Category Archives: Winnipeg

Killer Cop Justin Holz Gets 30 Months for Killing Cody Severight in 2017

Killer Winnipeg cop Justin Holz, 36, pleaded guilty on October 30, 2019, to dangerous driving causing death for the collision that killed 23-year-old Cody Severight in 2017. Holz hit Severight and left the young Indigenous man to die in the road. A Manitoba provincial court judge agreed to a joint recommendation by lawyers and sentenced Holz to 30 months in prison. A rare case of a killer cop being charged, and an even more rare outcome that would see a killer cop do time in prison.

The court heard that Holz met other police officers for drinks at a bar starting before 5 PM on the evening of October 10, 2017. He drove off from a nearby car park around three hours later. Investigators calculated Holz was driving at up to 92 km/h in a 50 km/h zone. He hit Severight, who was crossing the street with another person, while going at least 76 km/h. According to the Court, Severight was launched across the road, his skull fractured and his neck broken in the collision.

Despite clearly striking someone, Holz did not stop or attempt to help the victim. Instead he continued to drive on, even increasing his speed up to 129 km/h. Almost 12 minutes after striking Severight, Holz parked and called police, saying he had hit someone. A breathalyzer test was done on Holz more than an hour after he struck Severight. The conduct of two other officers in delaying the breathalyzer was questioned but no disciplinary actions taken against them.

Severight was later taken to hospital but died of his injuries.

Holz had originally faced other offences, including impaired driving. Those charges were following the guilty plea.


27-Year-Old Man Dies Following Forceful Arrest by Winnipeg Police (Sept. 30, 2019)

A 27-year-old man has died after being arrested by Winnipeg police. The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harms to civilians in Manitoba, reports that on September 23 police officers responded to a call about a man in some distress who is said to have appeared confused and was yelling in an area near Assiniboine Avenue and Kennedy Street at around 12:42 AM. The IIU reports that police used force to arrest him. During the arrest the man became unresponsive and was taken to hospital in critical condition. The victim died in hospital on September 30.

This death again raises the question of why police, who respond, and quickly, with force are being sent to deal with health care crises. Police are not, and should not be, health care workers. This is at least the seventh through police action in Winnipeg in 2019.


Victim of Winnipeg Police Identified as Randy Cochrane of Fisher River Cree Nation (July 14, 2019)

The family of a man who died during an arrest by Winnipeg police has identified him as Randy Cochrane, a 30-year-old father of three. Family members are calling for answers into what happened during the arrest and why there appear to be discrepancies in what police reported and what doctors in the hospital emergency have said.

Randy Cochrane’s cousin Monica Murdock asks pointedly:

“My family’s devastated. We want to know what happened to him. Why did he die in cuffs? Why were they chasing him? Why are they saying he was bloody but the doctors we went and saw at the emergency room last night said that he had no injuries? (quoted in Grabish 2019)

Murdock reports that doctors at the Health Sciences Centre told her family on Sunday, after Cochrane died, that the young man had suffered a heart attack and had a high fever. She also reports that they told her there were no other injuries on his body. She says that doctors informed her that it was too late by the time Cochrane arrived at the hospital at 4:30 PM because he had been without a pulse for some time (Grabish 2019).

Murdock describes her cousin as “a fierce protector of his family” and she says “he was more like a brother to her” (2019). She relates fondly: “He always made sure we were protected. We were safe. The last time I saw him he came to my house and he gave me some money for my baby ‘cause my daughter’s in the hospital” (quoted in Grabish 2019).

Marjorie Cochrane raised Randy after adopting him. She remembers:

“He was really always close to his daughters. It’s hard. Taking it hard” (quoted in Grabish 2019).

She too has important questions for police: “What happened when they handcuffed him?” (quoted in Grabish 2019).

A witness, Will Couture, says Cochrane, rather than being a threat, appeared to be shouting for help while running from something or someone (2019). Couture reports that the man, kept repeating “help me, help me” (Grabish 2019). He then saw police chase Cochrane across the street.

Couture claims that the man looked “freaked out.” In his words: “Just scared. Just like terrified of something you know what I mean? It was like the devil was chasing him” (quoted in Grabish 2019).

If it was the police, he may be completely right in that.

 

Further Reading

Grabish, Austin. 2019. “Family Demands Answers after Father of 3 Dies in Police Custody.” CBC News July 15. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/police-custody-death-north-end-winnipeg-1.5212209


Thirty-Year-Old Man Dies During Arrest by Winnipeg Police (July 14, 2019)

According to the Independent Investigations Unit of Manitoba, the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, the arrest occurred in the city’s North End, around Flora Avenue and Parr Street. Police allegedly saw a man they believed to be bleeding and armed with a weapon and chased him on foot, catching him not far away. During the arrest the man became unresponsive. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. It has not been conformed publicly that the man was bleeding prior to the arrest.


Man Dies after Arrest by Winnipeg Police (June 26, 2019)

The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the group that examines cases of police harming civilians in Manitoba, is investigating the death of a man following his arrest by Winnipeg police on June 26, 2019.

It has been reported that Winnipeg police responded to a call about a break-in on Alfred Avenue at about 2:30 AM. The man allegedly fled the residence before supposedly being found in some medical distress on Burrows Avenue. The man was taken to St. Boniface Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.


Man Dies in Winnipeg Police Custody (April 16, 2019)

The Independent Investigative Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Manitoba, is investigating the death of a 56-year-old man in custody of Winnipeg police on April 16, 2019. Initial reports suggest that Winnipeg police officers arrested the man a little after 5 PM after responding to a call regarding an assault and disturbance at a home in North Point Douglas.

At the home, police allegedly found an injured man in his 50s and the man was taken to hospital, supposedly in stable condition. Officers also allegedly arrested someone they claim was a suspect near Main Street and Sutherland Avenue. He was taken to the North District station for processing. The arrested man was later found unresponsive in a holding cell and was taken to hospital in critical condition. Police report that he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

No other details have been released publicly, including how or why the man became “unresponsive” or when that was first noticed. None of the information reported by police has been independently confirmed publicly.


Winnipeg Police Shoot and Kill Machuar Mawien Madut: South Sudanese Migrant in Mental Health Crisis (Feb. 23, 2019)

Winnipeg police shot and killed Machuar Mawien Madut, a 43-year-old South Sudanese migrant whom community members have said was struggling with mental health issues due to separation from his family. The Council of South Sudanese Community of Manitoba identified Madut as the victim shot by police on Saturday, February 23, 2019.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, reports that police were called to 82 Colony Street at 9:43 AM regarding a man armed with a hammer potentially breaking into a suite. Madut was shot by police and taken to Health Sciences Centre where he later died.

Sandy Deng, a member of the community, rejects the police explanation of the killing. In her words:

“It breaks my heart. This is a typical stereotype for a lot of people who come from marginalized communities, because there’s always a justification for a shooting. He was a human being. He was supposed to be supported. He was one day away from seeing his mental health specialist, and instead of mobile crisis being called, the police were called.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

Madut and his family fled war in Sudan, coming to Canada in 2003. He had four children who moved to British Columbia with his wife after the couple separated a couple of years ago and Madut had struggled with mental health since then.

Deng described him as a very kind man:

“He came to the community here all the time to hang out, he never really bothered anybody. Apart from that, he had been living with a lot of challenges, including mental health, language barriers, adjustment to this new community.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

The Council of South Sudanese Community of Manitoba had been working with health services, including the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Manitoba’s Employment and Income Assistance Program, to help Madut with his mental health issues.

On Saturday, before he was shot by police, Madut had been moving furniture out of his apartment for as yet unknown reasons. A cousin, Ayei Madut, said the man had been dealing with a broken door in his apartment.

Ayei Madut also questions why police responded , and so immediately, with lethal force. In his words:

“I’m really not trusting the police, because we assume they have all the resource how to deal with people with mental issues, with different background. For me I can’t even trust them because this situation, I could do it better than whatever they did.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

Alexa Potashnik, president of Black Space Winnipeg, also directed skepticism toward Winnipeg police. As she notes: “This just unfortunately is a reminder that police brutality and violence happens in all areas across our country and we need answers” (quoted in CBC News 2019).

She adds that violence against Black people by police must be addressed in Winnipeg. In her view:

“There’s no justice or accountability from the Winnipeg police department and this is unacceptable and it’s an inexcusable act of violence toward the South Sudanese community, toward the black community. We’re not going to take this lying down and we’re going to show up and demand justice for our community.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

The killing by police of a Black man and man experiencing mental health distress highlights ongoing issues of police violence and use of lethal force in Canada.

The Council of South Sudanese Community of Manitoba will hold a rally outside police headquarters on March 1 to demand answers “and shed light into the gaps that we have in mental health services and how police officers might not be well-equipped to deal with people with mental health issues and language barriers” (quoted in CBC News 2019).

Machuar Mawien Madut is the third person shot by Winnipeg police already in 2019.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2019. “’It’s Devastating’: South Sudanese Condemn Fatal Police Shooting of Man with Mental Health Issues.” CBC News. February 25. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/man-shot-police-south-sudanese-community-1.5032314