Tag Archives: racism

Killer Winnipeg Cop Justin Holz Could Face Additional Charges in Cody Severight Killing

On Friday, October 13, 2017, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth told the city’s civilian police board that additional charges could be coming against Constable Justin Holz  for allegedly driving while impaired and fleeing the scene after hitting and killing pedestrian Cody Severight on October 10, 2017.  Smyth told the board that the results of a breathalyzer have not yet been analyzed and could bring about the further criminal charge of driving with a blood alcohol concentration over .08, which is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 milliliters of blood. Constable Holz has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene.

Smyth also told the police board that further disciplinary action could be taken against Constable Holz once the investigation is complete. This could come even before the case goes to court. Holz is presently on administrative leave with pay but Smyth acknowledged that future disciplinary action could include dismissal of the officer.

This is not the first time a Winnipeg police officer has hit and killed someone while driving after an evening of drinking. In 2005 officer Derek Harvey-Zenk killed Crystal Taman after driving home from an all night drinking party with other officers. Several charges were initially brought against Harvey-Zenk, including impaired driving causing death, but all except dangerous driving causing death were stayed in a highly controversial plea bargain. Harvey-Zenk was eventually sentenced to two years less a day to be served at home.

Upon hearing about Constable Holz killing Cody Severight while driving after drinking, Robert Taman, Crystal Taman’s husband, expressed sadness and dismay. Taman, who became an advocate for police reform after the killing of his wife, offered a stark assessment of prospects for change among police:

 

“But it never changes. So if it doesn’t change [that means] they don’t find it important enough to change, so it’s going to continue until the organization, the association, somebody steps up and says, ‘That’s enough.’” (quoted in CBC News 2017)

 

So no one should hold their breath awaiting additional charges or further disciplinary actions from police. Despite what the chief says.

The Independent Investigation Unit, which examines all cases of harm to civilians serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba, is investigating the killing. Holz has been released from custody on a promise to appear in court on November 22, 2017.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “’Nothing Hidden’: Truth Must be Revealed in Cody Severight Hit-and-Run Death, Crystal Taman’s Husban Says.” October 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/robert-taman-cody-severight-fatal-crash-1.4351359

 

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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 Assume Indigenous Man Having Stroke is Drunk: Inquest into Paul Kayuryuk Death

Between July 24 and July 27, 2017,  coroner’s inquest in Baker Lake, Nunavut, examined the death in jail of Paul Kayuryuk in October 2012 and concluded that police must “challenge assumptions” about intoxication in Inui communities. This after necessary medical attention was not provided Kayuryuk after RCMP jailed the man, who was having a stroke, on the assumption that he was drunk.

RCMP took Kayuryuk into custody after he was found unconscious at the landfill in Baker Lake.  Kayuryuk was observed overnight by three different guards and remained unconscious. It was only at midday the following day that a medical examination was ordered as a result of information received from the family. Kayuryuk was diabetic and the doctor and nurses at the local health center determined that he was experiencing a serious stroke. He was medivacked to Winnipeg but died there two weeks later from complications from the stroke.

Six jurors made 17 recommendations. Among them:

Cultural sensitivity training for officers and providing prisoners access to Inuktitut translators;  Seeking family insights and acting on the side of health care rather than presumed intoxication when in doubt.

Nunavut’s Chief Coroner Padma Suramala will present the recommendations to the RCMP who are under no obligation to observe them. This is one of several coroners’ inquests examining harm to Indigenous people by police with implications of racism and racist stereotyping of people seeking or in need of medical care.


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.


Victim of Thunder Bay Police Identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay, 50-Year-Old Indigenous Man

The Thunder Bay police have garnered much notoriety recently over concerns of widespread racism on the force against Indigenous people in the area. Now the 50-year-old man who died in his cell while in custody of Thunder Bay police has been identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay. He died on July 19, 2017, after being arrested and detained for as yet unstated reasons. The victim’s family has confirmed that McKay, of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation 600 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, was in the city for medical reasons. Paramedics supposedly cleared him on health grounds before he was taken by police. The family has apparently been told by the coroner that McKay did not die of a heart attack. The Special Investigations Unit is examining the case.


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

 


Charges Against Killer Cops Mark McKillop and Nicholas Doering in Death of Debra Chrisjohn

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians has announced that two police officers have been charged in the 2016 death of Debra Chrisjohn, of Oneida Nation of the Thames. The officers charged are Ontario Provincial Police Constable Mark McKillop and London Police Service Constable Nicholas Doering. The killer cops face charges of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life, respectively. Chrisjohn, died while in police custody, only an hour after she was taken to hospital.

Details surrounding the death have not been made available and many questions remain to be answered. What has been said, though there has been no independent confirmation, is that London police were called to Trafalgar Street and Highbury Avenue North, a neighborhood in that city’s east end on September 7, 2016 for someone supposedly obstructing traffic. Chrisjohn was arrested by London police for the obstruction and then transferred to the Elgin County OPP detachment supposedly on an outstanding warrant from 2013.

The rest remains obscure, with the SIU refusing even to name a cause of death publicly. So far they have only been willing to offer that at some point on the afternoon of September 7, 2016, Chrisjohn was moved to a jail operated by the OPP. Chrisjohn was taken by paramedics from the jail to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital at 7:52 PM. She was pronounced dead there at 8:43 PM.

Even family members have not been given toxicology results or been told details of their loved one’s death in custody. This is a stark situation given repeated calls for transparency in the SIU and its reporting system.

Constable Doering could face up to five years in jail, while Constable McKillop faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. It virtually never happens that a killer cop is convicted for their actions let alone receiving a maximum sentence. Both officers are still on duty. McKillop is on active duty with the OPP, while Doering is doing administrative duties

Members of the Oneida Nation of the Thames hope that these charges will bring some attention to the mistreatment of Indigenous women by police. Complaints have long been raised against various police services for inflicting extreme violence, including sexual violence, against Indigenous women.