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Igloolik boy, 8, still afraid of RCMP after witnessing police shooting in 2012

The coroner's inquest into Felix Taqqaugaq's shooting death by police in 2012 went into the weekend with its most emotional testimony yet.

'He would get a toy gun and pretend to shoot at the cops ever since then,' boy's father says

The RCMP detachment in Igloolik, Nunavut. On March 20, 2012, two RCMP officers went to the home of Felix Taqqaugaq after getting a call from someone in the community who became concerned after hearing Taqqaugaq ranting on the community's local radio station. He died after being shot three times. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

The coroner's inquest into the death of Felix Taqqaugaq went into the weekend with its most emotional testimony yet.

The 30-year-old, diagnosed with schizophrenia, died in 2012 after being shot by police in his home in Igloolik, Nunavut.

Neighbour Jacobie Amaroalik, who saw the whole incident through his window, struggled to get through his nearly two hours of testimony Friday.

Speaking in Inuktitut through an interpreter, he broke down on the witness stand when he spoke about the impact the shooting has had on his eight-year-old son, who also witnessed the shooting. 

"My young son does not want to go to school anymore. He knows the RCMP helps the breakfast program at the school and he does not want to see them," Amaroalik testified, sobbing.

"It was very terrible for my young son because after seeing this incident, he would get a toy gun and pretend to shoot at the cops ever since then."

Amaroalik also said four years after they witnessed the incident, he's still trying to get help to talk about it.

"I was told quite a while ago that either a psychologist or psychiatrist is available to me and my son. They said they'd talk to me and my son about how not to be afraid of police. We are still waiting today for that," he said.

2 locals recount radio rant

The jury also heard from two locals who heard Taqqaugaq's rant over the radio.

Theo Ikummaq testified Taqqaugaq was going on about how the RCMP confiscated $300,000 from him, and he wanted it back, going as far as threatening the police.

He immediately tried calling the RCMP, fearing for the safety of Taqqaugaq's family amid a possible confrontation between Taqqaugaq and the police.

Felix Taqqaugaq was shot by RCMP officers in his home in Igloolik, Nunavut, on March 20, 2012. He later died from his injuries. (Nick Murray/CBC)

Lizzie Makkik also heard the rant, but rather than call the police, she called the health centre. She recognized Taqqaugaq was in mental distress, and said she felt he needed a mental health worker to go with the police to his house to calm him down.

But Makkik said the nurse on call that night told her because threats had been made, it was an issue solely for the police to handle.

"Because of the statement he made earlier, he was quite upset with the RCMP," Makkik testified. "If there was another [person] involved, the outcome would have been different."

An exceptional case of schizophrenia

The last to take the stand Friday was Dr. Clarke Wilkie, who had treated Taqqaugaq at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre in Manitoba.

Wilkie gave the jury the first in-depth look at Taqqaugaq's struggles, but noted he was an exceptional case, socially speaking, given the family support he had behind him.

"Many men with schizophrenia, because it starts in the teen years, don't develop relationships. They don't have partners and they don't have children. Felix was unique in that," Wilkie said.

"I recall at one point he was quite concerned about his family not having food. I'm told when one of his children was quite ill, it was Felix that did CPR on that child and brought him to the health centre."
Between 2002 and 2011, Felix Taqqaugaq was admitted five times to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre in Selkirk, Man., more than 2,200 kilometres away from his home in Igloolik, Nunavut. (Google)

Wilkie testified how Taqqaugaq was admitted into Selkirk five times between 2002 and 2011, returning each time because he stopped taking his medication. He was first diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2000, after a suicide attempt.

Taqquagaq's first time at Selkirk was after he went to the RCMP in Igloolik, saying he thought his brother was possessed by the devil. Taqqaugaq sought help, because he was thinking of harming the devil inside his brother.

"Throughout all his admissions, his family was particularly supportive. They contacted him frequently in hospital, and asked to pray with him over the telephone," Wilkie said before having to gather himself on the stand.

"Many people who have chronic schizophrenia, their families and their partners are reluctant for them to come back home. But [Taqqaugaq's spouse] Mary was very receptive to Felix returning home."

Wilkie also noted how he's worked with first responders in Manitoba on how to deal with people with mental health issues.

"Paramedics in Winnipeg have opportunities to meet with the Manitoba Schizophrenia Association, and they often draw on a 'Hearing Voices' workshop," Wilkie said, explaining how the workshop recreates auditory schizophrenic symptoms.

"In Nunavut, often the first responders are the police. If someone phones the health centre [reporting an overdose], the health centre has a rule where they phone the police and asks the police to bring that person to the health centre," he said.

About the Author

Nick Murray is a CBC reporter, based in Iqaluit since 2015. He got his start with CBC in Fredericton after graduating from St. Thomas University's journalism program. He's also worked two Olympic Games as a senior writer with CBC Sports. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @NickMurray91.