Mistrust of local RCMP hampers B.C. slaying probe
Potential informants won't talk to local Mounties
Some residents of a northern B.C. community are withholding information about the grisly torture and decapitation of a young man because of entrenched mistrust of the local RCMP detachment, CBC News has learned.
The severed head of Fribjon Bjornson, 28, was found in a vacant house on the Nak'azdli reserve near Fort St. James on Feb. 3, three weeks after he was last seen outside a 7-Eleven in Vanderhoof, B.C.
The rest of his body was never found and nobody has been charged in the case.
According to Chief Fred Sam, there are a lot of people on the Nak'azdli reserve who know something about the brutal killing, but have yet to speak out.
"I guess probably maybe 20 or less, maybe, I'm thinking," Sam said. "It is quite a bit of people."
Bjornson's parents say witnesses have told them the names of the killers and told them they are members of a local drug gang, who allegedly tortured their son to extract money.
Fred and Eileen Bjornson say witnesses in the community remain unwilling to share what they know with police, because they fear retaliation by the gang.
"There's a fear factor," said Fred Bjornson. "Maybe they just don't want to be the one that comes forward because they'll be labelled in their community."
Sam says it not just fear that's stopped witnesses from coming forward, but frustration with the local RCMP detachment.
"Some of them that came forward said that they were very rude to them or accusing them of withholding information or being part of it, so some of them zipped their lip as soon as they were treated that way," Sam said.
Charlene Joseph says she has information that ties at least one man to the homicide, but she won't go to the local RCMP because of the way they treat the community.
"I feel sorry for the family and all, but the cops down here are way too mean and rude," she said. "I don't think anybody would come forward because they don't treat them with respect."
Joseph said she is willing to talk to outside investigators, however.
Some local leaders in Fort St. James are trying to help solve Bjornson's murder and are asking the local RCMP to interact better with the aboriginal community.
There’s also discussion about a town hall meeting this month and setting up a drop box where witnesses can leave anonymous tips.
Police have released new video surveillance recordings to CBC News that show Bjornson outside the 7-Eleven the night he disappeared, in hopes of gaining new information from witnesses about the case.
The parents of the self-employed log processer and father of two say they’ve already been told their son may have given a ride to the wrong person the night of his death.
With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin