Saskatoon police chief says drop-offs happened 'more than once'

Saskatoon's police chief admits officers may have been dumping native people outside the city for years

Saskatoon's police chief says officers may have been dumping native people outside the city for years, an admission that comes as new information emerges about a 13-year-old case.

A CBC News investigation has uncovered new details about the activities of the police the night a Cree teenager from Saskatchewan vanished.

Seventeen-year-old Neil Stonechild's frozen body was found in a field on the outskirts of Saskatoon in November 1990.

Electronic records confirm that police were looking for Stonechild the night he disappeared, CBC has learned.

The teen's body was found five days after a witness says he saw him in the back of a police cruiser.

Stonechild's case was all but forgotten for 10 years until the RCMP reopened it after two other aboriginal men were found frozen outside the city within one week three years ago.

'We have to take ownership'

In 2001, two of the city's police officers were convicted of unlawful confinement after they dropped off Darrell Night in freezing weather on the city's outskirts.

For years, the Saskatoon Police Service has insisted that the conviction marked an isolated case of such treatment of aboriginals.

Police Chief Russell Sabo concedes that's not the case. "It happened more than once and we fully admit that and, in fact, on behalf of the police department I want to apologize," he said. "It's quite conceivable there were other times."

"We had indicated that, as I understand, that we didn't have any other incidents of this nature," said Sabo. "And I think we have to take ownership of the things that have transpired."

Computer records link police to Stonechild

Sources say in Stonechild's case, electronic records confirm police were looking for him that night in 1990 because of a noise complaint.

He and a friend, 16-year-old Jason Roy, were out earlier that night, looking for Stonechild's old girlfriend, ringing apartment buzzers at her building.

They woke people up and someone called the police.

The two were separated, but about 15 minutes later, Roy says a police car pulled out of an alley with Stonechild, handcuffed and bleeding, sitting in the back seat.

"Neil looked very, very scared. He was screaming at me and he wanted me to help him," says Roy.

Roy says he was scared and gave police a false name. The police called the name in on their radio, Roy says, and he was released.

Another teenager, Bruce Genaille, says police also stopped him that night in the same alley. He says they kept insisting he was Neil Stonechild.

Sources say the computer checks police made that night still exist and confirm that police stopped Roy and Genaille.

Officers questioned by RCMP

Roy told police twice what he saw that night, once right after Stonechild was found dead, and again months later when he asked to speak to a homicide detective.

Roy says police weren't all that interested.

"They just made a couple of notes, and they said they would get back to me. Nobody ever got back to me on it," he says.

The original case files were destroyed prematurely during renovations at the police headquarters.

After the freezing death of two aboriginal men outside of Saskatoon within one week in 2000, the province brought in the RCMP to investigate.

The RCMP interrogated two Saskatoon police officers about a dozen times, but prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to lay charges.

A public inquiry will look into the teen's death this fall. Both police officers questioned by the RCMP in the case, Const. Brad Senger and Const. Larry Hartwig, have official standing with the inquiry.

Their lawyers say it will show their clients did nothing wrong.