A complaint has been filed against the RCMP for alleged evidence destruction and use of force in the police-involved death of a Wet’suwet’en man formerly from Moricetown.
Thirty-five year old Dale Culver died while in police custody on July 18 in Prince George.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) filed the complaint last week raising allegations that members of the Prince George RCMP told witnesses to delete cellphone video evidence of the incident. In the complaint, the BCCLA questioned whether racial bias on the part of the officers played a role in the incident.
According to a press release from The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO), who is also currently investigating the incident, Prince George RCMP officers were responding to a call of a male casing vehicles on the night in questions. Officers attempted to take him into custody when a struggle ensued and they used pepperspray. Culver appeared to be having trouble breathing and police requested medical assistance. Police said once the ambulance arrived, he was taken out of the police vehicle and collapsed. He was pronounced dead in the hospital shortly after midnight.
BCCLA said they understand, based on reports, that the RCMP saw Culver hours after the call had been made, and had no information that he was connected to any suspicious activity when they began to question him.
Cellphone footage and photos apparently related to the incident appear to show a large number of officers pinning a subject to the ground.
BCCLA executive director Josh Paterson said these allegations need to be looked at.
“For years there has been allegations of systemic discrimination against First Nation individuals by police, not only in northern B.C. but around the province. We have concerns and the complaint raises the question whether or not racial bias may have played a role here. To be clear, we aren’t alleging that it did but we don’t know. I wasn’t in those officers’ heads when they made the decisions they made. But we think it needs to be investigated,” said Paterson.
Paterson added the level of use of force and the treatment after he was peppersprayed also needs to be investigated.
“Why did he wind up dead? Was there a mistake or a breach of rules or misconduct that contributed to his death? We know one thing for sure, he shouldn’t be dead today,” he said.
The BCCLA is also aware of troubling allegations that RCMP members told some witnesses to delete cellphone video that they had taken.
“If that is true, then that is a crime,” said Paterson. “The IIO said they are hoping witnesses contact them if they were aware of people being asked to do that or if they themselves were asked to do that. It would also be misconduct, in addition to being potentially criminal interference of an investigation. It is the job of police to investigate crimes, not to try and cover up evidence.”
In general, a compliant can take several years to be resolved.
“It is unfortunate that it takes that long because timelines are important in order to maintain public confidence in the complaint process but that is the fact of it, they often take a long time so we will be waiting to see what happens,” said Paterson. “The family of Mr. Culver and the community needs answers. Why is Dale dead? How did it happen and can it be prevented from happening to someone else?”