Moonias inquest highlights lack of First Nation police
Inquest hears only one police officer was in Neskantaga First Nation when Bruce Moonias fired shots
A police officer testified he was on his own for the first few hours of a crisis that led to the death of a man in Neskantaga First Nation in December 2006.
On Monday, Nishnawbe Aski Police Service constable Danny Quisses testified at the inquest into Bruce Moonias' death.
Quisses said he was in the community by himself the night of Dec. 9, 2006.
Nishnawbe Aski Police Service constable Danny Quisses testified that the NAPS detachment in Neskantaga First Nation is now supposed to be staffed by three people. But there are still only two officers posted there because of staff shortages.
Independently of this inquest, Nishnawbe Aski Nation has voiced concern about funding for adequate police staffing in recent months.
NAN has gone as far as saying First Nations may have to shut the NAPS forces down if funding for aboriginal policing doesn't improve, because short-staffing is dangerous for officers and the communities they serve.
He said two Nishnawbe Aski Police Service officers were assigned to Neskantaga First Nation at that time, but his partner was out of the community.
Quisses testified that NAPS officers at Neskantaga First Nation work 15 days on and then have six days off. Officers usually leave the community during their rest days so, for that six-day period, there is only one police officer in the whole community.
He noted he works eight-hour shifts, but if he's alone in the community he gets calls at home or on the police radio 24 hours a day.
Call came when officer was off duty
On the evening of Dec. 9, 2006, Quisses said he was off work and was hosting a card game at his house when someone called to report gunshots.
It was determined they were coming from the home of Bruce Moonias, which he shared with his father, Stanley Moonias. Stanley Moonias was at the card game.
Quisses testified that, just after 11 p.m. that night, he told Stanley Moonias to call home to try to get in contact with Bruce, but there was no answer.
Quisses said he called his Nishnawbe Aski Police Service staff sergeant in Sioux Lookout to report what was happening. His staff sergeant instructed him not to go into Bruce Moonias' residence for safety reasons and to evacuate neighbouring houses. Quisses said his superior flew to Eabemetoong First Nation to pick up more NAPS officers, and it took until about 2:40 a.m. for them to arrive in Neskantaga.
Quisses said he also received a call from the NAPS chief of police to say he was calling in the Ontario Provincial Police for help. He was aware Quisses was alone and told him to "hang tight.”
Moonias was alert
The OPP Emergency Response Team arrived at about 7:40 a.m. Dec. 10. They secured the area around Bruce Moonias' house. It wasn't until the OPP's tactical response unit arrived later in the afternoon that officers could make contact with Moonias inside.
Quisses testified that around 4:45 p.m. he was asked to get a stretcher and notify the community nursing station, because the OPP tactical response team was going into the house. Quisses said the medical vehicle at the nursing station wasn't working, so he took the stretcher in his NAPS police truck.
Quisses brought the stretcher into the house and saw Bruce Moonias in the bed. He testified Moonias was alert and greeted him by name.
After other officers brought Bruce Moonias out on the stretcher, Quisses drove him to the nursing station in the back of his truck.
Quisses testified Moonias was still alert and talking to people at the airport before he was flown out to Thunder Bay by air ambulance.
But in the early morning hours of Dec. 11, Quisses was notified that Bruce Moonias had died. He went to Bruce's aunt's home to break the news to her and to Bruce's father Stanley.