Category Archives: Manitoba

Killer Cop Justin Holz Gets 30 Months for Killing Cody Severight in 2017

Killer Winnipeg cop Justin Holz, 36, pleaded guilty on October 30, 2019, to dangerous driving causing death for the collision that killed 23-year-old Cody Severight in 2017. Holz hit Severight and left the young Indigenous man to die in the road. A Manitoba provincial court judge agreed to a joint recommendation by lawyers and sentenced Holz to 30 months in prison. A rare case of a killer cop being charged, and an even more rare outcome that would see a killer cop do time in prison.

The court heard that Holz met other police officers for drinks at a bar starting before 5 PM on the evening of October 10, 2017. He drove off from a nearby car park around three hours later. Investigators calculated Holz was driving at up to 92 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. He hit Severight, who was crossing the street with another person, while going at least 76 km/h. According to the Court, Severight was launched across the road, his skull fractured and his neck broken in the collision.

Despite clearly striking someone, Holz did not stop or attempt to help the victim. Instead he continued to drive on, even increasing his speed up to 129 km/h. Almost 12 minutes after striking Severight, Holz parked and called police, saying he had hit someone. A breathalyzer test was done on Holz more than an hour after he struck Severight. The conduct of two other officers in delaying the breathalyzer was questioned but no disciplinary actions taken against them.

Severight was later taken to hospital but died of his injuries.

Holz had originally faced other offences, including impaired driving. Those charges were following the guilty plea.


54-Year-Old Man Dies in Police Custody in The Pas, Manitoba (Oct. 5-6, 2019)

A 54-year-old man has died in police custody in The Pas, Manitoba, a town about 600 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg. According to the Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, police arrested the man after responding to a call about an intoxicated person on October 5, 2019. He was put in a cell at the RCMP detachment at around 7 PM. The man was found unresponsive in his cell the next morning. According to the IIU, emergency medical services attended and pronounced the man dead in the detachment. Police and jail cells are not appropriate responses for someone dealing with substance use issues.


27-Year-Old Man Dies Following Forceful Arrest by Winnipeg Police (Sept. 30, 2019)

A 27-year-old man has died after being arrested by Winnipeg police. The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harms to civilians in Manitoba, reports that on September 23 police officers responded to a call about a man in some distress who is said to have appeared confused and was yelling in an area near Assiniboine Avenue and Kennedy Street at around 12:42 AM. The IIU reports that police used force to arrest him. During the arrest the man became unresponsive and was taken to hospital in critical condition. The victim died in hospital on September 30.

This death again raises the question of why police, who respond, and quickly, with force are being sent to deal with health care crises. Police are not, and should not be, health care workers. This is at least the seventh through police action in Winnipeg in 2019.


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


Thirty-Year-Old Man Dies During Arrest by Winnipeg Police (July 14, 2019)

According to the Independent Investigations Unit of Manitoba, the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, the arrest occurred in the city’s North End, around Flora Avenue and Parr Street. Police allegedly saw a man they believed to be bleeding and armed with a weapon and chased him on foot, catching him not far away. During the arrest the man became unresponsive. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. It has not been conformed publicly that the man was bleeding prior to the arrest.


Man Dies after Arrest by Winnipeg Police (June 26, 2019)

The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the group that examines cases of police harming civilians in Manitoba, is investigating the death of a man following his arrest by Winnipeg police on June 26, 2019.

It has been reported that Winnipeg police responded to a call about a break-in on Alfred Avenue at about 2:30 AM. The man allegedly fled the residence before supposedly being found in some medical distress on Burrows Avenue. The man was taken to St. Boniface Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.


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