Category Archives: Manitoba

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


Winnipeg Officer Arrested For Death of Pedestrian struck by Vehicle (Oct. 10, 2017)

The Independent Investigations Unit (IIU), which examines cases of police harm to civilians, is investigating the death of a 23-year-old pedestrian struck and killed by a vehicle Tuesday around 8 PM at the corner of Main Street and Sutherland Avenue. The investigation has led to the arrest of a Winnipeg police officer. The young victim was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died as a result of the injuries caused by the officer.


Winnipeg Police Kill 33-Year-Old Man (September 23, 2017)

The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the agency that examines police harm to civilians in Manitoba, is investigating the killing of a 33-year-old man in “The Maples” area of Winnipeg on the afternoon of September 23, 2017. Police claim they encountered a conflict when responding to a report of a stabbing. They say one officer was stabbed after police became involved. The 33-year-old victim was shot by an officer and taken to Health Sciences Centre but died. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed. There have been three shootings of civilians by police in Winnipeg in the past three months alone.


Winnipeg Police Kill 23-Year-Old Adrian Lacquette (Sept. 13, 2017)

A Winnipeg mother is grieving and seeking answers after Winnipeg police shot and 23-year-old son, Adrian Lacquette in the early morning hours of September 13, 2017. Jo-Anne Malcolm says she found out about her son’s killing when representatives of the Independent Investigations Unit (IIU) came to her home around 6:00 AM. Malcolm recounts that interaction: “They said, ‘Do you know Adrian?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s my son.’ I knew right away, I didn’t even ask. I said, ‘Is he dead?’ and they said, ‘Yeah. Sorry to tell you, ma’am. He was shot this morning” (quoted in Malone 2017). This is the ninth police shooting of a civilian in Manitoba since June 2015.

Police have claimed that a man, whom they would not name, was shot on Alfred Avenue near Powers Street in the city’s North End just before 1:00 AM Wednesday. Malcolm reports being told that the incident involved suspicion of a stolen car.

Clayton Campbell, who lives on Alfred Avenue near Powers Street, said that the incident happened very quickly. Police seemed to open fire shortly after encountering the victim. In his words: “It happened in a moment, a split moment. It was an eruption of gunfire” (quoted in Malone 2017).

Jo-Anne Malcolm wants to know what happened. In her words: “I want everybody to know that they shot my son for nothing, for a stolen car. I don’t think they should have shot him. My son is well-known to police, but they don’t have to treat him like that” (quoted in Malone 2017).

 

Further Reading

Malone, Kelly. 2017. “23-Year-Old Shot Dead By Winnipeg Police.” CBC News. September 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/north-end-police-serious-incident-1.4287071


IIU Finds Man Died in Custody After Winnipeg Police Use of Force

The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Manitoba, has found that the death of a man in custody on August 13, 2017 occurred after police “used force” in arresting and processing him on August 9. The man had complained of sore ribs during processing and was taken to hospital. He was returned to the Winnipeg Remand Centre and held in custody but was again taken to hospital from remand two days later. He died in hospital. The death was only reported to the IIU on August 16, so there are some concerns about police transparency and collusion in this case.


Inquest into Police Killing of Craig McDougall Sees No Racism Despite Mistreatment of Family, Eight Year Delay

Racism and policing have gone hand and hand in the Canadian context. From the settler colonial violence of the RCMP through contemporary practices from carding to assaults upon racialized people and communities. The settler colonial character of the Canadian state continues in the current context in the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of Indigenous people and the exertion of violence, often lethal violence, against them.

Not surprisingly the Canadian state and the various institutions of criminal justice have stridently denied claims of racism. Inquiries into police violence typically offer findings that diminish or deny the part of racism in police actions. Such an outcome was delivered again on May 12, 2017 with the results of the inquiry into the killing of Craig McDougall, a young Indigenous man, by Winnipeg police, a force with a long and notorious history of racist violence.

Twenty-six-year-old Craig Vincent McDougall was shot and killed by police outside his father’s home on Simcoe Street in Winnipeg on August 2, 2008. Police claimed to be responding to a 911 call when they arrived at the home in the early hours of August 2.  They suggest that found McDougall outside the house holding a cell phone and a knife. One officer shot him with a taser. He was then shot with a firearm which killed him. A private investigator who examined the case has cast doubt on the assertion that Craig McDougall held a knife at the moment he was shot.

Incredibly, the victim’s family members were immediately arrested and put in handcuffs on the front lawn, an act of what criminologists term the dramatization of evil, designed to denigrate and humiliate people targeted by the system. Jonathan Rudin, an expert witness on Indigenous people, policing, and the criminal justice system, testified that the treatment of McDougall’s family after the young man was shot exemplified systemic racism as the victims were assumed by police to be criminals and were treated as such.

Still, despite the actions of police, the inquest concluded that there was no evidence of racism in the police actions. It offered the typical statist finding that police were justified in their actions. In the inquest report, Associate Chief Judge Anne Krahn wrote there was “no evidence of racism direct or systemic in the moments leading to the shooting of Craig McDougall.” The judge found the arrest of McDougall’s father and uncle to be a simple misstep. In her words: “there were missteps in the immediate aftermath of the shooting when Craig McDougall’s uncle and father were left handcuffed and detained without lawful authority.” Such is the normalization of racism in the Canadian criminal justice system. Atrocious actions become mere missteps.

Critics point out that treating the family members in such disrespectful and accusatory fashion exemplifies racism. One might add the little regard shown for the family or the community in the eight year delay between the killing and the inquest report. It could be suggested that such an egregious delay would never be accepted in the case of a killing (by anyone) of a white, privileged victim. Of course police, and police associations, seek to delay and divert inquests to benefit their own interests.

The inquest report even contradicts its own conclusions by making recommendations that imply racism by police. Among these recommendations are that the police service should consider delivery of implicit bias training for its members at regular intervals (a recognition of racist assumptions) and work with Indigenous organizations to develop programs.