Québec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the killing of a 25-year old man by an officer of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) around 7 PM on August 10, 2017 in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, southeast of Québec City. According to the BEI, police responded to a call regarding a man experiencing some distress in the center of a street. The BEI states that the responding officer activated the flashing lights of the cruiser which caused the man to panic and run. After a foot chase that ended in a parking lot the officer shot the man. The SQ claim the man had a knife. None of the details have been independently confirmed. Eight BEI investigators have been assigned to the case and will examine the SQ version of events. The BEI is not an independent unit though and Montreal police will assist them in this investigation, which leaves police investigating police.
Category Archives: Killings by Cops
Family and loved ones of Tony Divers have been kept in the dark about the SIU investigation into the police killing of the 36-year-old Hamilton man. On Thursday, August 10, 2017, they received the awful news that the Special Investigations Unit has cleared the Hamilton officer who shot Tony Divers will not be charged. The decision comes 10 months after the killing on September 30, 2017, a too long period of time in which questions from the family have not been properly addressed.
The officer responsible fired two shots at the unarmed Divers, with one bullet hitting the victim in the chest. Despite the fact that Divers was unarmed, SIU Director Tony Loparco concluded the officer was justified in believing his own life was at risk and in fearing that Divers was armed. Under Loparco the already questionable SIU has become something of a legitimation mechanism for cops who kill civilians.
Yvonne Alexander, Tony Divers’ sister, and a tireless advocate for information and justice, responded with the pained honesty of someone whose loved one has been killed by police: “I’m shocked but I’m not at all surprised. Because it seems to be the norm these days for officers to shoot and kill someone in mental crisis” (quoted in Bennett 2017).
Of particular concern for observers is the report that the call to police included a claim that Divers was “anti-police.” Did this play into the quick resort to lethal force by Hamilton police?
This is reinforced by Loparco’s conclusion in the case: “On all of the information that the [officer] had in his possession at the time he shot and killed Mr. Divers, I find that the [officer], subjectively, had reasonable grounds to believe that his life was at risk from Mr. Divers” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Because he was said to be “anti-police?”
Loparco continues: “I find in all the circumstances, that despite the after the fact knowledge that Mr. Divers was not armed, the [officer] reasonably believed that his life was in danger from Mr. Divers and his actions in firing upon Mr. Divers were justified” (quoted in Bennett 2017). This is in keeping with other SIU findings under Loparco.
Loparco further notes in his report that the officer who shot Tony Divers had had previous contact with the victim and considered him “anti-police and very violent” (quoted in Bennett 2017). The officer actually appears to have held several prejudices against Tony Divers, including the assumptions that he was involved in organized crime and a drug user. The SIU report does not delve into these issues in probing detail.
The family says that Tony Divers was struggling with mental health issues when the officer shot him. For the family, this did not matter to police who responded to their loved one through the prejudging lens that held him as simply a thug.
Edward Divers, the victim’s brother, said the decision and explanation for why the shooting is justified felt to him like “an eye for an eye,” that his brother was treated as a “violent thug” with no regard for his mental illness.
One eyewitness, who says he did not see Divers holding any weapon, also said the victim appeared to pose no threat to anyone. Yet he did note that Divers did not seem subservient to the officer, a situation that seems to provoke police violence (respect their authority or die). According to witness Joe Towers: “He didn’t look very afraid of the cop; he wasn’t being cooperative, but he didn’t look like he was any particular threat. It just didn’t seem like he wanted to be arrested” (quoted in Bennett 2017).
Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “SIU Clears Hamilton Officer in Death of Man Shot Near GO Station.” CBC News August 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/divers-siu-decision-released-1.4204146
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.
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.
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
A coroner’s inquest into the police shooting and killing of 21-year-old Kwasi Skene-Peters on July 25, 2015 has been announced. On August 2, 2017, Dr. James Edwards, the regional supervising coroner for Central Region (Toronto Easy office) gave notice of the inquest.
An SIU (Special Investigations Unit) investigation of the killing concluded that Toronto police had been instructed to set up surveillance at the Tryst nightclub on reports that Skene-Peters would be present. The Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) (ironically) was also on hand to provide “additional officer support” and were parked in a nearby alley. Skene-Peters was in his car around 3 AM when a civilian vehicle boxed him in and police decided to make a charge on the vehicle.
Notably, a witness who spoke with CBC Toronto at the time reported that between 20 to 30 shots were fired and he did not hear police make any demands toward Skene-Peters before opening fire on him (CBC News 2017). Upon hearing the shots the witness fled in fear. Could a less dramatic approach by police avoided taking of a life in this case? Particularly given that Skene-Peters was in a vehicle and boxed in and police had positioning.
The SIU report noted that both of the officers who shot Skene-Peters declined to participate in the SIU investigation. There is currently no mechanism used to make killer cops comply with SIU investigations.
CBC News. 2017. “Coroner Calls Inquest into Death of Man Shot by Police in Entertainment District in 2015.” CBC News. August 2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/kwasi-skene-peters-inquest-1.4232591
Police in Rothesay, New Brunswick have fought to keep body camera footage of the killing of William David McCaffrey by an officer of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force from the public. On July 27, 2017, the access to information and privacy commissioner for the province called for release of the tape.
The 26-year-old youth was shot and killed by police in his home on February 28, 2014, while experiencing mental health distress. McCaffrey was shot twice while harming himself. The force was not investigated by a civilian oversight unit but only by another police force, the RCMP. The finding for release of the tape comes after a 15-month battle over access to information by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Commissioner Anne Bertrand in deciding the case determined that public interest in police use of force cases supercedes privacy, including for police. This ruling could have something to say about who is able to see police body camera footage in the future. In an interview Bertrand clarified: “In special circumstances, there may be a public interest in the public knowing about what happened, despite there being personal information involved” (quoted in Donkin 2017).
The Kennebecasis Regional Police Force had denied a request from CBC News of information of footage from a police body camera in 2016. They cited privacy concerns.
CBC News appealed the police decision to Bertrand. The news station argued that body-worn camera footage should be treated the same way as any other record showing how police make a decision (2017). According to the CBC News claim: “Having access to those records is necessary to ensure public safety and accountability” (quoted in Donkin 2017).
In her decision, Bertrand invoked a little used public interest section of the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It says that in cases where there is “a risk of significant harm,” which could include a danger to public safety, that section can override other parts of the law that protect privacy (Donkin 2017).
This would be the first case of release of police body camera footage in the Canadian context, unlike the situation in the United States in which such footage has been released numerous times. As is too often the case in public body decisions involving police conduct, the police force is not required to adhere to Bertrand’s decision and is already pursuing legal advice. Once again the police assume the powers of a law unto themselves.
Donkin, Karissa. 2017. “Video of Fatal Police Shooting Should Be Made Public, Commissioner Says.” CBC News. July 27. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/rothesay-shooting-commissioner-1.4223274
The 2017 coroner’s inquest into the police killing of Michael MacIsaac has already heard dubious testimony from the officer who shot him, Brian Taylor. As the inquest continues, on July 26, another police officer, Durham Regional Police Constable Mark Brown, has added to the questionable police testimony by suggesting that the dying victim played a part in his own death by actively resisting help. Brown was the first to respond to a 911 call involving Michael MacIsaac on that morning on December 2, 2013. MacIsaac was shot by Taylor while he was experiencing effects of an epileptic seizure and was naked in the street near his home.
In Brown’s own testimony: “I remember him saying stuff, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. The only thing I understood when performing first aid, was MacIsaac said ‘pain’ (quoted in McLaughlin 2017). That seems clear enough. But the cop wants the jury to believe the dying man did not want the pain to stop.
The MacIsaac family lawyer, Roy Wellington questioned Constable Brown about his claim that MacIsaac resisted help. Asked Wellington: “Does it strike you as odd that someone would not want to be touched after being shot by the same people” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017)? Brown could not offer such empathetic insight.
Family members in attendance at the inquest were dumbfounded at the officer’s testimony. Said Brian MacIsaac’s sister, Joanne: “I can’t imagine what was going through Michael’s head, and know the pain must have been horrible. But to tell him after the fact, we are here to help you? It’s ridiculous, ridiculous to me. Why didn’t you help him before?” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017). Joanne MacIsaac suggested that the officer’s testimony was not close to believable. She continued in frustration:
“His narrative of what happened has got to be, in my opinion, fabricated. To say Michael was actively resisting when he’s naked, cold on the ground and you’re pushing in on his abdomen after he has been shot, to use the phrase ‘he’s actively resisting,’ my god what is the matter with these people?” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017)
Under cross examination by Anita Szigeti, a lawyer with Toronto’s Empowerment Council for people with mental health issues, Constable Brown, an officer with 14 years of experience on the force had undertaken only one week of mental health training ever and that had occurred a decade before the killing of Michael MacIsaac. Brown had to admit on the stand that his training was not adequate.
McLaughlin, Amara. 2017. “Michael MacIsaac was ‘Actively Resisting’ Help after Police Shooting, Says Officer at Scene.” CBC News. July 26. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/michael-macisaac-inquest-mental-health-1.4223451