Police officer who shot South Sudanese man should be named and punished, protesters demand

About a hundred people gathered outside the Winnipeg Police Service's downtown headquarters Friday morning to protest the police's use of lethal force in the death of Machuar Madut.

'We're holding the system accountable,' says speaker at rally for Machuar Madut

Protesters rallied in support of Machuar Madut, 43, a newcomer from South Sudan, who was shot and killed by Winnipeg police on Saturday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Waving signs and chanting "we want justice" and "no more bullets," a crowd of protesters demanded answers from police about why an officer shot and killed South Sudanese newcomer last Saturday.

 A group of about 100 people gathered outside the Winnipeg Police Service's downtown headquarters Friday morning to question the use of lethal force on Machuar Madut, who was battling mental health issues.

"People who are living with mental health (issues) should not be shot and killed, they should be helped, they should be given an intervention," said rally organizer Sandy Deng, who pointed out it was the third police-involved shooting of 2019, second fatal.

"Shame, shame, shame," the crowd belted out in unison as a response. 

Sandy Deng organized the protest in support of Madut, who was suffering from mental health issues. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC News)

Using a bullhorn, organizers listed their demands. They asked police to name and punish the officer who killed Madut and to issue an apology for killing him and labelling him a criminal. They also called for an independent investigation into the shooting and for community programs to help immigrants and people who suffer from mental health issues. 

"What do you want?" organizers asked the crowd repeatedly. 

"Justice for Machuar," was the response.

Deng said there was no need for police to use lethal force when dealing with Madut. She said crisis intervention was the answer, and that police need to not pull the trigger so quickly.

"Get him help, there is no need to shoot. A brother, a son is dead and he didn't need to be," she said. "It wasn't just excessive force — a human being died."

A woman who lives in the apartment building where the shooting took place told CBC she witnessed Madut breaking through her neighbour's door with a hammer and smashing things inside their suite. She said the man then turned his attention on her, chasing her back into her apartment and banging on her door before police arrived.

While she couldn't talk about the shooting specifically, Const. Tammy Skrabek said officers receive ongoing training for such situations.

"It is something we're on top (of). Mental health training is something that is incorporated in our firearms training and our use-of-force training," said Skrabek. 

'Anti-black racism'

Alexa Potashnik, the founder of Black Space Winnipeg, said the black community needs answers and accountability from police for their actions. 

"People should be outraged. He was living there for two years … from one act he became a harm [to] everyone? I don't buy that story," she said.

"We're tired of this, this is enough."

Alexa Potashnik, the founder of Black Space Winnipeg, said she believes the ingrained white supremacy within the police force led to the killing of Machuar Madut. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC News)

Potashnik spoke at the protest about the rise of white supremacy and police brutality in the United States pouring over into Canada. She also led multiple chants of "black lives matter."

"I think if he were white, it would be a different result, 100 per cent," she said.

Community relations 

Winnipeg police Const. Tammy Skrabek said a member of the service met with protest organizers earlier in the week. 

"My understanding is that they were very appreciative, they now have an understanding of how our processes work," she said.

She said the officer provided information about protests, rather than information about the shooting, because the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba Unit has taken over the case.

Protesters outside of Winnipeg Police Service headquarters hold signs to condemn the lethal force used by police in the death of Machuar Madut, who suffered from mental health issues. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC News)

Skrabek added that by the end of the meeting both sides were laughing and on good terms.

But when CBC News asked Deng about the meeting, she didn't offer the same story.

"No comment," she said as she walked away. 

Skrabek said while she understands there is a desire for the community to want answers and said there is opportunity to sit down and discuss the issue with the community at large once the IIU investigation is complete.

"I think in general the relationships are still good. We understand and expected there to be certain level of outrage," said Skrabek.

However, Potashnik disagreed and said just because people are not hearing about problems every day, it doesn't mean tensions don't exist.

"We're holding the system accountable and seeing what we can do moving forward together as a community," said Potashnik.