Yellowknife RCMP clear own officers of alleged assault against Yellowknife man

RCMP have laid charges against two people after investigating allegations made by Benjamin Manuel that he had been assaulted by officers on June 10 behind a convenience store in Yellowknife, and have cleared their own officers of the allegations.

Benjamin Manuel alleged he was beat up by police on June 10 behind a convenience store

Benjamin Manuel, centre, on June 12. He shows marks on his face, which he alleged were delivered to him by RCMP in Yellowknife. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Yellowknife RCMP have cleared their own officers of an alleged assault against Benjamin Manuel. Instead, two civilians have been charged with assault following the police investigation into Manuel's allegations.

Last week, Manuel, a Dene man, alleged he was beat up by police on June 10 behind a convenience store in the city. The allegations first surfaced on Facebook. They were widely reported by local and national media on June 12 when Manuel and about a dozen supporters visited the RCMP police detachment in Yellowknife on the day of a police press conference not specifically related to Manuel's allegations.

N.W.T. police addressed allegations of assault by officers, and the charges against two civilians, in two news releases Friday without mentioning Manuel by name. One of those releases was later recalled.

Police say they learned of the allegations on June 10 and immediately began an investigation.

"RCMP reached out to the victim and took information from the victim, along with several other persons," both news releases state. 

"The investigation continued, and on Saturday, June 13, members of the public provided new information to the RCMP, advising they had witnessed an assault in progress, possibly involving the same victim, on June 10 in the area of Somba K'e Park."

Manuel shows marks on his face he alleged were delivered to him by RCMP in Yellowknife. Police now say no RCMP officer had contact with him on the day of the alleged assault. (Walter Strong/CBC)

"Three male suspects, none of which were RCMP officers, were described as allegedly assaulting the victim."

Police say officers had actually responded to the June 10 assault at approximately 7:48 p.m., but were unable to track down the victim, even after having seen him leave the area.

According to APTN news, Manuel provided the name of an officer he alleged had assaulted him.

Police say their "rigorous investigation" included interviews with more than 20 people and the co-operation of RCMP officers being investigated.

Police concluded that "No RCMP officers had contact with the victim on the day of the alleged assault."

Jamal Moosenose, 22, and a 16-year-old young offender who cannot be named, are both charged with assault causing bodily harm.

CBC was not immediately able to reach Manuel for comment.

Series of miscues

RCMP Inspector Alex Laporte addresses Manuel, right, on June 12 in Yellowknife. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Inspector Alex Laporte, the officer in charge at the Yellowknife RCMP Detachment, was set to speak to reporters about the investigation during a news conference for media on Friday afternoon in the front parking lot of the detachment. However, the RCMP media relations team later announced it was cancelled.

A press release Friday afternoon, which contained extensive comment attributed to Laporte, was recalled shortly thereafter. A revised news release was made with most of Laporte's comments removed.

Police initially said the allegations of assault had been "discounted," but the amended release said only that they had confirmed no officers had contact with the victim on that day.

RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the changes.

In that second news release, Laporte states: "We continue to work with the victim, to support him through the trauma of an assault. I also thank the GIS investigators and other members who assisted with this investigation to date. Their timely commitment to finding the facts, and following the leads and evidence, has provided answers for the victim, and the community as a whole."

RCMP request anyone who may have witnessed the "possible assault" in or near Somba K'e Park on June 10 to contact the Yellowknife detachment.