'Nothing hidden': Truth must be revealed in Cody Severight hit-and-run death, Crystal Taman's husband says
Husband of woman killed in crash with off-duty officer a dozen years ago says Severight death brings pain back
The husband of Crystal Taman is appalled another Winnipeg police officer has been arrested for impaired driving causing death.
Robert Taman hoped his wife's death in 2005 would have helped usher in some change when it came to officers going out for drinks after their shift, then driving home.
"But it never changes. So if it doesn't change [that means] they don't find it important enough to change, so it's going to continue until the organization, the association, somebody steps up and says, 'That's enough.'"
Crystal Taman was killed when an off-duty officer plowed his truck into the back of her car while she was stopped at a red light. Derek Harvey-Zenk was returning home in the morning from an all-night party with other officers.
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Taman offered his deep condolences to the family of Cody Severight, 23, who was crossing Main Street near Sutherland Avenue around 8 p.m. Tuesday when he was hit and killed.
The vehicle left the scene but 34-year-old Justin Holz, an off-duty Winnipeg police constable, was arrested a short time later about seven kilometres away.
"He's supposed to be a person protecting people not killing people," said Severight's aunt Nancy Gabriel. "He should have stopped right away, not just keep on driving."
The incident is being investigated by the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which examines all serious cases involving police, whether on or off duty.
Taman said Severight's death brings back the pain and frustration he and his family went through trying to get justice after Crystal was killed.
"My thoughts are never good when I hear this. It's like it's happening again," he said.
Holz, a criminal investigator who was an eight-year member of the police service, has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene.
He had just finished a day shift, which ended around 4:30 p.m., according to police Chief Danny Smyth, who was grilled at a press conference Wednesday about Holz's actions.
"I don't know the details of this officer's conduct after he got off duty. People go out for drinks after work, that's not an uncommon thing," he said. "I'm sure that will come out during the course of the investigation."
When a reporter pressed the subject of officers drinking, Smyth quickly noted "it's not uncommon for anybody to go out for a drink after work" but added that Holz made "a poor decision."
Smyth was also asked if the IIU investigation would look at whether other officers were with Holz and witnessed him getting into a vehicle in an impaired state.
"I think that would be a prudent course of action," he said.
Severight's family held a vigil at the crash site Wednesday afternoon and Taman was there to show his support.
"I get sad for the family and I know what they're going to be going through," he said.
Severight's grandmother Gloria Lebold said she wants to see justice served for Cody.
"I lost my grandson. It hurts the whole family and I think he should pay for what he's done to all of us," she said.
Justice is something Taman doesn't feel was properly served after Crystal's death.
Harvey-Zenk originally faced several charges, including impaired driving causing death, but all of them except dangerous driving causing death were stayed in a controversial plea bargain. He was eventually sentenced to two years less a day to be served at home.
The case led to an inquiry that was the catalyst for creating the IIU, but Taman said he has little confidence in the unit because it is still police investigating police.
He has advocated for accountability and integrity in policing since his wife's death and was a member of the Manitoba Police Commission, but he quit that role when an active member of the Winnipeg Police Service joined the IIU.
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Taman said he hopes the results of the IIU probe into Tuesday's crash don't hold anything back and that "any wrongdoings come out to the public."
"Nothing hidden," he said. "The truth is very important here."
Smyth said he hopes for the same thing.
"I want to make it clear that Const. Holz is being investigated criminally for his conduct and he will be treated accordingly, regardless of the fact that he was a member of the police service."
Holz has been released from custody on a promise to appear in court on Nov. 22. He has also been placed on administrative leave from the police service, pending the outcome of the investigation.