'They ganged up on him': Wife of Igloolik man killed by police heard shots fired

Mary Ijjangiaq wept Monday as she told a coroner's jury how she watched her husband, Felix Taqqaugaq, get shot in their Igloolik home by the RCMP in 2012.

RCMP lawyer questions witness about previous statement that Felix Taqqaugaq had tried to stab officers

Felix Taqqaugaq appears in an undated family photo. Aged 30, and diagnosed with schizophrenia, he was shot by police in his home in Igloolik, Nunavut, on March 20, 2012. He later died from his injuries. (submitted by Mary Ijjangiaq)

Mary Ijjangiaq wept Monday as she told a coroner's jury how she watched her husband, Felix Taqqaugaq, get shot in their Igloolik home by the RCMP.

The fact-finding inquest — mandatory for police-involved deaths — is looking into the circumstances into Taqqaugaq's death. A jury will come up with recommendations on how to make systematic improvements to avoid an incident like this happening again.

Ijjangiaq recounted how March 20, 2012 started out as a good day. Both she and Taqqaugaq were happy because that day they had got their child tax benefit and they'd be able to buy groceries.

But she awoke from a nap late in the day to see the RCMP at her house. At first, she said, Taqqaugaq and police were just talking. She said she didn't expect anything to happen because the officers just wanted Taqqaugaq to go see the mental health nurse.

The home where Taqqaugaq was shot. (Nick Murray/CBC)

By the time she went downstairs, things had escalated. One officer was holding up a Taser, and Taqqaugaq's voice was louder, but she said he was not angry. Then she heard the Taser fire — it failed — and Taqqaugaq ran back inside.

She remembers Taqqaugaq grabbing a kitchen knife with about a foot-long blade, and running through the hallway. She told the jury Monday that Taqqaugaq held the knife up at his chest.

She tried to yell "no" to stop the man she'd been with for 13 years. Then she heard two shots, and then a third, she said. She yelled in horror as she testified.

"They ganged up on him. He was deliberately provoked," she told the jury in Inuktitut, through an interpreter.

"I think [the officer] deliberately made sure he died."

Inconsistencies in statements

But Ijjangiaq's account to the jury differed from what she told officers in the days after the shooting, as the RCMP's lawyer Marsha Gay highlighted during her round of questioning.

Ijjangiaq told the jury Taqqaugaq had the knife up at his chest, but she told police at the time he had the knife over his head and tried to stab the officers, narrowly missing one before he was shot. Ijjangiaq also told the jury Taqqaugaq had consistently taken his schizophrenia medication leading up to the shooting, but told police at the time that he had stopped taking his medication.

Ijjangiaq said she was in shock when she gave those statements to police and that her brain is functioning better now.

"Your memory would be much more pertinent immediately after the event than four years later," Gay said.

After Gay finished her questioning, Ijjangiaq added that she didn't have an interpreter when she spoke to police the first of two times.

Police radio communications played

Wrapping up the fifth day of the inquest, the jury heard a real-time recording of RCMP radio transmissions from the incident. From the time officers radioed in to the Iqaluit command centre saying they had located the suspect, 60 seconds passed before one officer called out "Shots fired; suspect down."

The officer also said "I've shot my hand," revealing new information as to the extent of the officers' injuries in the incident, which were previously described as "non-life-threatening" without elaboration.

The jury will hear the context behind the recordings Tuesday, as the officers are expected to testify by video.

A judicial review application was also heard Monday. A judge dismissed the application to review Nunavut's chief coroner's decision to give standing to the Ottawa Police Service, but adjourned the matter of whether the officers would testify in person.

The lawyer representing the family, who filed the applications, said the family's desire to have the inquest wrap up supersedes their desire to have the officers testify in person. But the matter is not over, as the family still wants the matter discussed at a later date, after the inquest concludes.

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.