British Columbia

Indigenous man shot dead by Tofino RCMP, B.C. police watchdog investigating

A young Tla-o-qui-aht man, identified as 28-year-old Julian Jones, was shot dead by Tofino RCMP in a residence on Saturday night. B.C.'s police watchdog is investigating the incident.

The man, identified as 28-year-old Julian Jones, was shot dead Saturday night

B.C. RCMP said in a written statement that two officers from Tofino RCMP attended a residence on the Opitsaht First Nation on Saturday night as they searched for a woman believed to be in distress.  (Stuart Forster/Shutterstock)

A young Tla-o-qui-aht man was shot dead by Tofino RCMP in a residence on Saturday night, community leaders have confirmed.

B.C. RCMP said in a written statement that at around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday two officers from Tofino RCMP attended a residence in the village of Opitsaht as they searched for a woman believed to be in distress. 

After they arrived, a man was shot and killed. Another man was taken into custody. The woman was located and taken to hospital for medical assessment.

The victim has been identified by community leaders as 28-year-old Julian Jones.

Located at the southwest end of Meares Island in Clayoquot Sound, Opitsaht is part of the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation and sits across the water from Tofino.

Moses Martin, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation chief councillor, said he had spoken to RCMP, who said an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

The statement from RCMP said the Vancouver Island General Investigative Section (GIS) is investigating the call to police, including allegations that the woman was being held against her will. 

Second shooting of Tla-o-qui-aht

Jones' cousin Bert Brown said he was heartbroken by the news, which has the community rattled.

"It's heartbreaking, it's not something that anyone wants to go through," he said.

Hugh Braker, president of the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of British Columbia, said Jones was well-known in the Tofino and Port Alberni communities. 

"This is causing a lot of profound shock in the community. This is the same First Nations community that lost a young woman last year to a fatal police shooting. And we're still not satisfied with the results of the inquiry into that death," he said.

In June of last year, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, was shot and killed by a police officer during a wellness check in New Brunswick. Moore grew up on Vancouver Island and had recently moved to be with her mother and six-year-old daughter.

"We're sick and tired of police investigating police. We just don't trust investigations," said Braker, saying his organization will be issuing a letter calling for an open, and rapid investigation.

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council of which the Tla-o-qui-aht nation is a member, echoed these concerns.

"You question whether or not the police are properly trained to de-escalate a situation. There must be other ways, you know, to have someone stand down," Sayers said, noting that Jones was not a large man, standing five feet, two inches and weighing 120 pounds. 

"People are reeling, wondering why this happened ... What kind of fear is there in these officers of Indigenous men that they have to do this?"

The Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, a civilian-led police oversight agency, is now investigating the incident.

With files from Michelle Ghoussoub, Zahra Premji, Wawmeesh Hamilton, Yvette Brend and CHEK News

now