Police feared for safety of family inside the night they shot Felix Taqqaugaq in his home
Rant on community radio included threats to officers, lead investigator testifies
The rant that Felix Taqqaugaq made on his community radio station the night he was shot by police included threats to RCMP officers.
That's according to testimony from Cpl. Dan Donison, the lead RCMP investigator on the case, speaking on the second day of the inquest into Taqqaugaq's shooting death by police in Igloolik, Nunavut, in March of 2012.
Donison, who based his testimony off his opinion from the findings of the investigation, said the officers first tried to find Taqqaugaq, even going as far as going on community radio themselves to reach out to him. Police later went to his home.
During a brief discussion on Taqqaugaq's porch, one officer told him he was under arrest, but Taqqaugaq wouldn't comply with police commands. After Taqqaugaq went back inside, the officers feared for the safety of Taqqaugaq's family in the home.
An officer then tried to use a stun gun on Taqqaugaq, but it failed — Donison speculated that one of the two prongs didn't reach Taqqaugaq's skin — and the second officer pursued Taqqaugaq into the home.
When inside the house, Taqqaugaq attacked the second officer, who then retreated back outside, fearing for his life. The first officer then went back into the house, came face to face with Taqqaugaq, who Donison said attacked the officer with a knife, and was then shot by the officer out of fear.
The jury also heard from forensic pathologist Alfredo Walker, who testified that one of the three shots was fired within 0.6 metres from Taqqaugaq. He also said he found high levels of cannabis in Taqqaugaq, but no alcohol.
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Another witness testified that Taqqaugaq's radio rant was about how he believed the RCMP owed him money.
That testimony came from John Monette, a retired OPS detective who oversaw the N.W.T. RCMP's investigation.
Monette also revealed there was an eyewitness whom police interviewed, who claimed Taqqaugaq was held at gunpoint, and then was shot as an officer fell to the ground.
RCMP Cst. Ben Kershaw, one of the team's interviewers, gave a different account from the same eyewitness later in the day, saying the witness told police he saw Taqqaugaq being cooperative with officers, and willingly gave the knife to one of them. Kershaw, who read summary notes from the witness's statement, made no mention of the witness saying Taqqaugaq was held at gunpoint.
'I did not want to have my guys do this investigation'
Cpl. Donison also testified that he never wanted his team from the Northwest Territories detachment to conduct the investigation, because of the public perception of a conflict of interest.
Instead, he requested an external police agency handle the investigation.
"I did not want to have my guys do this investigation," Donison said. "I was told there was nobody else, and I recognize it has to be done."
The Ottawa Police Service did send its own team to oversee the N.W.T. RCMP's investigation, and the OPS also reviewed "opinion evidence" to determine if the RCMP's use of force against Taqqaugaq was appropriate.
The purpose of the N.W.T. RCMP was simply to determine if a crime had been committed. Throughout its investigation, Donison testified, the RCMP interviewed about 23 witnesses.
Officers never treated a suspects
He noted the officers involved in the shooting were never considered suspects in the case, and were treated as witnesses.
That meant the officers were never detained, and were free to go about their lives. Investigators didn't interview them about what happened until nine days after the shooting — though one officer had filed an incident report shortly after Taqqaugaq was shot.
Donison explained the delay by saying "we wouldn't conduct an interview with somebody until we had all the evidence ourselves," adding whenever police declare someone a suspect, they have to clear it with a judge, who also must agree.
"I have to make sure those interviews are done, so that if they become suspects, that they can be admitted in court."