Tag Archives: Indigenous

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

 


Saskatchewan RCMP Shoot and Kill 22-Year-Old Indigenous Man, Brydon Bryce Whitstone (Oct. 21, 2017)

Saskatchewan RCMP shot and killed 22-year-old Brydon Bryce Whitstone of Onion Lake Cree Nation around 9 PM on the evening of Saturday, October 21, 2017, in North Battleford.

RCMP have reported that they received a call from a man, saying he had been chased and shot at from a vehicle.  Police located the suspected vehicle and gave pursuit until they immobilized the vehicle. During their interaction with the driver shots were fired injuring a man inside the vehicle.  The victim, now identified as Brydon Bryce Whitstone, was pronounced dead at around 9:40 PM, while en route to hospital.

RCMP also report that a woman inside the vehicle suffered minor injuries. She was taken to hospital, but then released into police custody. Neither her condition nor the specific reason she was taken into custody have been reported publicly at this time. Neither has it been reported publicly how many shots were fired by RCMP officers. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed.

There is no independent investigative unit In Saskatchewan to examine cases of police harm to civilians in the province. RCMP Chief Superintendent Maureen Levy has reported that the Regina Police Service is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the killing of Whitstone by RCMP officers.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice will also appoint what it calls an independent observer to oversee the investigation, but such observers are almost always former police officers, so in no way independent. Justice Ministry spokesman Drew Wilby explained at a news conference that in cases were an independent observer is requested, the ministry appoints someone such as a former police officer. Yet, Wilby suggested, incredulously, that, “This individual will not be connected to the RCMP.” But it could well be a fellow officer so no claims of independence have any credibility.

Saskatchewan RCMP are a directly colonial military force. It remains a force of settler colonial military occupation of Indigenous lands and has an ongoing history of violence against Indigenous people and communities.


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.


The Death of Debra Chrisjohn: Racism and Police Violence Against Indigenous Women

Nearly a year after the death of Debra Chrisjohn in police custody, and even after the filing of charges against police officers responsible, Constable Mark McKillop of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Constable Nicholas Doering of the London Police Service, many issues remain unaddressed and unanswered about police actions in her arrest, detention, and death. Beyond the specific actions undertaken by police, the circumstances of Chrisjohn’s death raise issues of police racism and violence against Indigenous people and communities.

Debra Chrisjohn (39) of the Oneida Nation of the Thames was arrested on September 7, 2016. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, announced on July 13, 2017, that constables McKillop and Doeriing have been charged with one count each of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life. Both had contact with Chrsijohn on the day she died. The family has received few facts about the death of their loved one beyond this.

The family wants to know why the officers did not seek medical attention for their loved one when it became apparent that she needed help. Debra Chrisjohn’s father Robert Chrisjohn, asks: “Why didn’t the police take her to the hospital sooner when they knew she was sick and needed help? The police arrested her and were responsible for making sure she was okay. This happens way too often in our community. This happens all the time. The police just don’t seem to care” (quoted in McQuigge 2017)

Caitlyn Kasper, of Toronto’s Aboriginal Legal Services, claims that police had enough information available to deal with Debra Chrisjohn’s case in a different way. For example, police knew that Chrisjohn had a documented history of both substance abuse and mental illness. At the time of her arrest and detention on September 7, 2017, there were clear indications that Chrisjohn was in need of medical attention, not time in police custody

The family and community advocates insist that any discussion related to the actions of these officers in this case must address the troubling behaviors of police forces across Canada in dealing with Indigenous communities. This is, of course, an ongoing history of colonial violence and brutality. In the words of Caitlyn Kasper: “What happened to Debra is not an isolated incident. It is very obvious that it isn’t these types of issues just in London or the Oneida First Nation. It’s a concern we hear about in Toronto, all across Ontario and all across Canada” (quoted in McQuigge 2017)

.According to Kasper, the case against the officers must focus on what she terms the “foundational relationship” between police and Indigenous people across the Canadian state (McQuigge 2017). Kasper notes the ongoing questions of police responsibility in cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, Many believe that police have been purposefully negligent in investigating those cases. Others suggest that police are themselves involved in the killings and disappearances of Indigenous women. Samantha Doxtator, a friend of the victim, has stitched together traditional moccasin vamps to commemorate Debra Chrisjohn and is sending them to be included in an art installation in memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the United States.

Giselle Dias, an area psychotherapist who has spent 25 years working for prisoners’ rights, insists it be acknowledged that Indigenous and marginalized communities are most impacted by the criminal justice system in Canada. She agrees that Chrisjohn’s death points fundamentally to the a systemic issue of over-policing and mistreatment within racialized communities (Ghonaim 2017). And she is rightly not optimistic about the court process offering any redress. In her words: “Just because these police officers have been charged, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be found guilty. I will not rest assured” (quoted in Ghonaim 2017).

In case after case this truth remains. The system protects itself and that includes protecting killer cops.

 

Further Reading

Ghonaim, Hala. 2017. “Family of Indigenous Woman Who Died in Police Custody Seeks Answers and Justice.” CBC News. July 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/family-of-indigenous-woman-who-died-in-police-custody-wants-justice-1.4204624

McQuigge, Michelle. 2017. “Charges Point to Police-Indigenous Tensions.” Sudbury Star. July 15. http://www.thesudburystar.com/2017/07/15/charges-point-to-police-indigenous-tensions

 


Inquest Video: Killer Cops Chris Carson and Troy Sousa Stand on Romeo Wesley’s Neck and Back after He is Pepper Sprayed

Romeo Wesley, a 34-year-old Indigenous man of Cat Lake First Nation was killed by police on September 9, 2010, while in police custody at the Cat Lake nursing station. Two Nishnawbe-Aski police officers, Constable Troy Sousa and Constable Chris Carson, pepper sprayed Wesley, beat him with a baton, handcuffed him, and then stepped on his neck and back with their boots after he was face down on the ground and under their control.

This stunning violence is captured in 45 minutes of security video footage from the Health Canada nursing station where Wesley was killed and was shown during the inquest into Wesley’s killing which has finally gotten under way in July 2017. The video shows that several minutes passed from the time that Wesley stopped moving before anyone checked his vital signs. Instead, police took photos of the subdued man and a nurse mopped the floor around him. Dr. Harriet Lennox, the doctor on duty that night, testified that the pepper spray used by police in the confined space made it difficult for the nurses to breathe.

Wesley had gone to the nursing station,  the community’s only health facility, three times over the course of two days, trying to get help for a variety of problems including vision troubles and problems breathing. Instead of help he was killed.

Constable Chris Carson showed up at the scene wearing a t-shirt with a rifle on it. He later took off the shirt and was bare chested when he stood on Romeo Wesley’s neck. Dr. Lennox testified that she wondered when police would consider Wesley to be subdued enough that she could provide medical care, but assumed that they would have proper protocols in place.

The autopsy report of the killing blurred lines on the police violence inflicted on the man and his recurring health problems. It concluded that Wesley died from a combination of “chest compression with prone positional restraint” (police standing on his neck and back) and “severe alcohol withdrawal” which certainly did not naturally lead to being stomped by police boots.

Officers with the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service receive the same training as other police officers in Ontario but they are not subject to Ontario’s Police Service Act and are not subject to the same oversight when people are harmed in their custody.

Cat Lake First Nation is about 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Approximately 500 people live there.