Tag Archives: First Nation

Death of Dale Culver, of Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations: Formal Complaint Raises Questions About Racism, Intimidation of Witnesses in RCMP Arrest

The British Columbia C Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has raised questions of “racial bias” and excessive force by RCMP officers in the arrest of Dale Culver (35) of the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan First Nations who died in custody following the arrest in July 2017. In an official complaint filed January 16, 2018, to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, the BCCLA also claims that the RCMP in Prince George, BC, told witnesses to delete video footage of the Culver arrest. According to police reports, Culver complained of shortness of breath after arrest and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Culver’s cousin, Debbie Pierre, said she was not informed of his death until 24 hours later. She then found video footage of the arrest posted on social media. In her words: “It was horrific” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). The family had questions about Culver’s death and contacted the BCCLA to get some answers.

Police reports suggest the RCMP responded to a call about a man allegedly “casing vehicles.” This claim has not been independently confirmed nor has it been explained what that assumption was based on by caller or police. Police struggled with Culver physically.

It is reported that pepper spray used in Culver’s arrest. When he was put in the back of a police vehicle he appeared to have difficulty breathing. An ambulance was called and Culver collapsed when taken out of the police car. He was pronounced dead in hospital a bit after midnight on July 19, 2017.

According to executive director Josh Paterson, BCCLA has spoken with “a number of people, including eyewitnesses” who allege RCMP instructed people to delete video footage of the arrest (Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). The association questions whether “explicit or  implicit racial  bias” played a role in the encounter and arrest. BCCLA says it has been told there were “several hours” between the initial call to police and the arrival of RCMP on the scene (Kurjata and McKinnon 2018). This raises obvious questions about Culver was approached and, specifically, whether it was because he was Indigenous.

In the words of the BCCLA complaint:

“We question on what information or basis the member or members of the RCMP began their interaction or questioning of Mr. Culver, and/or a request to identify himself, in the first place.” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018)

Debbie Pierre is left with the same question. In her words: “Was Dale targeted because of Dale or was he targeted because of his being Indigenous” (quoted in Kurjata and McKinnon 2018).

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) is also investigating, as it does in cases of police harm to civilians in the province. IIO chief civilian director Ron MacDonald says the IIO was independently aware of allegations of witnesses being told to delete video footage. He also said the IIO was aware of questions regardding police use of force and the timing of Culver’s arrest.

Culver had three children, the eldest of whom is now 14.

 

Further Reading

Kurjata, Andrew and Audrey McKinnon. 2018. “BC Civil Liberties Association Files Complaint Alleging RCMP Told Witnesses to Delete Video of Arrest” CBC News January 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/civil-liberties-iio-pg-rcmp-1.4489925

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No Charges Against Two Winnipeg Cops Investigating Killer Cop Justin Holz, Despite “Improper Conduct”: When Cops Investigate Cops

On December 20, 2017, it was announced that no charges will be brought against two Winnipeg police officers assigned to help investigate the hit-and-run killing of Cody Severight (23) by Winnipeg officer Justin Holz (34) on October 10, 2017. Severight, of the Waywayseecappo First Nation, about 280 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg, was struck by the vehicle driven by Holz while crossing Main Street near Sutherland Avenue around 8 PM. Officer Holz had been out drinking before getting into his vehicle. He has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

Two other Winnipeg officers involved in the investigation into Holz’s killing of Severight were placed on administrative leave ten days after the killing.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province, reported that it had been notified of “irregular and improper conduct of two officers.” The IIU has now concluded that no charges should be laid and reported this in an uninformative media release. IIU director Zane Tessler said in that release: “It’s kind of difficult to discuss the specifics of [my decision] given that everything is intertwined in pending matters that are still before the court.“ Indeed developing excuses for letting cops off the hook can take time and is no doubt “difficult to discuss” in a way that they public would accept.

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) may continue its “investigation” into the two officers. Both officers have returned to duty and the WPS says it will not be commenting further. By now we have come to know what to expect when police investigate police.


Inquest Set for In-Custody Death of Ina Matawapit of North Caribou Lake First Nation after Lengthy Delay

After five years, a date has finally been set for the inquest into the death in police custody of 37-year-old Ina Matawapit, at the Weagamow Lake Nursing Station in North Caribou Lake First Nation, in northern Ontario. Matawapit died on June 7, 2012 after a transfer from a police vehicle while in custody. Matawapit’s case was one of several that have been egregiously delayed due to widespread problems with Indigenous representation on jury rolls. This ongoing, entrenched problem has characterized criminal justice systems and inquests in the Canadian state context. At least 20 cases in Ontario have been delayed by province’s jury roll problems.

The inquest into Matawapit’s death is mandatory under the Coroners Act because she was in custody at the time. The inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding her death by hearing from about 10 witnesses over the scheduled six days of proceedings. Dr. Michael Wilson will be presiding coroner during the inquest which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM on February 12, 2018 at the Days Inn in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.


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

 


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


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