Manitoba

Supporters of man shot by Winnipeg police call for less force, more cultural awareness

About 50 people braved the cold to remember 26-year-old Chad Williams, who died after an altercation with Winnipeg police last Friday.

Chad Williams, 26, died after altercation with police in West End Friday

A vigil was held Wednesday night for Chad Williams, the 26-year-old man who died after an altercation with Winnipeg police. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

About 50 people braved the cold Wednesday night to remember a man who died after an altercation with Winnipeg police last Friday.

The vigil was held on Sherbrook Street between Ellice and Sargent avenues, in the place where 26-year-old Chad Williams was shot. 

"He was a loving person," said Rose Levasseur, Chad's grandmother.

Levasseur only saw her grandson off and on as an adult, but knew him well as a little boy.

"He was a good boy. He was easy-going, always laughing [at] this and that. I never ever seen or hear anything about Chad taking something away from other people … or even steal[ing] cars," said Levasseur.

Chad Williams' grandmother Rose Levasseur said her grandson was an easy-going and loving person. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Levasseur didn't know if Williams struggled with addiction issues, but said her grandson had recently been trying to get into carpentry.

"He was wearing this carpenter belt — there's some tools in it, he was still wearing that when they shot him," said Levasseur.

Winnipeg police said the night of the shooting, officers came across a man acting suspiciously near Sargent Avenue and Maryland Street. They said the man took off and met up with police again in a nearby vacant lot. Officers allege he pulled out a weapon and was subsequently shot.

"It's a tragedy for everyone involved, not only the officers that were forced to use lethal force, but also the family of the man who lost his life yesterday too," Const. Jay Murray said on Saturday.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba is investigating.

'Enough is enough'

Organizers of the vigil said they felt compelled to do something after hearing an Indigenous man had died in a confrontation with police.

"I seen Facebook videos and they really upset me to see and to hear of these incidents all of the time and I think enough is enough," said Lainee Walker, one of the organizers.

Tara Campbell didn't know Williams personally, but knows his family. She helped Walker organize the night in his honour

A drumming circle was held in honour of 26-year-old Chad Williams Wednesday night, five days after he died in an altercation with police. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

"They want awareness brought to the brutal way he died. It was excessive and we brought our drums tonight to bring healing and peace to the family and to honour Chad," said Campbell.

When asked in what circumstances it would be OK for police to use a gun, Campbell said, "Of course they have a hard job and if he was running at them or standing towards them with the weapon." But she said she doesn't believe that was the case with Williams.

Court records show in 2016 Williams had a run-in with police where he threatened officers with a metal bar and asked them to shoot him. At the sentencing hearing, Williams told a judge he was high on meth and wasn't in his right mind at the time.

Walker said this case is a clear example the justice system needs to change.

"That was a cry for help and I think there was obviously some mental health and addiction issues and there's not enough support and resources. And when someone's incarcerated, they're not dealing with their problems so they're coming out and reoffending and having the same problems," said Walker.

More cultural awareness

Organizers of the vigil said they felt police use excessive force and lack cultural awareness when dealing with Indigenous people. They hope that will improve following the IIU investigation.

"A better understanding, maybe better ways to help deal with things. Things are intense I know when you're chasing somebody, but a better protocol to follow that's a little peaceful," said Campbell.

"We're saying enough is enough."

Campbell and Walker want to see more resources put into mental health and addictions issues. They also want to see more sensitivity from police when they encounter people struggling with those issues.

"We need to be more understanding about that and careful when we work with people that are suffering from that.," said Campbell.

About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca