A Manitoba Grand Chief is now calling for changes to this province’s Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) after a recent IIU report recommended that no criminal charges be filed against a Winnipeg police officer who fatally shot an Indigenous man five times in April of last year.
Last Thursday the IIU released its final report into the fatal police shooting of a man in the Maples neighbourhood that took place during an incident in the early morning hours of April 18, 2020.
That man who was killed has since been identified by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) as 22-year-old Stewart Andrews, a father to three children who lived in Winnipeg and was a member of the God’s Lake First Nation.
A post-mortem report concluded the man’s death was the result of five gunshot wounds.
According to the IIU report Winnipeg Police responded to a call from a home on Adsum Drive in Winnipeg on April 18, after a man said that he was assaulted by two males while taking out his garbage and reported that one of the men had a gun, while the second male had a shovel he was using as a weapon.
When police arrived they confronted Andrews and a youth who was with him that morning, believing they were responsible for the robbery.
According to the IIU report, one adult male, who was later identified as Stewart Andrews, was shot in the chest after being confronted by two police officers, including one officer from the WPS K9 unit, while the youth male, was taken into custody.
The IIU now recommends that the officer who pulled the trigger not face any charges and said his use of force was reasonable for the circumstances.
“Following a detailed review of this IIU investigation and file material, MPS has advised that they are not satisfied there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction of serving officer (SO) and therefore there are no grounds to justify any charges against SO for his use of lethal force,” the IIU report said.
The report added that the civilian director of the IIU met with the family of the man who was killed, as well as with representatives from MKO to discuss the report.
In a press conference held after the IIU report was released, MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee said he was not satisfied with the findings of the report, and believes more could have been done to avoid the use of lethal force.
“We are here supporting families that are grieving a loss that is a direct result of excessive police force,” Settee said. “We had an opportunity to meet with the family and the IIU to discuss the report. This meeting was very difficult and painful and it reminds us we have to change the process of the IIU.
“There has to be a better way in how these investigations are handled and we believe the IIU needs the involvement of Indigenous oversight.”
Settee said he is also questioning why a K9 dog that was on the scene wasn’t used to subdue Andrews rather than a gun.
“I firmly believe that if the police dog was deployed Andrews would be alive today had there been the use of non-lethal tactics,” Settee said.
“It is very disheartening and devastating to think that a police dog is more valuable than an Indigenous man.”
In an email sent to the Winnipeg Sun, an IIU spokesperson responded to Settee’s comments, stating that “the report speaks for itself.”
“The report was based on a full and complete investigation and gathering of evidence, the engagement and reports from experts and culminated with a full review of the entire investigative file by Manitoba Prosecution Service, who subsequently advised that no charges would be authorized against the subject officer as there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction,” the spokesperson said.
The Winnipeg Sun also reached out to the Winnipeg Police Service for comment, but were told in an email “WPS does not comment on IIU investigations or determinations.”
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.