Handcuffs could have prevented Dumas shooting: witness

The inquest into the death of Matthew Dumas heard testimony from more witnesses to the police gunfire that killed the Winnipeg teen in January 2005, with one saying handcuffs could have prevented the shooting.
Matthew Dumas, shown celebrating his 17th birthday in this 2003 photo, was killed in police gunfire in January 2005. ((Canadian Press))
The inquest into the death of Matthew Dumas heard testimony from more witnesses of the police gunfire that killed the Winnipeg teen in January 2005, with one saying handcuffs could have prevented the shooting.

William Sinclair testified on Tuesday in Winnipeg that he saw an officer chasing a boy along Dufferin Avenue. They disappeared into a back lane and then came out again, the officer "escorting" Dumas, who was 18, with his arm held behind his back, Sinclair said.

Sinclair said he saw Dumas break away from the officer.

He stepped out of his home and tried to help police by getting in the boy's way, Sinclair said, but as Dumas approached, he saw something come out of his sleeve that he later learned was a screwdriver.

"He made an attempt to stab me during this, previous to him getting shot," Sinclair told the media after his testimony in the inquest that began Monday and is expected to last two weeks.

"He chased me down with the screwdriver, making attempts to stab me."

Sinclair testified that he escaped Dumas by jumping over a snowbank and got behind a police officer, who then pepper-sprayed Dumas.

Dumas refused to drop the screwdriver and lunged at police officers, Sinclair said. He was then shot, he said.

Sinclair said he believed if police officers had handcuffed Dumas when they first captured him, the young man would still be alive.

"If the handcuffs were slapped on, that boy wouldn't have struck that officer," he said. "The boy wouldn't have got away. There wouldn't have been no attempt to flee the officer that arrested him if he would have just handcuffed him when he did get arrested."

The incident traumatizes him to this day, Sinclair testified.

Witness a no-show at inquest

Another witness to the shooting did not show up for her scheduled testimony at the inquest on Wednesday.

Inquest lawyer Robert Tapper said Crystal McManus had assured him she would testify, but said her apartment was vacant Wednesday morning and she could not be located.

Instead of having her arrested, the inquest viewed a videotaped statement she made to police shortly after the shooting.

While much of the audio on the tape was unintelligible, McManus could be heard saying she saw an officer, with his gun drawn, pass her on Dufferin Avenue.

She said she saw some children in front of a nearby house and wanted to protect them from whatever was happening.

McManus said she saw another officer and a young man — Dumas — who had a screwdriver in his right hand. Police first told, then yelled at the man to drop the weapon, she said. He did not.

Officers then used pepper spray on the man three times, she said.

Dumas then raised his right arm and the screwdriver — possibly to wipe his eyes, McManus said. Before his hand reached his face, the officer he was facing, whose gun was already drawn, fired a shot.

McManus said she stood in place for about five minutes, and one of the boys in the nearby yard began to cry. Then the street, which had been virtually empty, began to fill with people.

Could not see weapon

Dalton Dennis, a businessman who worked on Dufferin Avenue where the shooting took place, appeared at the inquest Wednesday. He described seeing a man he later learned was Dumas surrounded by police officers.

Dumas was facing one officer when Dennis saw him; Dennis said Dumas appeared to be thinking about something. He did not actually see officers fire their weapons, he said.

Another business person, Carol Lischka, also watched events unfold. From across the street, Lischka said she saw Dumas between two police officers.

She could see no weapon in his hands, she testified, and said she thought she would have noticed his hands in spite of the high snowbanks on the sidewalk that day, since she could see all three people from the hips up.

The inquest was expected to take a longer-than-usual break in the afternoon. The Dumas family asked for a recess so they could watch Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology to former students of residential schools.