Tag Archives: RCMP

IIO Determines RCMP Killed Man the Force Claimed Killed Self

There has long been a concern, a suspicion, that police claim victims of police shootings have died of self-inflicted wounds when, in fact, they were killed by officers. (That suspicion has been particularly strong in cases where police investigate police.) One such case was confirmed on Monday, June 26, 2017 when the Internal Investigations Office (IIO) in British Columbia, the oversight agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians overturned an RCMP claim that the June 18, 2017, death of a Lower Mainland man had died of a self-inflicted wound despite police firing shots at the man. The IIO has determined that the man killed in Port Coquitlam, in fact, died from a police bullet.

In a media release on Juen 26, IIO spokesperson Marten Youssef declared: “Initial reports made to the IIO … by the RCMP, suggested that a distraught male may have shot himself following an exchange of gunfire with police. Following an autopsy, it has been determined that the male’s death was not self-inflicted.” In the initial, confused, report from the RCMP the force had made it seem publicly that the man had killed himself. That was the impression they shaped for the public.

The IIO  reported that it had interviewed six police officers and 30 witnesses over the past week. They have additionally reported that in the hours after the police killing a male relative of the man killed also received “serious injuries.” That situation is still being investigated. No police officers were injured.

While recognizing the numerous problems with the IIO, one can speculate how the initial RCMP claims might have been treated had another police force investigated the present case. RCMP distorting facts for public management after killing someone is not unique in the province as the killing of Robert Dziekanski showed.


Killer Cop Michelle Phillips Charged for Driving Over 41-Year-Old Man

It is among the rarest of a rarities. A police officer who kills a civilian actually being criminally charged with something. Anything. On Friday, June 16, 2017, killer cop Michelle Phillips, an RCMP constable in Alberta, was charged with one count of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm for driving over and killing a 41-year-old pedestrian who had been injured in a prior collision and striking and seriously injuring a 71-year-old man who was helping the injured man. The crash and killing occurred on August 21, 2016, on Highway 881 near Anzac, Alberta, 420 kilometers north of Edmonton.

The charges were announced by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province. The ASIRT release described officer Phillips’ actions as follows:

 

“While responding at an extremely high rate of speed, the officer came upon a number of vehicles stopped on one side of the highway with their lights on and proceeded to drive past these vehicles without slowing. Unfortunately, this location was where the pedestrian had been originally struck and the officer ran over the injured pedestrian prone on the roadway with the police vehicle, killing him, and striking the hand of a 71-year-old man who had been rendering aid to the pedestrian, causing serious injury.”

 

An internal RCMP code of conduct review is underway and the officer, who had one year of service at the time of the deadly crash, has been suspended with pay. Phillips has been released on a promise to appear. She is set to appear in Fort McMurray provincial court on August 2, 2017.

This decision is, as all such decisions are, surprising given the state’s preference for protecting police. Of course this does not mean a conviction will result. ASIRT has been criticized recently for practices that appear to favor killer cops.


Thirty-Two-Year-Old Man Dies in Alberta RCMP Custody (May 13, 2017)

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the unit that investigates case of police harm to civilians in the province, is examining the death of an as yet unnamed 32-year-old man in RCMP custody on Saturday, May 13, 2017.  The man was in custody at the Fort McMurray RCMP detachment for supposedly drug-related offenses. Unverified police claims state that the man asked to make a phone call at about 2:45 AM Saturday morning. Four minutes after he was moved to a secure room to make the call, RCMP claim they entered the room to find the man on the floor in some medical distress. He was supposedly treated by paramedics at the scene but died two hours later in hospital. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed.


Audio of RCMP Killing of Hudson Brooks Posted Online

A matter of seconds. That was all the time that transpired before Surrey RCMP officers decided to shoot and kill Hudson Brooks after encountering the youth,  as revealed in newly released audio of the killing.

Most of the significant questions about the RCMP killing of Hudson Brooks outside an RCMP community policing detachment in south Surrey, British Columbia remain unanswered almost two years after the 20-year old was shot by police on July 18, 2015. His family has persistently sought answers, both of police and the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province.

In March 2017 police audio of the killing of Hudson Brooks was posted on YouTube. Notably, the clip was not released to family by police who have been uncommunicative regarding the killing. The audio was apparently posted by a user who regularly uploads recordings of police-involved incidents from radio traffic and scanners. The 2 minutes and 41 seconds of audio reveal the chaos of police actions and confirm the quick move by officers to deploy lethal force with virtually no interaction with, or attempt to communicate with the young man who would become their victim.

After hearing the audio, Jennifer Brooks, Hudson Brooks’ mother responded:  “It was devastating. It was so heartbreaking. There was no ‘stop, put up your hands,’ nothing. Within seconds of them calling upon him, he was shot. He didn’t stand a chance. How this went so wrong so quickly is unfathomable” (quoted in Chan 2017).

The audio confirmed what the family and some commentators have managed to piece together about the killing, from witnesses and available limited reports. Up front a female voice is heard describing Hudson Brooks. At the 52 second point, a male voice is heard saying: “I got something right here coming directly at me.” In a matter of mere seconds later: “I need help now. I need help now.” Then the call of “shots fired.”

The tape does confirm what many have suspected for some time, that the RCMP officer who was shot during the encounter actually shot herself. In the audio a female voice can be heard saying, “I shot myself.” This is followed by a male voice calling for emergency services: “Suspect is critical. We need a code. We need it now.” This is noteworthy because police initially used the shooting of an officer to suggest to the public that Hudson Brooks was armed and inflicted the wound, thus justifying, in their view, the deployment of lethal force.

The IIO has requested that the recording be taken down. Jennifer Brooks, however, says that while she would not listen too it again she supports it being publicly available so long as it does not impact the ongoing IIO investigation. In her  words: “Otherwise, the public needs to hear what happened” (quoted in Chan 2017). And answers are needed now. Why did police shoot? And why did they jump to shoot so quickly? Why did officers panic to such an extent that one would shoot herself and what does this say about the safety of any public into which such panicky officers are deployed? Too much time has passed with minimal to no information from police or the IIO.

 

The video can be found at:

 

Further Reading

Chan, Cheryl. 2017. “Audio of Surrey RCMP Shooting of Hudson Brooks Posted Online.” Vancouver Sun. March 30. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/he-didnt-stand-a-chance-audio-of-police-involved-shooting-of-hudson-brooks-posted-online


Nunavut RCMP Kill Man who Livestreamed Mental Distress and was Alone in House (May 1-2, 2017)

Suicide by cop is a dubious designation, one of those excuses police apply to justify publicly their actions when they kill civilians. The notion is dubious for a number of reasons. First, it is applied after the fact in a range of diverse circumstances including those where the victim has not expressed suicidal wishes (or on the contrary is even happy in life) or is not posing a threat to anyone. Do not forget that the police attempted to use this defense to protect killer cop James Forcillo who shot Sammy Yatim multiple times while the youth was alone in an empty street car. Second, even if someone wishes to “die by cop” does not mean that the police are justified in killing them or should be expected to kill them. It speaks volumes that anyone could expect with probability that an encounter with police would end with the police taking their life. Third, if someone is experiencing mental health issues, the police are not the appropriate response and if they are called for such issues health care providers should be involved rather than police ready to shoot to kill. Fourth, in suicide the person takes the decision and acts. In “suicide by cop” the cops can choose not to shoot and kill the person. Someone is taking the active decision to kill you in a case where they could choose not to. Finally, “suicide by cop” should never be applied as a justification for police killing civilians as it is now. The facts of each encounter matter.

These are all issues to keep in mind when details emerge of the killing by Nunavut RCMP of a 39-year-old man in Hall Beach, in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut, a town with a population of about 750. RCMP encountered the man over the evening of Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Police claim they were alerted to the man around 11:30 PM after receiving a call about an online Facebook live video in which the man ranted about “suicide by cops.” The man is alone and crying in the video. Police promptly attended the house where the man was present, by himself, and shot and  killed him.

This is the third killing of a civilian by police since December 2016 in the small northern territory. As in other recent cases in which Nunavut RCMP have killed a civilian, the Ottawa Police Service will carry out the investigation into their fellow police officers. This is in no way an independent investigation and as in all cases of police “investigating” police lacks all credibility.


Man Dies in Kelowna RCMP Holding Cell (April 1, 2017)

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the provincial body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia, is investigating the death of an as yet unnamed  40-year-old man who died while in Kelowna RCMP custody. RCMP claim officers responded to a single-vehicle crashing into a tree on McCulloch Road at around 5:15 PM on Friday, March 31, 2017. RCMP report taking the driver to the detachment in Kelowna as part of a criminal investigation, the nature of which has not been revealed publicly.

Police claim that the man was taken to hospital after complaining of pain. Following examination there he was, according to police, taken back to the detachment and booked into a cell at 11:25 PM. According to RCMP the prisoner was found unresponsive the next day at approximately 2:11 PM and was pronounced dead around 2:40 PM.

None of the police claims have been independently confirmed. The details of the prisoner’s death in RCMP custody, as presented by police, have not been independently verified.


Donald Dunphy’s Daughter Sues Killer Cop Joseph Smyth, Newfoundland Force, and Province

In the Canadian context families of people killed by police can rarely, if ever, expect that the officers involved will be held to account in any way through criminal proceedings. This is not surprising given the state’s inclination to protect its own who kill in upholding the state. Often times the only way that victims’ families can gain a sense of some accountability is through the pursuit of civil suits. The killing of Donald Dunphy (58) by officer Joseph Smyth in Newfoundland shows clearly the state protecting the state in the case of a killer cop. Once again family, in this case Dunphy’s daughter Meghan, have had to file a civil suit against the officer, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), and the province.

Donald Dunphy was an injured worker who, like many injured workers in jurisdictions across Canada, was frustrated with a process that often ignores or downplayed workers’ concerns or needs and seems more inclined to protect capital or negligent businesses. Dunphy, like many dealing with recalcitrant bureaucratic institutions with few resources for legal sup[port or advocacy, took to social media, especially Twitter, to air criticisms of the workers’ compensation system. Dunphy’s friends and family members note that while angry he was not violent. He was never known to use guns.

The statement of claim filed by Meghan Dunphy states: “The death of Donald Dunphy was caused by the wrongful act or neglect of Joseph Smyth” (quoted in Bailey 2017). The lawsuit also names as defendants Smyth’s force, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and the Newfoundland and Labrador government for its responsibility in overseeing the force.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Constable Joe Smyth was a member of then-premier Paul Davis’s security team on April 5, 2015, when he made an unannounced visit to Dunphy’s home in Mitchell’s Brook, Newfoundland. Smyth made the drive 80 kilometres southwest of St. John’s apparently because of a social media post that the premier’s staff had flagged as being  “of concern” (quoted in Bailey 2017). During the visit Smyth would shoot Dunphy twice in the head and once in his left chest. He claimed the man raised a gun and police say a .22 caliber rifle owned by Dunphy’s father was found at his feet. No fingerprints of Dunphy could be found on the gun. Police accounts have not been independently verified.

The reason given for the visit, targeting a civilian because of some tweets on Twitter, should raise serious questions about the role of police as political agents defending politicians against mere statements of dissent and punishing political critics for simple expression of opposition. Constable Smyth was never charged for his unannounced political visit and apparent attempt at intimidation nor for his killing of Donald Dunphy.

A public commission of inquiry into the killing raised more concerns. Constable Smyth first testified at the inquiry over the course of three days in January. He was recalled in March when text messages discovered after his initial appearance appeared clearly to contradict his sworn testimony. Smyth had initially testified that he never considered Dunphy a threat and never received advice on his notes regarding the shooting. Yet in later retrieved BlackBerry messages, Smyth told an unidentified friend the day before the killing of Dunphy that he had to deal with a “lunatic” who was “threatening the premier” (quoted in 2017). Smyth tried to explain the deletions prior to the inquiry by stating that he deleted direct text messages habitually to clear space on his phone (Bailey 2017). He also claimed that he did not mean the term “lunatic” in a derogatory way, because who, really would take it as such. He said he was simply referring to social media comments that he viewed as ranting (Bailey 2017).

Smyth also claimed during his second inquiry appearance that he had no recollection of numerous text exchanges the day following the shooting with RNC Sergeant Tim Buckle about notes Smyth would take to his RCMP interview that afternoon (Bailey 2017). This for someone overly focused on electronic messaging.

Newfoundland has no special unit to investigate incidents of harm by police to civilians so, incredibly, the investigation into Smyth’s killing of Donald Dunphy was carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). This despite the fact that Meghan Dunphy raised issues of fairness and transparency and requested that an outside agency be used. Stunningly RCMP investigators even told the inquiry that they “inappropriately shared evidence with Smyth” or “were more casual with him” (Bailey 2017), They stood by their findings and, dubiously, so too did the inquiry.

The inquiry into Dunphy’s killing, led by provincial Court of Appeal judge Leo Barry, took place over two months beginning in January 2017 and heard from more than 50 witnesses. As is the case with such inquiries, the Dunphy inquiry could not make findings of criminal or civil responsibility. Judge Barry is scheduled to provide his report and any recommendations by July 1.

 

Further Reading

Bailey, Sue. 2017. “Daughter of Man Shot Dead by Newfoundland Police Sues Officer, Force, Province.” CTV News. April 5. http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/daughter-of-man-shot-dead-by-newfoundland-police-sues-officer-force-province-1.3355744