It is rare in the Canadian context that police officers who kill civilians are ever named publicly. This generally only happens in the few cases that result in charges laid against police or in case of a public inquiry or inquest. With the coroner’s inquest onto the police killing of Felix Taqqaugaq on March 20, 2012, mandatory in cases of police harm to civilians in Nunavut, the RCMP officers who killed him have been identified publicly as Constable Jason Trites and Sergeant Peter Marshall.
Constable Trites knew that Taqqaugaq was dealing with mental health issues, which the officer understood to be schizophrenia, yet he still moved quickly to arrest the man for supposedly uttering threats and fired a taser at him only moments into the encounter (and before the man had done anything more than speak to officers). The taser fire may have upset Taqqaugaq who was then chased back into his house by Sergeant Marshall. In response to this police chase Taqqaugaq may have returned brandishing a knife.
By Trite’s own admission he tripped (apparently in a panic) while backing away from Taqqaugaq and firing his handgun. This left Trites with a self-inflicted wound to his hand. This injury was initially reported publicly but it was not clarified that Trites had shot himself. Such early reports of officer injuries, without the information that the injuries are self-inflicted, can give the impression that police were physically threatened or harmed and thus justified in using lethal force. A similarly deceptive mention of injury to an officer (that later was identified as officer-inflicted) was given in the RCMP killing of Hudson Brooks in Surrey, British Columbia. While on his back Trites shot Taqqaugaq three times. The man was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
According to Mary Ijjangiaq, Taqqaugaq’s partner of 13 years the police instigated the situation that led to the killing. In her words to the inquest: “They ganged up on him. He was deliberately provoked. I think [the officer] deliberately made sure he died” (quoted in Murray 2016a). She says the victim held a knife at his chest not over his head in a threatening manner as police claim.
Police audio from the incident raise further questions and ppint to a very quick escalation to lethal force by police. From the moment that officers radioed in to the Iqaluit command centre reporting they had located the suspect only 60 seconds passed before one officer called out “Shots fired; suspect down” (Murray 2016a).
As cops typically do in such cases officer Trites has attempted to present himself as the victim requiring sympathy. In his pitch to the inquiry he attempts to make the family feel sorry for himself: “I just hope the family knows that they’re not the only ones that were hurt by this. The things that I deal with, do affect my personal life. I’m definitely not the same person as I used to be before this incident” (quoted in Murray 2016b).
Incredibly both Constable Trites and Sergeant Marshall were flown out of the northern community (where the RCMP is a still colonial force) the very next day after the killing of Felix Taqqaugaq. Trites has testified at the inquest by video from Halifax.
Murray, Nick. 2016a. “‘They Ganged Up on Him’: Wife of Igloolik Man Killed by Police Heard Shots Fired.” CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/felix-taqqaugaq-inquest-wife-witness-testimony-1.3842011
Murray, Nick. 2016b. “‘I Was Trying to Stop Him’: RCMP Officer Apologizes for Shooting Felix Taqqaugaq.” CBC News. November 9. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/felix-taqqaugaq-inqest-officer-narrative-1.3842623