Category Archives: Oversight

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

 

Advertisements

IIO Investigates In-Custody Death in Quesnel, BC (Oct. 2, 2017)

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia, announced on October 2, 2017, that it is investigating an in-custody death in Quesnel, BC. The victim, identified as a woman, reportedly died only hours after being arrested by RCMP.

According to the IIO, RCMP officers claim they were called on reports of an assault early Sunday morning. Upon arrival they found a female victim who they decided to arrest for allegedly breaching a court-imposed condition. The victim was arrested and taken to the local RCMP detachment where police claim she was examined by paramedics before being taken to hospital. The woman died in custody Monday morning.

Police accounts have not been independently verified. No further details have been publicly released. Neither has it been explained why the victim of an assault was not treated as such and taken directly to hospital rather than arrested for an administrative offense and taken to the detachment. People detained over so-called administrative offenses make up a relatively large proportion of people incarcerated in British Columbia.


SIU Investigating Death of 26-Year-Old Woman Arrested by Windsor Police

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines case of police harm to civilians in Ontario, has assigned two investigators to look into the circumstances surrounding the death of a woman arrested by Windsor police on September 4, 2017. The woman was taken to the police station before being transported to hospital. She was released the following day but readmitted on September 10.  She ended up on life support under circumstances that have not been explained publicly and was pronounced dead on September 18 after being taken off life support. No further details have been released publicly.


Regina Police To Investigate RCMP In Custody Death of 46-Year-Old Woman

The Regina Police Service will conduct an investigation into the death of a 46-year-old woman at the RCMP Indian Head detachment on Saturday, September 2, 2017. The woman was in the cell area and paramedics took her to Indian Head Hospital where she was declared dead. Police are using one of the dubious designations they favor, sudden death, to describe the case. No further details have been provided publicly. There is no independent oversight body to examine cases of police harm to civilians in Saskatchewan. Police are allowed to investigate police.


SIU Investigates Police Involved Death in Sudbury (September 4, 2017)

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating the police involved death of a 48-year-old man in Sudbury in the early morning of Monday, September 4, 2017. According to the SIU, Sudbury police responded to a call shortly after midnight and set up a perimeter around a residence. Police officers and paramedics entered the home around two and a half hours later and a 48-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. No other details have been provided publicly, including the reason for the initial call, nor information about  what transpired after police entered the house. The SIU has assigned three SIU investigators and two forensic investigators to examine this case. The victim’s name has not been released.


Coroner’s Inquest but Police Investigate Police in RCMP Custody Death Beverly Elanik in Inuvik

The Office of the Chief Coroner in Northwest Territories (NWT) has called an inquest into the death of Beverly Elanik, a 51-year-old mother of five children who died in RCMP custody in Inuvik in January 2016. RCMP assumed that Elanik was intoxicated when they arrested here. While being processed to leave the following day, police claim she went into what they are calling “medical distress.” She was taken by police to the Inuvik hospital, where died. Eileen Edwards, Elanik’s mother, has stated publicly that police from Medicine Hat, Alberta, told her that her daughter had suffered a seizure. The inquest into Elanik’s death is scheduled to start on September 26 at the Mackenzie Hotel in Inuvik.

RCMP in NWT have said that the Medicine Hat Police Service will be conducting an external review of the incident. There is no process for independent review in place in the territory.


ASIRT Uses Bogus “Excited Delirium” Again To Excuse Edmonton Police Taser Killing

Excited delirium is one of the favored excuses used by police and their statist supporters when officers kill civilians. It is an explanation considered dubious based on medical evidence and research and has been largely promoted by the makers of tasers as a means of justifying deaths that result after taser deployment. The condition excited delirium is not found in DSM-5 or the ICD-10 (the current versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases, respectively). Excited delirium has not been recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association. Police psychologist Mike Webster called it a dubious diagnosis during the inquiry into the RCMP killing of Robert Dziekanski by taser at Vancouver International airport.

Yet coroners and supposed police oversight bodies in Canada continue to use the notion of excited delirium to excuse or legitimize police killings of civilians. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) seems particularly fond of using these excuses to justify killings of civilians by police. On August 28, 2017, ASIRT again trotted out the excited delirium excuse to justify the police killing of a 49-year-old man, Marcel Henry Moisan, in the late evening/early morning of December 7-8, 2015, involving multiple taser deployments and physical restraint.

In a media release ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson claimed the victim died as a result of excited delirium syndrome brought on by drugs in his bloodstream (not the use of tasers and/or restraints). Incredibly Hughson congratulated the Edmonton police for their use of “less-than-lethal force.” In her words: “Indeed, the resort to less-than-lethal force should be commended.” But they killed the man. Their use of force was exactly, precisely, lethal. It was not less than lethal.

ASIRT noted that Moisan (not named in the report) was experiencing some mental distress, and police had a record of a Mental Health Act encounter with the man in October of the same year. Yet no mental health care givers were dispatched to the scene. According to Hughson the man was clearly exhibiting distress to officers present and appeared to be rehearsing self harm actions. In her words: “He brought the knife to his throat. He appeared agitated, distraught, and confused.” He made “overt suicidal motions” appearing to slash at his neck with a knife.

In response police tased him again and placed him in leg restraints. Notes Hughson, in her release: “Within approximately two minutes and 55 seconds, the man went into medical distress. The restraints were immediately removed and CPR was commenced.” The man was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The coroner who repeated the bogus excited delirium excuse said: “It is the opinion of the [medical examiner] that the man died as a result of excited delirium syndrome that was due to methamphetamine toxicity; struggle during police restraint was considered a significant contributory condition.” Yet the police were exonerated despite acknowledgement of the use and role of restraints (the excusing of taser use is right out of the company playbook).