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Top Nunavut cop gives more details into how Kinngait man was killed by officer

Nunavut RCMP's commanding officer told CBC News that Attachie Ashoona was killed in February because he went after an officer in his home while wielding a knife and threatening to kill others in the house.

RCMP commanding officer releases rare details into fatal February shooting of Attachie Ashoona

This week, Nunavut RCMP Chief Supt. Amanda Jones gave more details into the incident in February, when a man from Kinngait, Nunavut, was killed by an officer. (David Gunn/CBC)

In the face of mounting pressure for transparency and rising tensions in Kinngait, Nunavut, the territory's top Mountie made the unusual decision to release details of an investigation into the February shooting death of a man in the community.  

Attachie Ashoona was killed because he went after an officer in his home while wielding a knife and threatening to kill others in the house, Nunavut RCMP's Chief Supt. Amanda Jones told CBC News.

The Ottawa Police Services conducted an investigation and issued a short press release earlier this week, clearing the officer of criminal wrongdoing in the incident. When serious incidents such as shooting deaths occur, the RCMP in Nunavut bring in either the Ottawa or the Calgary police to investigate. 

"It is important that the relationship with our communities is maintained and that community members know that our members were acting in line with their duties and in scope of their training," Jones said. 

The RCMP have been facing growing pressure for more transparency and accountability from Nunavut and other Canadian leaders. 

The lack of information that we're providing is obviously causing angst to the communities.- Amanda Jones, Nunavut RCMP commanding officer

But investigations of police by another police force have been roundly criticized by experts for years. After investigating, the Ottawa or Calgary police usually issue a short press release with little information besides their finding. 

Jones said people would be right to doubt such investigations because of the lack of transparency. 

"The lack of information that we're providing is obviously causing angst to the communities, not just the community itself but to Nunavut as well," Jones said before providing more information.

Jones's account provides only the narrative from the Ottawa police investigation. 

A coroner's inquest is legally mandatory when police kill a Nunavut resident and provides numerous other narratives and witnesses, including locally. The Nunavut coroner's office told CBC the inquest into Ashoona's death has not yet been scheduled but it hopes to conduct the inquest in 2021. 

'Within 3 feet she discharges her firearm'

According to Jones, two officers responded to a domestic call on Feb. 26 and were told that a woman was screaming and being dragged. 

A second emergency call said a man was also being beaten, Jones said. 

Nobody wants to do that. No one wants to take a life. And it's devastating for [the officer], it's devastating for the family.- Amanda Jones, Nunavut RCMP commanding officer

When the officers arrived, Jones said Ashoona's father stood outside the house bleeding and they heard Ashoona yelling from inside the house that he was getting a knife. 

"The officers did not know if the female who had been reported as dragged was inside the residence," the RCMP said in a press release issued Thursday.

The officers climbed the steps to the house and at the door saw Ashoona with a knife saying he was going to kill them and they should shoot him, Jones said. 

The officers warned Ashoona to drop the knife and stop moving but Jones said he didn't comply. 

Jones said an officer stepped into the house to evade Ashoona, and became "stuck" in the home. That's when Ashoona turned and went toward that officer "while making stabbing motions," the news release said. 

The officer warned him to stop, said Jones.  

"He doesn't stop, and within three feet, she discharges her firearm," Jones said. "Nobody wants to do that. No one wants to take a life. And it's devastating for [the officer], it's devastating for the family, and obviously for Ashoona."

With a population of about 1,500, Kinngait sits near the southern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut. Attachie Ashoona of Kinngait was killed because he charged at an officer in his home while wielding a knife and threatening to kill others in the house, Jones told CBC News. (Travis Burke/CBC)

When asked why officers did not shoot Ashoona to stop him rather than to kill him, Jones said that's not how police officers are trained. 

"Our training is that we shoot to stop somebody, and you shoot at the centre of mass, because if you shoot an arm or a leg, you could miss," she said. 

RCMP increase officer staffing in Kinngait

Numerous incidents partially depicting interactions between RCMP and Kinngait residents have been posted online in recent months. One that went viral and garnered national attention in June involved a young Inuk man taken down by an RCMP truck

Jones said investigations into that incident — an internal code of conduct investigation, one by the Ottawa Police Service and one by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP — are all still underway and no update is available.

Jones assured Kinngait residents that their safety remains the RCMP's top concern.

The Kinngait detachment is the busiest in the territory, Jones said, with 300 more files opened this year compared to the same time last year.  (CBC News)

But the detachment is the busiest in the territory, Jones said, with 300 more files opened this year compared to the same time last year. 

Her division has funding to station six members in Kinngait but because of the high volume and severity of crime, Jones said there are currently ten officers there. 

"The members are not getting any rest and they're run off their feet. So in order to make sure that the community is safe and our members are safe, we're maintaining them at 10," Jones said. 

Like other communities in Nunavut, alcohol is behind much of the crime, she said. 

"Collectively as a government, the police, the community, we need to figure out how to reduce that alcohol consumption and the drivers for that," said Jones.

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