Tag Archives: First Nation

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

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Person Killed by Alberta RCMP Identified as 26-Year-Old Cree Man, Cavin Poucette

Family members have identified 26-year-old Cavin Poucette as the person shot and killed by Alberta RCMP on the morning of October 19, 2017, in the town of Gleichen, victim of Thursday morning’s shooting in the town of Gleichen, east of Red Deer. Poucette has been identified by friends as a “proud Cree” originally from Morley on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

The incident that resulted in the killing started when two RCMP officers conducted a traffic stop near the intersection of Haskayne Avenue and Gleichen Street, for reasons not yet disclosed publicly. It ended when an RCMP officer shot Mr. Poucette, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Relatives later recognized Poucette and his vehicle within the crime scene tape and publicly identified him as the victim.

Family members have some serious questions about the killing. Gildas Storm, Poucette’s uncle, said to CTV Calgary: “They should tell us what’s going on. All they say is they don’t know who that is and they don’t know who… That’s my nephew!” (quoted in White 2017).

He continued in frustration: “Cops stopped us here and they said that ASIRT was going to get ahold of us. They’re driving all over the damn reserve trying to find people. We’re right here. If ASIRT wants to find the family, we’re right here” (quoted in White 2017).

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating.

 

Further Reading

White, Ryan. 2017. “Friends and Family Mourn Man Fatally Shot by RCMP in Gleichen.” CTV News. October 21. http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/friends-and-family-mourn-man-fatally-shot-by-rcmp-in-gleichen-1.3643126

 


Winnipeg Killer Cop Justin Holz Charged in Killing Indigenous Youth Cody Severight

Winnipeg police Constable Justin Holz has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene after striking and killing pedestrian Cody Severight (23) with his vehicle on the evening of Tuesday, October 10, 2017. According to the Independent Investigations Unit, which is examining the killing, the 34-year-old Holz was located more than seven kilometers away fro the crash scene. Holz is an eight-year member of the Winnipeg police and was assigned as a criminal investigator. He has been placed on administrative leave but is still being paid. Winnipeg police traffic collision investigators assisted the IIU with a breathalyzer but it has not been revealed publicly whether Holz had a blood test to determine alcohol levels.

Holz was apparently working the day shift and would have gotten off work around 4:30 PM. He then allegedly went drinking until the crash at around 8:00 PM. Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth tried to suggest it is not unusual for someone to go for drinks after work. The issue here through is that the cop then apparently decide to get in his vehicle and race home.

Witness Donnie Fizell has reported seeing a car speeding down the street before striking Severight. In his words: “He must have flew 15 feet in the air and his head hit the curb. [Constable Holz] must have been doing 80 [km/h] when he hit that poor boy” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).

Cody Severight is from the Waywayseecappo First Nation, about 280 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. He had recently started classes at the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre to obtain his Grade 12. He and his partner were expecting a baby soon (Bernhardt 2017). His grandmother Gloria Lebold describes him: “He was a sweet little guy, always joking around, just being a little fun person” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).

Severight’s aunt, Nancy Gabriel, spoke honestly about the situation and noted the anti-Indigenous racism that has marked Winnipeg policing. In her view, police are supposed to be protecting people, “not killing people” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017). She continued: “As soon as he struck him he should have stopped straight away, not just keep on driving. You know how that looks, that looks like, ‘Oh that’s just another native.’ He was a good guy” (quoted in Bernhardt 2017).

Cody Severight will be buried next to his mother.

This is the third incident of police harm to civilians that the IIU has had to investigate this week alone in Winnipeg.

 

Further Reading

Bernhardt, Darren. 2017. “Winnipeg Police Officer Charged in Fatal Hit and Run Allegedly Impaired.” CBC News. October 11. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/pedestrian-cody-severight-dies-1.4349125


RCMP Kill 26-Year-Old Man at Whitefish Lake First Nation (Sept. 6, 2017)

St. Paul Alberta RCMP  shot and killed a 26-year-old man at Whitefish Lake First Nation on September 6, 2017. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) reports that RCMP claim they responded to a disturbance call on the Whitefish First Nation (180 km northeast of Edmonton) around 6:15 PM. The first officer arrived on scene at about 7:45 PM having traveled from St. Paul,  which is about 60 km southeast of the scene. According to ASIRT the officer saw a man walking on the side of a road and initiated an encounter with him. According to ASIRT this encounter became a “confrontation” which ended when the RCMP officer shot the man resulting in his death.  The man died of his injuries on the way to hospital.

None of the details provided by police have been independently confirmed. It is not known publicly if anyone other than the cop who killed the victim witnessed the killing. It bears noting that the RCMP was founded as and remains a settler colonial military force.


Romeo Wesley Pepper Sprayed, Beaten Stepped On, Handcuffed by Cops: Death Ruled…Accidental

Romeo Wesley (34), of Cat Lake First Nation, died after being pepper sprayed, beaten, handcuffed, and stepped on by two police officers in his community’s nursing station in 2010. On July 20, 2017 the coroner’s inquest into his killing by police was released and concluded incredibly that his death was accidental. Now for most reasonable people if a civilian pepper sprayed, beat, restrained, and stepped on someone and they died it would not be viewed as an accident. Death would be recognized as a probability outcome of those actions being inflicted on someone.

Wesley had gone to the nursing station, in the community 400 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, concerned about shortness of breath and looking for help. A nurse there viewed his behavior as erratic (one would think acting erratically is not atypical for someone in medical distress) and called Nishawbe-Aski police.

The two officers who arrived pepper sprayed Wesley, tackled him onto the floor, beat him with a baton, and handcuffed his hands behind him. With police forcing him face down on the floor and with their boots on his head, neck, and back, Wesley stopped breathing. The inquest determined this to be an accident but we might reasonable ask if he would have died in the absence of this police assault.

None of the medical staff at the nursing station, including the doctor and nurses, did anything to help Wesley, perhaps fearful of police response if they tried. They only checked on him after he stopped breathing.

The coroner’s inquest, in a manner not unique in cases of police killing civilians, decided to blame the victim in their ruling. They found the cause of Wesley’s death to be “struggle and restraint (chest compression, prone positioning, handcuffing) as well as agitation and trauma (pain)….with acute alcohol withdrawal/delirium tremens.” Restraint, agitation, and trauma are all directly attributable to actions taken by the police officers. These were not accidents.

The jury made 53 recommendations. Some of them highlight systemic racism within government services in Indigenous communities (without actually naming racism). They include:

Cultural training courses for nurses before being placed in an Indigenous community.

Hiring medical staff and police officers who speak the language of the communities they serve.

Developing a protocol for police interventions in medical facilities within Indigenous communities.

Designating Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services as a police force under the Police Services Act in Ontario and thus providing for some civilian oversight.

 

By all accounts Romeo Wesley was a beloved member of the community and is missed by many. The community was hoping for much more from this inquiry.


RCMP Kill Ralph Stephens on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation in Alberta (January 7, 2017)

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Canada have their origins as a colonial military force. Their history is one of settlerism and class domination on an ongoing basis. They continue in the present to police and regulate and repress Indigenous communities through targeted violence. This must be remembered in any case of RCMP contact with Indigenous people and communities in Canada.

Alberta RCMP shot and killed Ralph Stephens, 27, on the Stoney Nakoda First Nation near Morley on Saturday, January 7, 2017. Stephens died in hospital about and hour after being shot. Police claim they were on the reserve to execute a warrant for first-degree murder charges related to the death of Lorenzo “Billy” Bearspaw, also 27, whose body was found on the reserve on January 6 after he was reported missing on January 3 by a family member. The other men pursued by RCMP, John Stephens, 29, and Deangelo Powderface, 22, have both been taken into custody by the force. John Stephens was arrested directly prior to the killing of Ralph Stephens. Major Crimes with assistance from the RCMP Emergency Response Team were involved.

No one has said why police opened fire on the victim. Nothing has been reported to suggest he confronted or attacked police. Police have only said that Ralph Stephens “engaged police” but this has not been corroborated by any independent sources or witnesses. Several people were said to be in the residence at which Stephens was killed when the shooting happened.

The dangerous nature of this police action and the prospect it will stoke justified anger toward RCMP are clear. Police seem concerned with dampening any response. Chief Superintendent Tony Hamori, the officer in charge of Southern Alberta made an appeal with no note of accountability or reasons for adherence: “I also urge calm in the community while the investigations take place” (quoted by Anderson 2017).

Community members describe a chaotic scene after police arrived on the scene. According to Gerald Powderface, a relative of Ralph Stephens: “My family told me it happened so quick, even my cousin was asking them ‘Have you shot my boy?’ They didn’t even answer him, they just dragged him out of the house without no shoes and they’re throwing people out of the house left and right. They didn’t even answer his question, ‘Have you shot my boy? What happened, what’s going on here?’” (quoted in Anderson 2017).

The community has come to the family’s care and support. According to Gerald Powderface: We have a community here that support each other on every matter, especially a matter like that. They all come to the house. There was a lot of people there last night when I left” (quoted in Anderson 2017).

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the RCMP actions in killing Ralph Stephens. RCMP continue to maintain an active presence on the reserve since the shooting.

Whatever one might think about this particular case the fact remains that an historic settler colonial force built on dispossession, expropriation, and genocide continues to police Indigenous communities across Canada.

 

Further Reading

Anderson, Drew. 2017. “Man Shot by RCMP on Stoney Nakoda Reserve is Dead.” CBC News. January 8. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/stoney-nakoda-morley-rcmp-shooting-died-1.3926701