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.

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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

 


No Explanation Why Charges Against OPP Constable Mark McKillop Dropped in Killing of Debra Chrisjohn of Oneida Nation

No explanation has been given for why charges of criminal negligence causing death have been dropped against Constable Mark McKillop of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in the death of Debra Chrisjohn (39) of Oneida Nation of the Thames.

In a public statement Chrisjohn’s family said this about the dropping of charges: “The decision by the Crown… is hard for the family to understand. We hope that everyone who played a role will be held accountable.”

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province,  had charged two police officers with the death of Chrisjohn—Constable Nicholas Doering of the London Police Service (LPS) and OPP Constable McKillop. McKillop and Doering faced one charge each of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life. Doering will still face those charges.

London Police Service officers responded to calls made to 911 during the late afternoon of September 7, 2016. Chrisjohn was arrested by LPS and transferred into the custody of Ontario Provincial Police with the Elgin County detachment.  At around 7:52 PM, Emergency Medical Services transported Chrisjohn to St. Thomas Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 8:43 PM.

Caitlyn Kasper, a lawyer at Aboriginal Legal Services and counsel for the family, noted that the family has still not been provided with basic details of the death of their loved one. Kasper explained in the public statement:

“Without knowing the specific details surrounding the death of Debra, it is difficult for the family to assess the decision by the office of the Crown attorney. However, we know that as this active prosecution moves towards preliminary inquiry or trial, more details will emerge. In the meantime, I certainly expect that the Ontario Provincial Police will be thoroughly reviewing the actions of Const. McKillop to determine if there were breaches of the Police Services Act.”


Killer SQ Cop Patrick Ouellet’s Charge For Killing 5-Year-Old Nicholas Thorne-Belance Will Not Be Dropped

Killer Quebec cop Patrick Ouellet, a member of the provincial force the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), will not have the charge dropped for killing  five-year-old Nicholas Thorne-Belance in 2014, a Quebec judge has decided. Ouellet had filed a motion seeking to have the charge of dangerous driving causing death dropped and has alleged interference in the case by Quebec Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée.

Ouellet was involved in a police surveillance operation in which he was tailing the director of the Quebec Liberal Party in an unmarked car on February 13, 2014. During this operation officer Ouellet crashed into a car in which Thorne-Belance was a passenger in Longueuil, south of Montreal. Oullet’s care was traveling at a speed in excess of 120 kilometers per hour in a 50 km/hr zone. The young Thorne-Belance died in a hospital a few days after the crash.

The Crown prosecutor had initially decided not to lay charges, the usual result in cases of police killing civilians, even children, in Canada. A single charge was filed against Ouellet in 2015 after Vallée ordered an independent review of the case amid strong public pressure. Quebec Court Judge Denys Noel ruled on November 21, 2017, that there was no interference on Vallée’s part. Concluded Judge Noel: “One cannot infer from the evidence that the minister ordered the director (to file the charge). There is no evidence of abuse of procedure that would allow for the proceedings to be dropped.” Killer cop  Patrick Ouellet’s trial is scheduled to begin in June, 2018.


Inquest Ordered into Killing of Michel Vienneau by Killer Bathurst Cops Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau

On Friday, November 24, 2017, the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice and Public Safety in New Brunswick announced a coroner’s inquest into the 2015 shooting of Michel Vienneau by Bathurst Police Force constables Patrick Bulger (38) and Mathieu Boudreau (28).

Michel Vienneau, a 51-year-old Tracadie resident, was shot and killed in a Bathurst Via Rail parking lot on January 12, 2015 after the two officers, who may not have been clearly identified, attempted to detain him. The police were acting on an anonymous tip that Vienneau was carrying “a load of drugs” with him as he returned from Montreal with his partner Annick Basque. The tip proved to be completely false and Vienneau had no criminal record. Constables Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau were charged with manslaughter by means of an unlawful act, assault with a weapon, and unlawfully pointing a firearm but were let off by provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman.

Upon hearing of the inquest announcement that he had requested, Nicolas Vienneau, the victim’s brother stated: “We have been living three years of hell” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). Reflecting on the pain his mother (85) and father (88) have been through, he suggested that they are still “terrorized”: “It’s terrible to live like this” (quoted in 2017). In his view: “If we can find some justice, it will not [help my little brother], but maybe it will give us a little bit of peace” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017).

Only days before the inquest was announced, Crown prosecutors gave notice that they would not be appealing the court decision of February 24 , 2017, in which provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman decided to drop charges against the two killer cops. The announcement by prosecutors resulted in a lifting of the publication ban on the trial and raised serious questions about the court’s actions, as we reported at the time. The Crown had sought a judicial review of Judge Dugas-Horsman’s decision, seeking to have it overruled, but Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Tracey DeWare dismissed that application in October.

Nicolas Vienneau reports that the family is “still in shock” over the decision not to appeal (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). He is left to ask: “How can justice allow a person to be shot dead…sitting in his car in motion, by two policemen in civilian clothes…with [an] unmarked car?” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). The short answer is that the killers were cops and in the Canadian context they are allowed to kill with impunity. But more detailed answers are needed. The family remains perplexed that civilian witnesses were not questioned during preliminary inquiry, which they view as inadequate.

Nicolas Vienneau plans to bring a petition to the House of Commons to have the identity of the Crime Stoppers tipster revealed. In his words: “My family still believes that the tipster of this false information…is the key to the puzzle” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017)

Bulger and Boudreau are still working as officers but face a professional conduct investigation by the New Brunswick Police Commission. That investigation had been suspended while criminal charges were still in effect. With the conclusion of criminal proceedings that investigation will resume.

Annick Basque is suing killer cops Bulger and Boudreau as well as the City of Bathurst.

 

Further Reading

MacKinnon, Bobbi-Jean. 2017. “Michel Vienneau’s Family Hopes Inquest into 2015 Shooting Death Will Provide Answers.” CBC News. November 24. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/michel-vienneau-coroner-inquest-bathurst-police-shooting-1.4417683


Inquest Set into Burnaby RCMP Killing of Travis Rood

A public inquest has been set to examine the killing of Travis Rood, a 35-year-old Burnaby man, by Burnaby RCMP on March 29, 2015. The BC Coroners Service has claimed that Rood suffered injuries “following an encounter with the attending officer” and has set the inquest for January 8, 2018 in Burnaby. Rood was shot by RCMP and died at Royal Columbian Hospital. The inquest cannot assign criminal responsibility and can only make recommendations that police are in no way obligated to adopt.


Court Actions Questioned in Killing of Michel Vienneau by Constables Mathieu Boudreau and Patrick Bulger

Michel Vienneau, a 51-year-old man from Tracadie, New Brunswick, was shot and killed by Bathurst police officers Mathieu Boudreau (now 28) and Patrick Bulger (now 38) outside the Bathurst VIA Rail station on the morning of January 12, 2015. Despite serious questions about police killing of an innocent man under questionable circumstances, in which police had no “reasonable and probable” grounds to arrest, charges against the officers were dropped by provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman. Now that the Crown prosecutor has chosen not to appeal, the publication ban on evidence presented during the officers’ preliminary inquiry has been lifted. Emerging details raise further questions about the killer cops’ actions and the judge’s decision not to try their cases.

Police intercepted Vienneau as he arrived by train from a Montreal vacation with his common-law partner, Annick Basque. Police were acting on an unconfirmed and unverified anonymous tip that Vienneau was carrying an unspecified “load of drugs” back from Montreal with him. An RCMP investigation following Vienneau’s killing found that the tip was completely false. Vienneau not carrying any drugs, and he had no previous record with police. He was completely innocent of the claims made anonymously against him, yet police killed him shortly after encountering him. Constable Boudreau fired four shots at the victim who was inside his car at the time.

It seems that there was some pressure on Constable Bulger to make a big bust, and a concern that he might have missed it. When the tip came in just before 10 AM that morning, a supervisor is reported as saying to Bulger, “you missed a load this morning.”

Six police officers attended the Via Rail train station in Bathurst in three unmarked cars to intercept Vienneau. Curiously, they did not take the opportunity to arrest Vienneau immediately but instead waited until he and Basque disembarked the train, picked up their luggage and entered their vehicle.

Basque’s account of the police attempt to arrest Vienneau differs greatly from the one provided by the officers. She says that she did not even know that the men accosting them were police officers. When Bulger exited his car with a gun in his hands, she reports that Vienneau tried to drive by him, moving slowly. Basque suggests that when she heard gunshots her first thought was that the men were “going to kill everyone.”  Not realizing that they were police officers, she fought against her arrest until she recognized some uniformed officers.

The Crown’s case raised the fact that the police had no “reasonable and probable” grounds to arrest Vienneau in the first place because the tip police were acting on was unreliable and unverified. Details released reveal that the preliminary inquiry heard that less than an hour elapsed between the time police received the tip was and the time that they arrived at the train station. In fact, the tip was not investigated by police and, incredibly, several officers had not even read it fully.

In the decision of February 24 , 2017, provincial court Judge Dugas-Horsman stated that she simply did not feel Boudreau and Bulger had acted illegally. It seems that Judge Dugas-Horsman made several contortions of logic to let the police off. First, the judge found that ‘”not having reasonable and probable grounds’” for an arrest did not make for an unlawful arrest. She then said that technically an arrest never happened because, well the police killed Vienneau before he was fully under arrest (even though he was “technically” detained in his vehicle). The judge then gave officers another excuse, suggesting that officers have the right to stop vehicles under the Motor Vehicle Act. Judge Dugas-Horsman then went further offering the copaganda excuse that anyone disobeying a police order to stop (as Bulger says he did without independent confirmation of the order or whether Vienneau ever heard it if it were given). According to Dugas-Horsman (in full cop defense mode): “This failure to stop heightens the suspicion of a police officer, who is then entitled to wonder why the person is not stopping,.” The state protects the state and goes out of its way to do so in protecting killer cops.

The only testimony presented at the preliminary hearing, apart from that provided by Annick Basque, was provided by several police officers. The Vienneau family has raised questions about this. They ask why none of the civilians who were present at the train station were asked to provide their versions of what they witnessed that day. The family has also asked why no one has bothered to investigate where the anonymous, and false,  tip came from in the first place.