Montreal

No charges laid against police officers in Nicholas Gibbs shooting

Quebec's top prosecutor, the Directeur des poursuites penales et criminelles (DPCP), says it will not lay charges against the officers who shot and killed 23-year-old Nicholas Gibbs, who was Black.

Quebec Crown says evidence produced by police watchdog did not indicate a criminal offence was committed

The Montreal police officers responsible for the shooting death of 23-year-old Nicholas Gibbs will not be charged, said Quebec's top prosecutor, the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP). (Submitted by the Gibbs family)

Quebec's top prosecutor, the Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP), says it will not lay charges against the officers who shot and killed 23-year-old Nicholas Gibbs, who was Black.

Gibbs was fatally shot by Montreal police in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood in August 2018.

The province's police watchdog issued a news release with preliminary information on the night of the shooting, saying police were called to the scene to break up a fight at the corner of Montclair Avenue and de Maisonneuve Boulevard.

During that intervention, one of the two men involved in the scuffle approached an officer with a knife. Police officers used a stun gun on the man "without success." Police then fatally shot the man, later identified as Gibbs.

It took the Crown two years to go over the evidence in the report by the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI). 

Tuesday afternoon, the DPCP said in a news release that the evidence in that report "does not reveal the commission of a criminal offence by the police officers of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) who took part in the intervention."

Gibbs's family filed a $1-million lawsuit against the City of Montreal three years ago, arguing that police used excessive and disproportionate force against him.

But that lawsuit has been waiting to go ahead, as the family waited for the Crown to finish reviewing the BEI report.

It's unclear what will happen with the lawsuit now that the DPCP has released its decision. 

"The relatives of the deceased were met by two prosecutors who participated in the analysis of the file in order to inform them of the reasons for the decision," the DPCP said in its news release.

Gibbs had three children under the age of six at the time of his death.

Family disappointed, advocates call for change

A mural was painted in his honour in NDG this year. Marcelle Partouche Gutierrez, a local community organizer and youth advocate, was involved in bringing that mural to life.

She said the decision is disappointing as it further shows the laws allowing officers to use reasonable force can be "highly subjective."

"I think killing a young man in a mental health crisis is not reasonable," she said. "It's a violation of human rights."

Gutierrez has been in contact with the Gibbs family. She said they are also disappointed both with the decision and the more than three years it took to reach it. 

Advocates like Marcelle Partouche Gutierrez from a collective of community organizations and groups are calling for change in the wake of the killing of Nicholas Gibbs. ( Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

Back in October, a spokesperson for the DPCP said the delay varies according to the specific circumstances of each case.

Advocates from a collective of community organizations and groups have been calling for acknowledgement of the harm as well as more accountability, anti-racism training, representativity, prevention and cultural mediation. 

Everybody has had a tough time in their lives, Gutierrez said, and the sentence shouldn't be death "because of the colour of your skin, because of where you come from, because of a language barrier."

She said she feels pain for the young man's family and all the young people who now believe the consequences of having a mental crisis can be death by police.

"We are failing as a society when we cannot bring the necessary assistance to young people who are in need of support, not such brutal violence," said Gutierrez.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

with files from Derek Marinos

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