Man fatally shot by Winnipeg police in 2019 to be honoured at rally for black lives

Friends and family of Machuar Madut, a South Sudanese man who was shot and killed by Winnipeg police last year, will be his voice at a rally Friday in support of black lives. 

43-year-old Machuar Madut had mental illness

Sandy Deng will speak about Machuar Madut, who was shot and killed by Winnipeg police last year, at a rally in Winnipeg honouring black lives on Friday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Friends and family of Machuar Madut, a South Sudanese man who was shot and killed by Winnipeg police last year, will be his voice at a rally Friday in support of black lives. 

The protest is in solidarity with movements south of the border against historical police brutality, sparked by the recent death of George Floyd, 46, on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minn. Floyd died after he was held down by three police officers, one of whom pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for several minutes.

"As black people we watch, and we hear the stories, but when Machuar was shot here in the city where I live, it became a reality to me and something that I have to be aware of," said Sandy Deng, a member of Winnipeg's South Sudanese community who knew Machuar Madut.

"This is a validation that these things do happen, and it's not just in the U.S. but here, even in Canada, in Winnipeg, Manitoba."

Madut, who came to Canada after fleeing Sudan and a Kenyan refugee camp, had mental illness and a poor grasp of English, Deng said. 

The 43-year-old was allegedly armed with a hammer when he was shot and killed by a Winnipeg police officer in an apartment on Colony Street on Feb. 23, 2019. He was the second black man killed by Winnipeg police since 2000. 

Deng will speak at the Manitoba Legislature Friday about what she describes as the injustice that befell both Madut and Floyd.

"It means a lot to me … this brought back a lot of memories of what had happened here," she said.

'They weren't going to give him a chance'

The Independent Investigation Unit's final report found the use of lethal force by the officer who shot Madut was necessary in order to prevent the injury or death to him and other police officers, and he should not be criminally charged. 

Deng read the report and says she doesn't believe justice was served.

"They didn't look at who he [Madut] was, in my opinion. They just showed up and saw this scary big black dude and they weren't going to give him a chance to explain himself."

Sandy Deng, who knew Madut, will speak about him and injustice at the rally. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Madut, described by family and neighbours as quiet and polite, had been evicted from his apartment for damaging a door, according to the IIU report. He was up all night on Feb. 22, 2019, dragging furniture from his suite to the dumpster. 

He had been getting treatment for his mental health, but since the eviction, it was getting worse, said his cousin Ayei Madut who lived in the same building and watched over him. 

Machuar was having illusions that people were following him and he wasn't taking his medications, so Ayei made an appointment for him with his doctor and tried to fight the eviction, to no avail, at the residential tenancies branch.

"He's just vulnerable like you can not imagine," he said. "Vulnerable." 

He's just vulnerable like you can not imagine. Vulnerable.- Ayei Madut,  Machuar's cousin

Witnesses told CBC that Madut was banging on apartment doors with a hammer the morning of Feb. 23, and eventually broke into a suite, to the terror of the tenants who managed to get out. Several people called 911 while Madut proceeded to damage the suite.

Two responding officers eventually cornered Madut in the suite and when he didn't comply with their orders, they each used a stun gun on him, which had no effect because of his winter clothing, according to the report.

As the officers moved toward him, the report says Madut struck one on the head with a downward fist, causing no injury, then chased him around the suite with a raised hammer, prompting the other officer to shoot Madut several times. 

Deng says she thinks police failed to de-escalate the situation.

"Of course he was upset. And he was scared. I can tell he was scared because they're Tasering him and he's still fighting," said Deng.

"It could've been better if they were trained somehow to even identify that this is someone who's going through distress, or a mental health crisis."

A mental health expert who works with police on use-of-force scenarios has previously told the CBC police are trained in mental health and de-escalation, but there's zero tolerance if someone is moving toward them with something that could harm someone.

Ayei Madut advocated on behalf of his cousin Machuar Madut, due to his mental health struggles. He said he is not satisfied with the results of the IIU report. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Ayei Madut said his cousin had nowhere else to live, no family in Winnipeg and likely felt hopeless. That morning, Ayei was finishing a night shift and was not there to translate or intervene.

"It's just unfortunate that night I wasn't there. [It] wouldn't be that kind of outcome."

'An injustice to everyone'

The medical examiner's office has called an inquest into Madut's death. 

The CBC contacted the Winnipeg Police Service for comment but were referred to the Independent Investigation Unit.  In a statement, the IIU said the investigation is complete and the matter is closed, and the IIU has no role in the inquest unless it is called to testify. 

Deng was close with Madut's wife and said his mental health deteriorated when they split up in 2010 and she moved to B.C. with their three children. Madut often came alone to community events, graduations and funerals, she said, where people encouraged him with his treatment. 

"Machuar was a member of the community. We saw him all the time, everyone knew his personality as a human being," she said.

That's why she hopes all groups come together on Friday, she said, including other groups like Indigenous people.

"An injustice to anybody in society is an injustice to everyone," she said. 

"I would like to see allies, white people, people with privileges to acknowledge the fact that with our privilege we can make change in society. We can be allies to people who are oppressed."