Police altercation with First Nations girl in Kenora caught on video weeks before her death

The parents of a 14-year-old from Grassy Narrows First Nation are releasing a video of an altercation between provincial police and their daughter in the weeks before her death.

Coroner's office is continuing its investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kokopenace's death

Police try to restrain Azraya Kokopenace in March, 2016 2:59
Steve Summerville is a retired police officer and expert in police restraint tactics. He has seen the video of the OPP interaction with 14 year old Azraya Kokopenace. 4:40

The parents of a 14-year-old from Grassy Narrows First Nation are releasing a video of an altercation between provincial police and their daughter in the weeks before her death.

Azraya Kokopenace disappeared on April 15 after provincial police dropped her off at the hospital in Kenora, Ont. Police won't say why they picked her up.  The teen was last seen leaving the hospital, alone, late at night, according to police. She was found dead two days later in the woods nearby. 

The coroner's office is continuing its investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kokopenace's death and says it could take months to complete. 

The Grassy Narrows Youth Organization obtained the video. The group said it was taken by a bystander on March 26 or 27.

It shows a male police officer struggling with Kokopenace on the ground. At one point he puts his knee to the girl's back.

Azraya Kokopenace, 14, was found dead in Kenora, Ont., on April 17 after walking away from the hospital where police dropped her off. Her parents are calling for an inquest into her death. (Ontario Provincial Police)

Kokopenace is heard shouting "let go of me, stop" and "I want to go home." An unidentified male yells "she's just a kid" and "why don't you get a hold of her parents."

An expert in police use of force said it appears the police officer in the video showed restraint by opting not to use some of the tactics police are trained to use to gain compliance.

"I saw no blows, I saw no use of force application, in other words, no punches, no kicks, strikes," said Steve Summerville a retired Toronto police officer who often testifies in court as an expert witness.

But Summerville said it is hard to tell exactly what is going on because of the quality of the video and the lack of context.

"Wow, there's some questions to be answered," he said. "You need to know what brought the officer there. What was the outcome? Was this young lady under arrest, was she under arrest for mental health, a crime?"

It's typical for police to issue a news release immediately after a public interaction such as this one, he added.

No comment from police

A spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police told CBC News that it is "not appropriate for OPP to respond" to questions about the video "because we're not sure where the case is going to go."

The Kokopenace family is asking for an inquest into Azraya's death to deal with the many outstanding questions.

Her aunt, Lorenda Kokopenace worries that young people from Grassy Narrows can't trust the police.

"Stuff like this goes on and I think our youth are scared when they're out there hurting," she said. "There's no one really to turn to when [police] are doing this to us, Indigenous people."