A 54-year-old man has died in police custody in The Pas, Manitoba, a town about 600 kilometers northwest of Winnipeg. According to the Independent Investigation Unit (IIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, police arrested the man after responding to a call about an intoxicated person on October 5, 2019. He was put in a cell at the RCMP detachment at around 7 PM. The man was found unresponsive in his cell the next morning. According to the IIU, emergency medical services attended and pronounced the man dead in the detachment. Police and jail cells are not appropriate responses for someone dealing with substance use issues.
Tag Archives: transparency
When it comes to police killings of civilians, the state protects the state. This is not surprising given that police are the force of brute violence (the state’s monopoly on violence) which always accompanies and underpins the state’s legislative (ideological) face. Law and force go hand in hand.
On July 18, 2015, RCMP Constable Elizabeth Cucheran shot 20-year-old Hudson Brooks nine times outside the RCMP detachment in South Surrey, killing him. The Constable fired a dozen times at the youth, who was shirtless and shoeless and in some mental health distress. On September 18, 2019, more than four years later, the British Columbia prosecution service announced that charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon had been stayed against Constable Cucheran.
That the killer cop did not even face charges of murder or manslaughter for shooting an unarmed youth nine times and that it took more than four years to reach this decision shows the special manner with which police who kill are treated by the state in Canada.
Even more, in announcing their the prosecution service chose to emphasize that “the law is clear that even the mistaken belief in the need to use lethal force is a complete defence.” Killer cops always have this excuse, no matter how unjustified, ludicrous, or unsubstantiated, at their ready disposal. It is all they ever need to kill when they want, under whatever conditions they themselves alone decide. Police define the circumstances and they define reasonableness. Even if they are mistaken or lying. Few prosecutors, who depend on police for their cases (and who also uphold the state as do police), will ever challenge them. It is literally a license to kill.
This case earlier showed as well the way in which police lie after they kill someone to suggest that the victim posed a greater threat than they did. To blame the victim. Initial RCMP statements suggested that there had been an exchange of gunfire and an officer was also shot. This gave a public impression that Brooks had been armed and there had been some sort of gunfight between the victim and officers. It was later revealed that Constable Cucheran, in a lethal panic, had shot herself among the 12 shots she fired.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia, is investigating after a woman fell to her death in the presence of RCMP officers on August 13, 2019 in Surrey, British Columbia.
The IIO report that RCMP responded to an apartment complex in the 14000 block of 103A Avenue regarding a woman on the edge of a ninth floor balcony. Police entered the building, and, at some point, the woman fell. She died on the scene. No other details have been released publicly.
This is the second IIO investigation of RCMP in a matter of days. Police shot a man on 135A Street in Whalley on August 14.
The Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the death of a man in police custody in Amherst, Nova Scotia. It has been reported that officers allegedly took a man, whose age has not been released publicly, to the police department on the morning of June 29, 2019, because they assumed he was drunk. At some point while the man was detained in a holding cell medical assistance was called. The man was taken to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, where he died of his medical issues on Sunday, June 30.
The family of a man who died during an arrest by Winnipeg police has identified him as Randy Cochrane, a 30-year-old father of three. Family members are calling for answers into what happened during the arrest and why there appear to be discrepancies in what police reported and what doctors in the hospital emergency have said.
Randy Cochrane’s cousin Monica Murdock asks pointedly:
“My family’s devastated. We want to know what happened to him. Why did he die in cuffs? Why were they chasing him? Why are they saying he was bloody but the doctors we went and saw at the emergency room last night said that he had no injuries? (quoted in Grabish 2019)
Murdock reports that doctors at the Health Sciences Centre told her family on Sunday, after Cochrane died, that the young man had suffered a heart attack and had a high fever. She also reports that they told her there were no other injuries on his body. She says that doctors informed her that it was too late by the time Cochrane arrived at the hospital at 4:30 PM because he had been without a pulse for some time (Grabish 2019).
Murdock describes her cousin as “a fierce protector of his family” and she says “he was more like a brother to her” (2019). She relates fondly: “He always made sure we were protected. We were safe. The last time I saw him he came to my house and he gave me some money for my baby ‘cause my daughter’s in the hospital” (quoted in Grabish 2019).
Marjorie Cochrane raised Randy after adopting him. She remembers:
“He was really always close to his daughters. It’s hard. Taking it hard” (quoted in Grabish 2019).
She too has important questions for police: “What happened when they handcuffed him?” (quoted in Grabish 2019).
A witness, Will Couture, says Cochrane, rather than being a threat, appeared to be shouting for help while running from something or someone (2019). Couture reports that the man, kept repeating “help me, help me” (Grabish 2019). He then saw police chase Cochrane across the street.
Couture claims that the man looked “freaked out.” In his words: “Just scared. Just like terrified of something you know what I mean? It was like the devil was chasing him” (quoted in Grabish 2019).
If it was the police, he may be completely right in that.
Grabish, Austin. 2019. “Family Demands Answers after Father of 3 Dies in Police Custody.” CBC News July 15. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/police-custody-death-north-end-winnipeg-1.5212209
According to the Independent Investigations Unit of Manitoba, the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province, the arrest occurred in the city’s North End, around Flora Avenue and Parr Street. Police allegedly saw a man they believed to be bleeding and armed with a weapon and chased him on foot, catching him not far away. During the arrest the man became unresponsive. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. It has not been conformed publicly that the man was bleeding prior to the arrest.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is calling for an independent investigation after the killing of Geoff Morris (41) by Regina Police Service officers on May 4, 2019. In a news release, FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat noted that,
“We have seen officers investigating their fellow officers and we all know how those investigations turn out. We are calling on the Regina Police Service to allow for an outside and independent oversight body to be a part of this investigation. We have been calling for this for years and these senseless police-related deaths keep happening.”
Morris was shot and killed by Regina police, during what cops say was a hostage situation. There are reasons to be skeptical about this given the lack of public information around another recent alleged hostage-taking in which two people were killed by RCMP in Surrey, British Columbia in March 2019. In that case it was later revealed that police had shot and killed both people, including the alleged hostage Nona McEwan. Notably, Regina Police chief Evan Bray would not say whether an alleged hostage was still being held when the shooting occurred.
Indeed, the police justification of events is being contradicted by Morris’ fiancé, Jasmine Brass, who says she was present when Morris was killed. In her words: “Honestly it wasn’t necessary for them to kill him, they could’ve just tased him” (quoted in Melnychuck 2019). She reports that Morris had been struggling with mental health issues and that she and her sister were with Morris trying to help him the morning he was killed by police.
Brass also reports that he became more agitated when police arrived, a not uncommon occurrence as the appearance of police typically heightens tensions and stress. She gives a chilling account, saying on facebook that she heard a “bang” and felt a splatter of blood at the moment of killing. Incredibly Brass reports that police shot Morris while she sat between his legs.
Morris was biological father to four children. He also took in six other children and raised them. One daughter, Tanisha Whiteman, remembers him as a good, loving man who struggled with anxiety issues. She asks why police acted so quickly to kill. In her words:
“That’s somebody’s father. That’s somebody’s son. That’s somebody’s brother, somebody’s nephew. He was loved by so many people. Why? Just like that, he’s gone. There could have been other ways that could have been handled. They didn’t have to take someone’s life away (quoted in Whitfield 2019a).
Heartbreaking words about the role played by police came from 12-year-old son Nakayoh Friday: “I want people to know that the people who were supposed to protect us aren’t protecting us. They are killing us. I don’t want other families to go through my pain” (quoted in Whitfield 2019b).
According to Regina Police chief Evan Bray, legislation requires that the Regina Police Service’s Major Crime unit investigates the shooting. Cops investigating cops. The officer involved in the shooting was a member of the patrol response remains on active duty.
Regina police claim that the killing of Morris is the first killing by an officer in the city since 1998. Police also claim that there have been four officer-involved shootings in the last 10 years, with none of those resulting in the death of the victim.
Melnychuck, Mark. 2019. “Fiancee of Man Shot by Regina Police Questions Why Officer Used Lethal Force.” Regina Leader-Post May 6. https://www.journalpioneer.com/news/canada/fiancee-of-man-shot-by-regina-police-questions-why-officer-used-lethal-force-308570/
Whitfield, Janani. 2019a. “’He Didn’t Deserve to Die Like That’: Man Killed by Regina Police Was a ‘Family Man.’” CBC News May 5. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/hostage-taking-incident-regina-geoff-morris-1.5124018
Whitfield, Janani. 2019b. “Children of Man Shot Dead by Regina Police Say He Was Close to Turning Life Around.” CBC News May 7. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/regina-shooting-police-death-1.5126084