The family of a First Nations man shot by RCMP earlier this week is urging anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward and says there should be consequences for the officer who shot and injured the 30-year-old.
“Today, your voice matters,” said Kikiwani Mikisew Iskwew, the sister of the O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation man who was shot.
“We cannot remain silent or our relatives will continue to be mistreated by the systemic violence against the Indigenous people of this land,” Iskwew said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference held by the Indigenous advocacy agency Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
Iskwew said her brother, who she identified only as “Little Ray,” was in good spirits when she last spoke to him in the hospital, where he’s in stable condition after undergoing a four-hour surgery. He’s still in pain, having a hard time breathing and receiving oxygen, she said.
The shooting happened around 2:45 p.m. on Monday on Princeton Drive in Thompson. An officer serving legal documents at a home in the northern Manitoba city encountered a man who was allegedly armed with a knife, RCMP said in a news release issued later that day.
The officer shot the man, who was taken to hospital in Thompson with a serious injury.
The encounter was captured on video by a bystander and circulated on social media, and raised questions from several First Nations organizations about the use of force in the situation. It also happened while children at a nearby school were outside at recess, MKO said in statement later Wednesday.
Wapanohk Community School is on Princeton Drive, where Monday’s shooting happened.
WATCH | Bystander caught the police shooting on video:
Iskwew said her family feels the officer could have used non-violent intervention strategies to de-escalate the situation with her brother, a construction worker and father of five children.
After watching the video circulated online, she said her family is still feeling traumatized — and based on what the video shows, they don’t believe her brother had a knife.
Iskwew said her family was “disheartened” by the way police acted, including their behaviour after her brother was shot.
She said when one of her uncles arrived at the scene of the shooting and introduced himself to police, he was ignored.
“The RCMP did not have the decency to talk to him. Instead, they sent a security guard,” Iskwew said.
Mounties did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. A day earlier, a spokesperson said the officer who shot the man remains on duty but was not on shift Tuesday.
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which is mandated to investigate injuries caused by police shootings, is now investigating.
The police watchdog asked witnesses or anyone who has information or video that might help in its investigation to contact them toll-free at 1-844-667-6060.
Bystander video ‘paramount’: lawyer
One Anishinaabe lawyer said the bystander video will be “paramount” in that investigation.
“Having this video that provided such a clear shot and line of vision is very valuable in this situation,” said Danielle Morrison, an associate lawyer with Cochrane Saxberg LLP who focuses on Indigenous law, child protection and litigation.
“Videos like that — where it’s very clear what had happened between the officer and the Indigenous man leading up to the shooting, at least in those few [moments] that we saw — are not very common.”
Morrison said from a legal standpoint, the question comes down to whether an officer feels their life is at risk when deploying potentially deadly use of force and whether they have alternatives.
“And that’s a very subjective analysis, right? We have no idea what was going through the mind of the officer,” she said.
“But the bottom line is if there was an alternative such as using a Taser … then he should have used that instead of exerting force with a deadly weapon.”
Morrison said as an Anishinaabe woman, she thinks the situation would have unfolded differently if the man who approached the officer wasn’t Indigenous.
The shooting is yet another example of the need for change in how police interact with Indigenous people and communities, she said.
“You have to approach these circumstances and these situations with some sensitivity to what our people are facing in our communities, where we’re dealing with lack of housing, we’re dealing with addictions, we’re dealing with trauma,” she said.
“It can be really triggering for Indigenous people to have a police officer show up on their doorstep.”