Category Archives: Oversight

No Charges Against BC RCMP in Pepper Spray and Choking Death of Jacobus Jonker in 2015

On Thursday, December 14, 2017 the British Columbia Prosecutor’s Service announced that there would be no charges against the killer Smithers RCMP officers involved in the pepper spray and choking death of 53-year-old rugby coach Jacobus Jonker in 2015. Jonker was killed at the police station a week after his Valentine’s Day arrest.

An investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of BC, the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians (but is by no means independent of police), decided there was a lack of evidence of a crime or use of excessive force by police, despite the fact that RCMP pepper sprayed the victim and one officer held him in some form of choke-like hold until he stopped moving. The state protects the state in cases of police violence against civilians.

Jacobus Jonker, had been arrested at his Smithers home following a call to 911 by his daughter around 10:34 PM on February 14, 2015. She had said the father was “horribly drunk” and the family had left the premises to go to a neighbor’s residence. Police arrived around 11:00 PM.

RCMP officers pepper sprayed Jonker and took him to the Smithers RCMP detachment. At the detachment there was allegedly a conflict between Jonker and an officer. As Jonker was moved to a cell, a supervisor claimed he felt threatened and other officers moved to restrain the victim. In the ensuing struggle, an assisting officer held Jonker around the head and neck. According to the report of the Prosecutor’s Service: “After a brief struggle the suspect stopped resisting and went limp. The officers rolled him over and found that he had stopped breathing.”

Jonker never regained consciousness. He was transported to Bulkley Valley General Hospital and then to Victoria General Hospital, where he died on February 21, 2015.

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Investigation into Death of David Tshiteya Kalubi (23) in Custody of Montreal Police (Black Lives Matter)

Quebec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the in custody death of David Tshiteya Kalubi, a 23-year-old Black youth. Kalubi, who was arrested by Montreal police in his own neighborhood of Hochelaga, was declared dead less that 12 hours after his arrest.

Little information has been released publicly. Police say Kalubi was stopped by officers in Hochelaga and arrested on an outstanding warrant after police ran a background check. The BEI has not stated publicly what the outstanding warrant was for, only that it involved a municipal offense.

Community activists in the city, which has seen many cases of lethal police violence against civilians, and disproportionately against Black people, are raising concerns about Kalubi’s death and the actions of police. Racial profiling and so-called carding, where people are stopped by police and subjected to interrogation and/or background checks, have been strongly condemned by community members in cities across Canada. Carding goes hand in hand with profiling as Black people are disproportionately stopped for carding checks in Canadian contexts. Kalubi is of Congolese background.

Montreal police reportedly took Kalubi to the station, where he spent the night before being transferred to the municipal courthouse in Old Montreal to appear before a judge, according to the BEI. The transfer took place at 7:35 AM. Only a little more than an hour later, at 8:55 AM, a guard noticed that Kalubi was on the floor and appeared to be unconscious. He was then taken to the hospital and declared dead at 9:55 AM. Community members are raising concerns that Kalubi was subjected to differential, discriminatory, treatment because of histories of police racism in Montreal. The family, for its part has not raised the issues of racial profiling. According to the family’s lawyer, Virginie Dufresne-Lemire: “For the moment, there’s not enough information to know if it’s a case of racial profiling, but with a young black man arrested it can look like racial profiling” (quoted in MacArthur 2017).

Dan Philip, the executive director of the Black Coalition of Quebec has said publicly that it took police seven hours to notify his mother and family of Kalubi’s death. Even then, police took the opportunity to  first interrogated the family about Kalubi, before telling them he was dead, according to Philip. Said Philip, in an interview with CBC News: “They felt it was a travesty. They felt there was no compassion. They felt that there was no concern about either the death of the young man or the family themselves who have to mourn the situation” (quoted in MacArthur 2017).

Community advocates have little confidence that the BEI will provide satisfactory answers to the family’s many questions. Critics have long pointed out that the BEI includes several former police officers among its active members.  As Philips suggests: “It’s the police investigating the police. They have no interest in finding out why did he died and what negligence caused his death” (quoted in MacArthur 2017). It has also been pointed out repeatedly that the BEI lacks any meaningful diversity. It is expected that their report will not be released for another year yet.

 

Further Reading

MacArthur, Cecilia. 2017. “After a Young Man Dies in Custody, a Family Searches for Answers.” CBC News. November 24 http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/david-tshiteya-kalubi-montreal-police-1.4416153


SIU Investigating Death of 57-Year-Old Man in Toronto Police Custody

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating the death of a 57-year-old man in custody of Toronto police on the evening of Sunday, November 26, 2017. According to the SIU, the man, who has not yet been named publicly, was sitting handcuffed in an apartment building security office when Toronto police officers arrived in response to a disturbance call. The SIU reports that after the officers searched the man he was returned to a sitting position. A short time later, the man fell over and his vital signs were absent. He was pronounced dead in hospital early on the morning of Monday, November 27. No other details have been released publicly, including information regarding why the man was arrested in the first place, or what the so-called disturbance involved.


Additional Charges Against Winnipeg Killer Cop Justin Holz for Killing Cody Severight

Killer Winnipeg cop Justin Holz is facing three additional charges of dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving, and driving with a blood-alcohol level over .08 per cent causing death for the hit and run killing of 23-year-old Cody Severight, an Indigenous man from the Waywayseecappo First Nation, about 280 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. Holz was initially charged with impaired driving causing death and failing to remain at the scene of an accident. The new charges were announced on November 28, 2017. Holz is on administrative leave with pay.

Holz (34) had been drinking after his shift before getting in his vehicle and striking Severight while the young man crossed Main Street near Sutherland Avenue around 8 PM on October 10, 2017. The killer cop then left the scene of the killing.

The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), which examines cases of police harm to civilians in Manitoba has continued its investigation since the killing. At the time of the initial charges results of a breathalyzer test had not been returned. Two other police officers who had been assigned to investigate the hit and run have also been placed on paid administrative leave and could face charges for their actions. The maximum sentence for a conviction for dangerous driving causing death is presently 14 years, but legislation proposed earlier this year would increase that to life.

Cody Severight’s grandmother, Gloria Lebold, said that she is glad that the killer cop is facing more charges. In her words: “I’m glad he’s got all of these charges. I’m glad he’s going to have to deal with them” (quoted in CBC News 2017). And this is indeed a rare event. Probably one that would not have occurred had Holz been on duty at the time since cops who kill while o duty are almost never charged, even under obviously dubious circumstances like this. Continued Lebold: “I think he should go to jail. He did a terrible thing. He took an innocent life, only 23 years old. We loved our little grandson” (quoted in CBC News 2017). The family has called for an apology from the cop who killed their loved one.

Denise Elias, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Winnipeg chapter president, expressed disappointment with officer Holz. In her words: “The first feeling that I had was sadness. It is very disappointing, very hurtful”,  adding her disappointment was greater considering Holz was someone who has sworn “to uphold the law, to abide by the law” (quoted in CBC News 2017).

Killer cop Justin Holz had his first court appearance scheduled for Wednesday, November 22, but a representative from his lawyer’s firm appeared on his behalf. Holz is currently out on bail.

Severight had just moved to a new apartment and was planning on going back to school when Holz cut his dreams short. Said Gloria Lebold: “We loved our Cody. This little guy was just starting his life” (quoted in CBC News 2017).

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “Dangerous Driving Causing Death Charge Added for Winnipeg Police Officer in Fatal Hit and Run.” CBC News. November 28. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/justin-holz-more-charges-1.4423544

 


Public Inquest Called Into Vancouver Police Killing of Tony Du in 2014

It has been announced that the BC Coroners Service will hold a public inquest into the fatal shooting of 51-year-old Phuong Na (Tony) Du by Vancouver police in 2014. Du was killed by Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers in public while in some psychological distress on Knight Street near 41st Avenue in Vancouver.

Two officers responded to calls about DU with one firing a been bag gun at him  and the other shooting him with a firearm. Du was taken to hospital where he died from the injuries inflicted by police. Du experienced mental illness.

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia investigated the killing but charges were not recommended by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) for the two officers responsible. The CJB claimed the use of a firearm by one of the officers was justifiable on the basis of his belief that his partner’s life was in danger, despite the fact that the other officer was armed.

In February 2017, Tony Du’s family launched a civil suit against the City of Vancouver and the police officer who fired the fatal shot in the killing. Lawyers representing the victim’s family note that Tony Du was killed between only 18 and 25 seconds after police arrived on the scene. This time was no where near long enough for police to begin a conversation with Du let alone establish his mental condition.

The public inquest into the police killing of Tony Du will commence on February 5, 2018, at the Burnaby Coroners Court. As per usual, the coroner’s jury will be able to make recommendations that might prevent deaths under similar circumstances but which police are under no obligation at all to follow. The jury cannot make any finding of legal responsibility or blame and can not recommend charges against any killer cop.


Halifax Regional Police Constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner Charged in Custody Death of Corey Rogers

Halifax Regional Police Special Constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner have been charged with criminal negligence causing death after 41-year-old Corey Rogers was found dead in a police station cell in the early morning hours of June 16, 2016. Despite paramedics being called, Rogers could not be revived. Constables Fraser and Gardner were working as booking officers on the night of Rogers’s arrest and detention.

Corey Rogers death came only hours after the birth of his daughter. He had been arrested for public intoxication the previous evening outside of the IWK Health Centre.

The case was initially given to Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), which investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province. SIRT referred the case to prosecutors in Manitoba because the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service apparently wished to avoid an appearance of conflict.

Rogers’s death has also been the subject of a Police Act investigation. That investigation is now on hold pending the outcome of the criminal charges.


Winnipeg Cops Delay Breathalyzer for Colleague Justin Holz in DUI Hit-and-Run Killing of Cody Severight

Questions are being raised publicly about egregious delay in police officers administering a breathalyzer test to their colleague who was involved in a fatal hit-and-run in Winnipeg. Constable Justin Holz (34) was arrested away from the scene a short tome after striking 23-year-old Indigenous man Cody Severight of Waywayseecappo First Nation on October 10, 2017.

Len Eastoe, a former cop who now runs Traffic Ticket Experts to help people fight fines, cannot understand why it took three to four hours to administer the test to Constable Holz. Said Eastoe: “It is a rather strange period of time” (quoted in CBC 2017). Eastoe notes that there can be a passage of time in administering the breath test, in this case the gap between when the crash happened and when Holz was tested is much too wide. He suggests that the test is usually done within two hours. In his view: “There has to be some sort of a reason for that, and then you’ve really got questions as to whether that test is going to be admissible or not” (quoted in CBC 2017).

Of course, some would offer the rather obvious answer that they are doing what cops routinely do in protecting their colleagues who kill. And in this case, as Eastoe suggests, it could rule the test inadmissible in any court proceedings against the officer, thus shielding him from conviction.

Even more, two police officers who had been assigned to investigate Holz have been placed on paid administrative leave and could face charges, for as yet unspecified activities. Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth has only said that the officers did not administer the breathalyzer test and were not at the scene of the collision.

The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), Manitoba’s police oversight body, said on Friday, October 20, that it had been notified of “irregular and improper conduct of two officers” and is assessing whether charges should be laid. It ahs been reported that one of the officers in question was at The Pint, the bar at which officer Holz was drinking before getting in his car and killing Cody Severight. Did they watch as their colleague got into his car to drive off after an evening of drinking?

Constable Holz has been charged with impaired driving causing death and fleeing the scene of an accident.

 

Further Reading

CBC. 2017. “Breathalyzer Delay for Officer Charged in Fatal Hit-and-Run Raises Questions, Former Cop Says.” CBC News. October 25. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/breathalyzer-test-length-of-time-justin-holz-1.4370540