Ottawa

Family of Indigenous man shot dead by police considering civil suit

The family of Greg Ritchie, who was shot and killed last January by two Ottawa Police Service constables, is considering bringing forth a civil case after Ontario's police watchdog announced Friday that no charges would be laid in his death.

Greg Ritchie, 30, was killed in a shopping mall parking lot in January 2019

Greg Ritchie, 30, was shot to death by Ottawa police on Jan. 31, 2019. His family is considering filing a civil lawsuit after Ontario's police watchdog decided Friday not to pursue charges against the two officers. (Submitted by Chantel Ritchie)

The family of an Indigenous man shot and killed by two Ottawa Police Service constables say they're considering further action, including the possibility of a civil suit — but first they want to see more evidence.

On Friday, Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) found that no charges were warranted against the two constables in the January 2019 death of 30-year-old Greg Ritchie.

Ritchie was shot three times in the parking lot of the  Elmvale Acres Shopping Mall., following an altercation with two officers, Thanh Tran and Daniel Vincelette. 

The constables were investigating what they called a "suspicious incident" in the area.

The SIU report found that Ritchie was carrying a 40-centimetre long stick with a rock attached to one end, and swung it at one of the officers before he was killed.

One of the officers shot Ritchie twice with a Taser, the SIU found. While he was struck by three bullets, the two officers fired at least nine shots, according to the report.

Lawyer wants to see evidence 

SIU director Joseph Martino said the evidence showed the officers used "reasonably necessary force" and no charges were needed — but it's the nature of that evidence that Ewan Lyttle, the family's lawyer, takes issue with.

"For example, there were 13 witnesses to whatever happened. There's CCTV video. There's cell phone video," Lyttle told CBC News on Saturday.

"The director in his report doesn't cite what each witness saw or heard, and does not explain what can be seen in the video. He simply says, 'I've relied on this body of evidence, and this is my conclusion.'"

Lyttle said he's requested that evidence from the SIU, adding that the family is open to launching a civil case if it suggests one might be possible.

A coroner's inquest could also be a future step, he said.

Ewan Lyttle, lawyer for the family of Greg Ritchie, says he's requested to see the evidence in the SIU's report. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

Lyttle said he already sees some inconsistences with the report — for instance, the fact witnesses reported seeing and hearing gunshots just before 8 a.m., but one of the officers fired his taser at 8:07 a.m.

"[That] would suggest that gunshots were fired before Tasers were deployed," he said.

"I can only base [my conclusion] on what I've read in the report, but those times are off. That's an issue that needs to be sorted out."

9 shots 'ridiculous'

One advocacy group for Indigenous rights in the Ottawa area believes cases like these affect how members of the community will interact with police.

"I think they're going to be scared, for one thing," said Elmer St. Pierre, chief of the Ontario Coalition of Indigenous Peoples.

"Why did they have to kill him? ... They could've shot him in the arm, shot him in the leg, anywhere. But to shoot nine times at a person — that is ridiculous."

Ritchie's family said he was dealing with mental health issues at the time of his death. (Submitted by Chantel Ritchie)

Family 'very upset'

For the moment, the Ritchie family is only speaking through their lawyer.

They'd previously told CBC News, however, that Ritchie — a member of the Saugeen First Nation in southern Ontario — had been dealing with mental health issues at the time of his death.

"They're very upset. I mean, it's been a year now, so they've had time to process this," Lyttle said.

"They've been very patient and very stoic, but they're still waiting for answers. And it's been a long time."

Lyttle said he expects to meet with the family and the SIU in a week or two and to receive the evidence cited in the report in about a month.

After reviewing it, the family will decide on their next step, he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalia is a multi-platform journalist in Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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