Category Archives: Indigenous Victims

Victim of Winnipeg Police Identified as Randy Cochrane of Fisher River Cree Nation (July 14, 2019)

The family of a man who died during an arrest by Winnipeg police has identified him as Randy Cochrane, a 30-year-old father of three. Family members are calling for answers into what happened during the arrest and why there appear to be discrepancies in what police reported and what doctors in the hospital emergency have said.

Randy Cochrane’s cousin Monica Murdock asks pointedly:

“My family’s devastated. We want to know what happened to him. Why did he die in cuffs? Why were they chasing him? Why are they saying he was bloody but the doctors we went and saw at the emergency room last night said that he had no injuries? (quoted in Grabish 2019)

Murdock reports that doctors at the Health Sciences Centre told her family on Sunday, after Cochrane died, that the young man had suffered a heart attack and had a high fever. She also reports that they told her there were no other injuries on his body. She says that doctors informed her that it was too late by the time Cochrane arrived at the hospital at 4:30 PM because he had been without a pulse for some time (Grabish 2019).

Murdock describes her cousin as “a fierce protector of his family” and she says “he was more like a brother to her” (2019). She relates fondly: “He always made sure we were protected. We were safe. The last time I saw him he came to my house and he gave me some money for my baby ‘cause my daughter’s in the hospital” (quoted in Grabish 2019).

Marjorie Cochrane raised Randy after adopting him. She remembers:

“He was really always close to his daughters. It’s hard. Taking it hard” (quoted in Grabish 2019).

She too has important questions for police: “What happened when they handcuffed him?” (quoted in Grabish 2019).

A witness, Will Couture, says Cochrane, rather than being a threat, appeared to be shouting for help while running from something or someone (2019). Couture reports that the man, kept repeating “help me, help me” (Grabish 2019). He then saw police chase Cochrane across the street.

Couture claims that the man looked “freaked out.” In his words: “Just scared. Just like terrified of something you know what I mean? It was like the devil was chasing him” (quoted in Grabish 2019).

If it was the police, he may be completely right in that.

 

Further Reading

Grabish, Austin. 2019. “Family Demands Answers after Father of 3 Dies in Police Custody.” CBC News July 15. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/police-custody-death-north-end-winnipeg-1.5212209

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Robin Fiddler of Waterhen Lake First Nation Identified as Woman Killed by Calgary Police (June 26, 2019)

Family members have identified 34-year-old Robin Fiddler of Waterhen Lake First Nation, in northern Saskatchewan, as the woman shot and killed by a Calgary police officer on June 26, 2019. She was shot twice by the killer cop. Fiddler was a trades worker in construction.

Fiddler’s family is demanding justice. They question the quick violence of the Calgary police. Mario Fiddler, the victim’s cousin, says:

“We believe Robin didn’t deserve to die — we want to see justice. We believe the Calgary police officer could’ve taken different steps dealing with Robin (and that) a Taser could’ve been used instead of shooting our cousin. My cousin isn’t the type of person to be an aggressor.” (quoted in Laing 2019).

Another cousin, Angela Fiddler, has reflected on Robin Fiddler’s determination and humor. In her words:

“She always tried to get through whatever systemic barriers that she faced — she always tried to make a way. She was just a blessing to us. It was her smile, she was always so funny and she always wanted to make people laugh.
“When we were both younger, I just took her under my wing and that was that. She would come live with me when she had the opportunity. I’ve always had an open door for her. Robin was a beautiful soul, she deserved to live.”

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld has said that the officer who killed Fiddler was wearing a police-issued, body-worn camera at the time of the killing. No video has been released publicly. Robin Fiddler’s killing is at least the third police-involved death in Calgary in 2019.

The family reports that they are returning Robin Fiddler’s body to Saskatchewan so that the family can lay her to rest and start a traditional healing journey (Laing 2019).

 

Further Reading

Laing, Zach. 2019. “Calls for Justice from Family of Woman Shot Dead by Calgary Police Officer. Calgary Sun June 30. https://calgarysun.com/news/crime/calls-for-justice-from-family-of-woman-shot-dead-by-calgary-police-officer


Improperly Parked Police Vehicle Rolls Over, Kills Assault Victim (Salluit, Nunavut, July 5, 2019)

A 58-year-old assault victim who had been badly beaten was killed when an improperly parked vehicle of the Kativik Regional Police Force rolled over him. The death occurred in Salluit, Nunavut, on the evening of July 5, 2019. Allegedly responding to a call about a brawl, police moved to make an arrest rather than ensuring their vehicle was securely parked. The man was pronounced dead at a local health center.

The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (Bureau of Independent Investigations, BEI), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians, has dispatched eight investigators to look into the killing. The BEI is not truly an independent agency as it relies on police to carry out investigations. A collision expert with the Quebec provincial police force, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), will be involved in this investigation.

Salluit, located near the Hudson Strait, has a population of around 1600 people.


Indigenous Father Geoff Morris (41) Killed by Regina Police (May 4, 2019).

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is calling for an independent investigation after the killing of Geoff Morris (41) by Regina Police Service officers on May 4, 2019. In a news release, FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat noted that,

“We have seen officers investigating their fellow officers and we all know how those investigations turn out. We are calling on the Regina Police Service to allow for an outside and independent oversight body to be a part of this investigation. We have been calling for this for years and these senseless police-related deaths keep happening.”

Morris was shot and killed by Regina police, during what cops say was a hostage situation. There are reasons to be skeptical about this given the lack of public information around another recent alleged hostage-taking in which two people were killed by RCMP in Surrey, British Columbia in March 2019. In that case it was later revealed that police had shot and killed both people, including the alleged hostage Nona McEwan. Notably, Regina Police chief Evan Bray would not say whether an alleged hostage was still being held when the shooting occurred.

Indeed, the police justification of events is being contradicted by Morris’ fiancé, Jasmine Brass, who says she was present when Morris was killed. In her words: “Honestly it wasn’t necessary for them to kill him, they could’ve just tased him” (quoted in Melnychuck 2019). She reports that Morris had been struggling with mental health issues and that she and her sister were with Morris trying to help him the morning he was killed by police.

Brass also reports that he became more agitated when police arrived, a not uncommon occurrence as the appearance of police typically heightens tensions and stress. She gives a chilling account, saying on facebook that she heard a “bang” and felt a splatter of blood at the moment of killing. Incredibly Brass reports that police shot Morris while she sat between his legs.

Morris was biological father to four children. He also took in six other children and raised them. One daughter, Tanisha Whiteman, remembers him as a good, loving man who struggled with anxiety issues. She asks why police acted so quickly to kill. In her words:

“That’s somebody’s father. That’s somebody’s son. That’s somebody’s brother, somebody’s nephew. He was loved by so many people. Why? Just like that, he’s gone. There could have been other ways that could have been handled. They didn’t have to take someone’s life away (quoted in Whitfield 2019a).

Heartbreaking words about the role played by police came from 12-year-old son Nakayoh Friday: “I want people to know that the people who were supposed to protect us aren’t protecting us. They are killing us. I don’t want other families to go through my pain” (quoted in Whitfield 2019b).

According to Regina Police chief Evan Bray, legislation requires that the Regina Police Service’s Major Crime unit investigates the shooting. Cops investigating cops. The officer involved in the shooting was a member of the patrol response remains on active duty.

Regina police claim that the killing of Morris is the first killing by an officer in the city since 1998. Police also claim that there have been four officer-involved shootings in the last 10 years, with none of those resulting in the death of the victim.

 

Further Reading

Melnychuck, Mark. 2019. “Fiancee of Man Shot by Regina Police Questions Why Officer Used Lethal Force.” Regina Leader-Post May 6. https://www.journalpioneer.com/news/canada/fiancee-of-man-shot-by-regina-police-questions-why-officer-used-lethal-force-308570/

Whitfield, Janani. 2019a. “’He Didn’t Deserve to Die Like That’: Man Killed by Regina Police Was a ‘Family Man.’” CBC News May 5. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/hostage-taking-incident-regina-geoff-morris-1.5124018

Whitfield, Janani. 2019b. “Children of Man Shot Dead by Regina Police Say He Was Close to Turning Life Around.” CBC News May 7. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/regina-shooting-police-death-1.5126084


Manitoba First Nations Police Kill Benjamin Richard (23) on Long Plain First Nation (April 2, 2019)

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.

 

Further Reading

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


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


Cops Investigating Cops: Calgary Police Services Investigate Death of 22-Year-Old Kugluktuk Man in Custody of Nunavut RCMP (Sept. 19, 2018)

The Calgary Police Services are investigating the death of a 22-year-old Kugluktuk resident while in custody of the Nunavut RCMP on September 19, 2018. The victim was reportedly medivacked from Kugluktuk to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife, where he died. Nunavut RCMP have not provided any details about the circumstances of the death, or why the victim was medivacked, but have stated that the incident triggered the force to “engage the RCMP’s External Investigations or Review Policy.”

Inspector Keith Cain, of the Calgary Police Services, reports that four detectives and two members of the Calgary Police Services crime scenes unit were in Kugluktuk the last week of September to do an investigation. They had attended the autopsy in Edmonton.

The investigating officers will compile a report of the incident and give it to a Crown prosecutor, who will decide whether to press charges. It is expected the police “investigation” will take a month and the Crown will review the report over the course of an additional month.  Nunavut’s deputy coroner, Khen Sagadraca, reports that the office is conducting its own “preliminary investigation” into the circumstances surrounding the death.

This is a blatant case of police investigating police and we can expect nothing in the way of justice to come from it. Incredibly, and speaking to the reliability of police in such cases, the Nunavut RCMP did not issue a news release about the in-custody death when it happened. They have since refused to answer questions about this failure to report. Perhaps they needed more time to concoct a story or reconstruct a crime scene.