A public inquiry called for after the death of a native during a police action

A public inquiry called for after the death of an Aboriginal during a police action

Williams Lake First Nation man took his own life during an emergency RCMP on July 10. Above, the RCMP office in Burnaby.

Williams Lake First Nation and the Union of British Columbia Native Chiefs (UBCIC) are calling for a public inquiry into the apparent suicide of one of the community members during a Royal Canadian Mounted Police response (RCMP).

The incident occurred on July 10, when, according to the First Nation, family members of victim Rojun Alphonse, called the police because they feared he might hurt himself.

According to a statement from Williams Lake RCMP released the same day, officers received a call at approximately 3:40 a.m. regarding a man with a weapon who was contemplating self-harm.

RCMP officers attended the home, established a security perimeter, and a police negotiator attempted to contact him, police say. At around 12:30, the Northern District Emergency Response Team entered the house where the body of a man appearing to have self-inflicted injuries was found next to a weapon.

The BC Office of Independent Investigations (IBI), automatically involved when someone dies during a police action, is investigating the incident.

In conference release on Tuesday, Williams Lake First Nation and UBCIC called for a full review of the RCMP's actions.

First Nation Chief Willie Sellars says the police responded with disproportionate force, including assault weapons and tear gas.

There should be a full public inquiry into the policing of Indigenous communities in British Columbia [and] a review of the circumstances of this tragedy, he said in a statement.

The First Nation and UBCIC believe that the RCMP intervention contributed to escalating the situation, which culminated in the suicide of Rojun Alphonse.

The RCMP is not commenting at this time as the province's Independent Investigations Office has taken up the matter.

According to the director BEI civilian, Ron MacDonald, the investigation is expected to take a few months, due in particular to a lack of staff and the high number of cases already in progress.

The organization is unable to confirm, for the moment, if a child was with the man who threatened to take his life, as indicated by members of his family during the press conference of Tuesday.

[Releasing] this kind of information could have an impact on witnesses that we have not yet interviewed, explains Ron MacDonald. However, he confirms that the police used a certain type of gas.

Mr. McDonald clarified that the BEI is investigating the actions of the officers and trying to understand if they played a role in Mr. Alphonse's death, but has no mandate to examine the incident beyond that. /p>

There may very well be other questions, he adds. Did anyone else play a role in the case? Has the lack or sufficiency of social services available to people in crisis had an impact? Are the police the right people to send in these kinds of cases? Should there be other resources available? These are tangible questions that we do not address.

With information from Chloé Dioré de Périgny

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