RCMP investigate two freezing deaths

The Mounties are taking over an investigation into the deaths of two native men found frozen on the outskirts of Saskatoon.

Lawrence Kim Wegner, a 30-year-old student at Federated College was found dead in a field on Feb. 3 near the Queen Elizabeth II power plant. Rodney Naistus, a 25-year-old, was found on Jan. 29, in an industrial area just north of the power plant.

John White, Saskatchewan's deputy justice minister, said the RCMP were brought in when Saskatoon's chief of police asked for an outside investigation of a series of incidents, including the deaths.

"We will proceed with the normal criminal investigation and, if required, prosecutorial decision," White said.

Early Wednesday, Police Chief Dave Scott said he had no reason to link the two deaths with a complaint by another native man against two of the city's police officers.

Darrell Night claims he was driven to an area near the same power plant, ejected from the car, and told to walk home in freezing weather.

A friend of Night's spoke on his behalf, Wednesday, "They took him out to the same area, took his jacket and told him to walk back," said Darlene Katcheech.

Veteran cops suspended

Scott said the two officers involved in the complaint came forward last Monday of "their own free will", and were "forthright with all information".

The officers' statements will be reviewed by the Public Prosecutor's office in Regina, and a decision will be made whether or not to lay charges.

The officers, one a 10-year veteran, the other a 15-year veteran, have since been suspended for 30 days pending an internal police investigation into the complaint.

Aboriginal and anti-racism groups in Saskatchewan were outraged that there would not be an independent investigation into the native man's complaint.

"This is nothing short of blatant abuse of authority, abuse of power, and anybody who takes their dog out like that would be charged," said Lawrence Joseph of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.

The Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations were both planning to meet with the provincial justice minister to ask for an independent investigation.

"We're very, very concerned that we're left with serious allegations involving police officers and we have no external review process to turn to," said Bob Hughs, of the Saskatchewan coalition.

The public outcry appeared to have an impact. By the end of Wednesday, Police Chief Scott announced that an independent investigation is needed to ensure public confidence in the police.

Scott insists that there is no evidence so far to link the two police officers to the men found frozen to death. "We have nothing to indicate in the death of these two people any suspicion or foul play," Scott told reporters.