For the second time this month, police in northern New Brunswick have shot and killed an Indigenous person.
Quebec’s police watchdog said late Friday that it has been called in to investigate the circumstances around the shooting death of a civilian near Miramichi, 170 kilometres northeast of Fredericton.
Friends and family, including Juno Award-winning singer Jeremy Dutcher, have identified the man as Rodney Levi from the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation, also known as Red Bank.
According to preliminary information given to the Bureau des enquêes indépendantes, RCMP were responding to a call about a disturbed person, and found him in a building with a knife at 8 p.m. local time.
Police allegedly used a stun gun several times “without success,” said the BEI in a news release, and the man was reportedly shot when he charged at police.
He was given first aid and transported to hospital where he was declared dead, said the agency.
Eight investigators have been assigned to the case. The Quebec agency was called in because New Brunswick does not have an independent body that probes police actions involving serious injury or death.
The watchdog said it is responsible for informing for keeping in touch with family and while the information is confidential to the bureau, the family representative can choose to share it as they see fit.
The BEI said it will submit a report to the coroner overseeing the probe and the New Brunswick Public Prosecution Service to determine whether charges will be laid.
“It will be up to these authorities to make the BEI report public or not, depending on the applicable legislation,” the Quebec agency said.
New Brunswick RCMP were not immediately available for comment.
Chantel Moore killed earlier this month
The fatal shooting comes as the use of force by police in Canada, particularly against Black and Indigenous people, and its links to systemic racism are under scrutiny. Video footage was released Thursday of a First Nations chief being punched and tackled during an RCMP arrest in Alberta.
On June 4, police in Edmundston, N.B. were called to check on Chantel Moore by a concerned ex-boyfriend. The responding officer was allegedly confronted by a woman, who had a knife and was making threats, said the police department. The officer shot her and she died at the scene.
Moore, 26, was from Tlaoquiaht First Nation in B.C. but had recently moved to northeastern New Brunswick to be closer to her young daughter.
Healing walks in memory of Moore are planned for Saturday afternoon in several Maritime cities.
Roger Augustine, the regional chief representing New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, said in an interview that “systemic racism is not owned by the RCMP.”
“And it’s not owned by any government in any country. Systemic racism is something that has to be addressed by the community itself, and in this case it’s New Brunswick. Racism exists in all peoples. Racism is about judging people. When (you) walk down the streets and you see someone you don’t like, you judge their clothing, the colour of their skin .... that’s racism.”
“What it says is that if you're mentally ill and you have a bad day, the cops can kill you for it.”
News of Levi’s death shook many in Metepenagiag, which has a population of about 550, and in other Indigenous communities too.
“Rodney was the type of guy who came to my house and shovelled my deck off while I was in the hospital having heart surgery,” wrote Adam Augustine, a Metepenagiag councillor, on Facebook. “Despite the circumstances of this evening ... I hope everyone remembers what a big heart he had and how he would help [people].”
Metepenagiag Chief Bill Ward said Levi had been to his home on Friday and wanted to move to Fort McMurray, Alta., for a fresh start.
“He had his demons but he was always very friendly, he never tried to harm anybody,” Ward said during an emotional Facebook event on Saturday.
He said Levi was a slight man who tried to get a mental health assessment at hospital recently, but was refused. Ward said Levi had trouble sleeping in the days before the incident.
Ward said Levi was shot by a relatively new officer with little experience in the community instead of a veteran officer who would have de-escalated the confrontation.
“He wasn’t in the right state of mind at that point of time. He wasn’t a violent person, so basically to me what it says is that if you’re mentally ill and you have a bad day, the cops can kill you for it,” said Ward.
“I just want to preserve his memory and not let people twist the story to justify what they did,” he said, taking several breaks to regain his composure. “He wasn’t some monster that they’re going to try to paint him to be.’”
With a file from Canadian Press and Sima Shakeri
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