A 20-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound and died during an encounter with Nunavut RCMP in Pond Inlet. RCMP claim they responded to a report of a man in a cemetery with a firearm. At some point during the encounter the man was shot. He was taken to the local health care facility where he died. Police claim the youth was suicidal but this has not been independently verified. As in other instances of police killings of civilians in Nunavut, the case is being investigated by Ottawa Police Department officers. It is in no way an independent and transparent investigation.
Category Archives: Nunavut
Suicide by cop is a dubious designation, one of those excuses police apply to justify publicly their actions when they kill civilians. The notion is dubious for a number of reasons. First, it is applied after the fact in a range of diverse circumstances including those where the victim has not expressed suicidal wishes (or on the contrary is even happy in life) or is not posing a threat to anyone. Do not forget that the police attempted to use this defense to protect killer cop James Forcillo who shot Sammy Yatim multiple times while the youth was alone in an empty street car. Second, even if someone wishes to “die by cop” does not mean that the police are justified in killing them or should be expected to kill them. It speaks volumes that anyone could expect with probability that an encounter with police would end with the police taking their life. Third, if someone is experiencing mental health issues, the police are not the appropriate response and if they are called for such issues health care providers should be involved rather than police ready to shoot to kill. Fourth, in suicide the person takes the decision and acts. In “suicide by cop” the cops can choose not to shoot and kill the person. Someone is taking the active decision to kill you in a case where they could choose not to. Finally, “suicide by cop” should never be applied as a justification for police killing civilians as it is now. The facts of each encounter matter.
These are all issues to keep in mind when details emerge of the killing by Nunavut RCMP of a 39-year-old man in Hall Beach, in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut, a town with a population of about 750. RCMP encountered the man over the evening of Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Police claim they were alerted to the man around 11:30 PM after receiving a call about an online Facebook live video in which the man ranted about “suicide by cops.” The man is alone and crying in the video. Police promptly attended the house where the man was present, by himself, and shot and killed him.
This is the third killing of a civilian by police since December 2016 in the small northern territory. As in other recent cases in which Nunavut RCMP have killed a civilian, the Ottawa Police Service will carry out the investigation into their fellow police officers. This is in no way an independent investigation and as in all cases of police “investigating” police lacks all credibility.
RCMP Officers Who Killed Felix Taqqaugaq Identified as Constable Jason Trites (Shooter) and Sergeant Peter Marshall (Partner)
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
Police should not be called to address people dealing with mental health issues. Yet too often they are. In the Canadian context this results disproportionately in killings of civilians experiencing mental health distress by police. This is true in communities large and small, rural and urban. It occurs in southern cities and northern communities like Igloolik, Nunavut.
More than four years ago RCMP in Igloolik shot and killed Felix Taqqaugaq (29) in his own home only moments after encountering the man. The March 20, 2012 killing occurred after Taqqaugaq called into a local radio station and engaged in something of a wordy rant. For some reason a listener decided to call the RCMP about the man. RCMP encountered the victim at his home and killed him.
On Tuesday, November 1, 2016 a coroner’s inquest into the killing of Taqqaugaq by police began. Nunavut Chief Coroner Padma Suramala will carry out the inquest, which will run until November 11. Findings from an earlier investigation by the Ottawa Police Service will be addressed.
Family members have noted that Felix Taqqaugaq experienced mental health issues. It remains unclear why anyone would call police upon hearing someone ranting on a radio progam.
Nunavut: People who Died in Police Custody Since 1987:
• Adamie Nuturaluk, 56, d. Dec. 2009
Source: Coalition contre la Répression et les Abus Policiers (la C.R.A.P)