, which examines all cases of harm to civilians serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba, is investigating the killing. Holz has been released from custody on a promise to appear in court on November 22, 2017.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “’Nothing Hidden’: Truth Must be Revealed in Cody Severight Hit-and-Run Death, Crystal Taman’s Husban Says.” October 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/robert-taman-cody-severight-fatal-crash-1.4351359

 

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Winnipeg Killer Cop Justin Holz Charged in Killing Indigenous Youth Cody Severight

Winnipeg police Constable Justin Holz has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene after striking and killing pedestrian Cody Severight (23) with his vehicle on the evening of Tuesday, October 10, 2017. According to the Independent Investigations Unit, which is examining the killing, the 34-year-old Holz was located more than seven kilometers away fro the crash scene. Holz is an eight-year member of the Winnipeg police and was assigned as a criminal investigator. He has been placed on administrative leave but is still being paid. Winnipeg police traffic collision investigators assisted the IIU with a breathalyzer but it has not been revealed publicly whether Holz had a blood test to determine alcohol levels.

Holz was apparently working the day shift and would have gotten off work around 4:30 PM. He then allegedly went drinking until the crash at around 8:00 PM. Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth tried to suggest it is not unusual for someone to go for drinks after work. The issue here through is that the cop then apparently decide to get in his vehicle and race home.

Witness Donnie Fizell has reported seeing a car speeding down the street before striking Severight. In his words: “He must have flew 15 feet in the air and his head hit the curb. [Constable Holz] must have been doing 80 [km/h] when he hit that poor boy” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).

Cody Severight is from the Waywayseecappo First Nation, about 280 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. He had recently started classes at the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre to obtain his Grade 12. He and his partner were expecting a baby soon (Bernhardt 2017). His grandmother Gloria Lebold describes him: “He was a sweet little guy, always joking around, just being a little fun person” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).

Severight’s aunt, Nancy Gabriel, spoke honestly about the situation and noted the anti-Indigenous racism that has marked Winnipeg policing. In her view, police are supposed to be protecting people, “not killing people” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017). She continued: “As soon as he struck him he should have stopped straight away, not just keep on driving. You know how that looks, that looks like, ‘Oh that’s just another native.’ He was a good guy” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).

Cody Severight will be buried next to his mother.

This is the third incident of police harm to civilians that the IIU has had to investigate this week alone in Winnipeg.

 

Further Reading

Bernhardt, Darren. 2017. “Winnipeg Police Officer Charged in Fatal Hit and Run Allegedly Impaired.” CBC News. October 11. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/pedestrian-cody-severight-dies-1.4349125


RCMP Kill 26-Year-Old Man at Whitefish Lake First Nation (Sept. 6, 2017)

St. Paul Alberta RCMP  shot and killed a 26-year-old man at Whitefish Lake First Nation on September 6, 2017. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) reports that RCMP claim they responded to a disturbance call on the Whitefish First Nation (180 km northeast of Edmonton) around 6:15 PM. The first officer arrived on scene at about 7:45 PM having traveled from St. Paul,  which is about 60 km southeast of the scene. According to ASIRT the officer saw a man walking on the side of a road and initiated an encounter with him. According to ASIRT this encounter became a “confrontation” which ended when the RCMP officer shot the man resulting in his death.  The man died of his injuries on the way to hospital.

None of the details provided by police have been independently confirmed. It is not known publicly if anyone other than the cop who killed the victim witnessed the killing. It bears noting that the RCMP was founded as and remains a settler colonial military force.


Coroner’s Inquest but Police Investigate Police in RCMP Custody Death Beverly Elanik in Inuvik

The Office of the Chief Coroner in Northwest Territories (NWT) has called an inquest into the death of Beverly Elanik, a 51-year-old mother of five children who died in RCMP custody in Inuvik in January 2016. RCMP assumed that Elanik was intoxicated when they arrested here. While being processed to leave the following day, police claim she went into what they are calling “medical distress.” She was taken by police to the Inuvik hospital, where died. Eileen Edwards, Elanik’s mother, has stated publicly that police from Medicine Hat, Alberta, told her that her daughter had suffered a seizure. The inquest into Elanik’s death is scheduled to start on September 26 at the Mackenzie Hotel in Inuvik.

RCMP in NWT have said that the Medicine Hat Police Service will be conducting an external review of the incident. There is no process for independent review in place in the territory.


Alberta Killer RCMP Michelle Phillips Pleads Not Guilty in Death of Tracy Janvier

It is, of course, rare for killer cops in Canada to be charged with criminal offenses for harming civilians. The state protects the state. One of those rare cases involves Alberta RCMP Constable Michelle Phillips. The constable has pleaded not guilty to two charges in the killing of 41-year-old Indigenous person Tracy Janvier on August 21, 2016. In June 2017, one count of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Constable Phillips was charged with  The killer cop was not present in court when the pleas were entered by a lawyer on August 30, 2017. A preliminary inquiry is scheduled to be held in June 2018.

The charges came after an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the unit that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province. ASIRT concluded Janvier died as a result of being struck and killed by an RCMP vehicle traveling at “an extremely high rate of speed.” Constable Phillips had been responding to a call about an accident on the road in which Janivier, who had been struck by a previous vehicle, was being tended to by a 71-year-old man. Constable Phillips hit both the injured Janvier and the 71-year-old caregiver with her police vehicle at high speed.

At the time of the killing Constable Phillips had one year of service with the RCMP. RCMP have claimed the officers have been suspended with pay and will remain off duty until internal processes and all criminal charges against her are dealt with.


RCMP Assume Indigenous Man Having Stroke is Drunk: Inquest into Paul Kayuryuk Death

Between July 24 and July 27, 2017,  coroner’s inquest in Baker Lake, Nunavut, examined the death in jail of Paul Kayuryuk in October 2012 and concluded that police must “challenge assumptions” about intoxication in Inui communities. This after necessary medical attention was not provided Kayuryuk after RCMP jailed the man, who was having a stroke, on the assumption that he was drunk.

RCMP took Kayuryuk into custody after he was found unconscious at the landfill in Baker Lake.  Kayuryuk was observed overnight by three different guards and remained unconscious. It was only at midday the following day that a medical examination was ordered as a result of information received from the family. Kayuryuk was diabetic and the doctor and nurses at the local health center determined that he was experiencing a serious stroke. He was medivacked to Winnipeg but died there two weeks later from complications from the stroke.

Six jurors made 17 recommendations. Among them:

Cultural sensitivity training for officers and providing prisoners access to Inuktitut translators;  Seeking family insights and acting on the side of health care rather than presumed intoxication when in doubt.

Nunavut’s Chief Coroner Padma Suramala will present the recommendations to the RCMP who are under no obligation to observe them. This is one of several coroners’ inquests examining harm to Indigenous people by police with implications of racism and racist stereotyping of people seeking or in need of medical care.


Alberta Killer Cop Michelle Phillips Has First Court Appearance, Victim’s Family Not Notified

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, RCMP Constable Michelle Phillips had her first court appearance on charges of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in the killing of 41-year-old Tracy Janvier on August 21, 2016.

Janvier’s family is speaking publicly about concerns that this RCMP killing is going to be swept under the rug. Tracy Janvier was walking on a highway near Anzac, south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, when struck by a car and injured. Incredibly Constable Phillips drove over and killed the stricken victim while racing to the scene without slowing.

In a news release announcing the laying of charges the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province stated:

 

“While responding [to the scene] at an extremely high rate of speed, the officer came upon a number of vehicles stopped on one side of the highway with their lights on and proceeded to drive past these vehicles without slowing. Unfortunately, this location was where the pedestrian had been originally struck and the officer ran over the injured pedestrian prone on the roadway with the police vehicle, killing him.”

 

The police vehicle also hit a 71-year-old man who was helping Janvier. That man suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The family is concerned it was kept in the dark regarding the change in time of Constable Phillips’ court appearance.

Said Marina Nokohoo, Janvier’s sister, at the courthouse in Fort McMurray: “My brother deserves justice. He paid the ultimate price. My mom and dad, they’ve lost a child. So they feel that loss. They feel that impact more than any of us. Yet, because they are still our parents they are still taking care of us who are grieving.” (quoted in Thurton 2017).

Nokohoo continued: “I just don’t want to make it so that my brother’s death is going to be swept under the rug, or it’s going to be forgotten about. He’s my brother. He’s a human being. He’s important as anyone else” (quoted in Thurton 2017).

The next court date is scheduled for August 30, 2017.

 

Further Reading

Thurton, David. 2017. “‘My Brother Deserves Justice,’ Says Family of Alberta Man Killed by Speeding RCMP Vehicle.” CBC News. August 2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/tracy-janvier-rcmp-vehicle-killed-anzac-asirt-1.4233099