Timothy Atlookan's mom may never know what led to son's death but police say it's not suspicious

The Thunder Bay police have told Donna Atlookan-Mekanak they may never know definitively the circumstances that led to her 26 year-old son's 2018 death, but they believe it was suicide.

Donna Atlookan-Mekanak says she still wants to see full police report of investigation

Donna Atlookan-Mekanak, mother of Timothy Atlookan, reads through a coroner's report into her son's death at her home in Thunder Bay. (CBC News)

The Thunder Bay police have told Donna Atlookan-Mekanak they may never know definitively the circumstances that led to her 26 year-old son's 2018 death, but they believe it was suicide.

Her son, Timothy Atlookan, originally from Eabametoong First Nation, was found dead in a park across from the Thunder Bay courthouse on the morning of Oct. 29, 2018. 

"It seems implausible that someone else did this to Timothy, according to the investigators," said notes compiled by a provincial family liaison unit worker who attended a June meeting between police, the coroner and the family, that were provided by the family to CBC News.

"It seems likely that Timothy did this himself, but they cannot say with 100 per cent certainty. The evidence does not make this definitive."

CBC News obtained notes from meetings in June and April.

Timothy Atlookan, 25, was found dead in a Thunder Bay park on Oct. 29, 2018. (Submitted by Donna Atlookan)

The police investigator told Donna Atlookan-Mekanak that the case was initially considered "criminally suspicious" and that it was treated as a high priority because her son was found "in a public place," according to the notes from a meeting held in June.

The investigator said the case was approached with "an open mind" but the leads had run cold. While there remained one probable conclusion, some parts of the story may never be known, the investigator told the family, according to the notes. 

A coroner's report provided to CBC News also concluded the death was by suicide.

Donna Atlookan-Mekanak said she wants a copy of the police investigation files so she can read the details of the investigation herself and draw her own conclusions about how it was handled. 

Thunder Bay police denied her access to information request because the case remained open. Now she has obtained a lawyer to help her get the records.  

"I am tired, I am really tired," Atlookan-Mekanak, in an interview with CBC News. 

"My thoughts are going nuts and my insides are something else. I can't even begin to describe what I'm feeling.

"We may never know what happened to him."

Donna Atlookan-Mekanak, right, mother of Timothy Atlookan, weeps in the arms of her husband Jacob Mekanak, in December 2018, in the park where her son was found dead. (Jorge Barrera/CBC)

Rumours that foul play may have played a role in Timothy Atlookan's death began almost immediately after the death.

According to his sister Sharrayne Atlookan, there was talk of drug debts, bad blood, murder made to look like a suicide, a threat against Timothy Atlookan's children if he didn't take his own life, she said.

According to the meeting notes, Thunder Bay police knew that Atlookan went to the home of a friend who lived near the park after he left Newfies bar in the early morning hours of Oct. 29, 2018. However, it appears they did not manage to interview that individual, according to the notes.

The notes from the April meeting show that police investigated bar room conversation that suggested foul play.

A police investigator flew to a First Nation, which is not identified in the notes, to track down that rumour and speak with the woman who was overheard, the notes from an April meeting said.

The woman was interviewed for two hours and told police it was a "misunderstanding," that all she said was that she had buried her own boyfriend to suicide, according to the notes.

"I do not believe she had any responsibility," the police officer is quoted as saying during an April meeting.

Video deleted

Police also spoke with Tamarah Goupile, 19, who was Timothy Atlookan's girlfriend at the time of his death. She was with Atlookan before he left the bar.

A surveillance camera that was installed on a nearby home captured the movements of one individual in the park in the early morning hours before her son was found.

By the time police found out about the video camera, the footage had been deleted. Investigators could only rely on the witness's memory of what they saw in the vanished footage.

The notes indicate a second witness also saw the same video and was interviewed by police.

Investigators reviewed video footage from cameras that were mounted on the courthouse across from the park, but those failed to capture any activity at the time of Timothy Atlookan's death, according to notes.

"Video caught emergency vehicles attending, but nothing else," said the notes from the April meeting.

Atlookan-Mekanak said she doesn't understand how investigators took so long to discover the house with the surveillance camera since it was so close to the park. 

"I don't think they gave a flying hoot," said Atlookan-Mekanak. 

"If it wasn't for people being vocal, I don't think they would have done anything. They would have just ruled it out."

Thunder Bay police said in a statement that they "reached out immediately" to the owner of the camera when "investigators were made aware of a potential witness" and obtained a statement.

"Police remain open to any new information that could help advance this investigation."

Where to get help:

In Thunder Bay: Contact CMHA Thunder Bay crisis response services 807-346-8282 or 1-888-269-3100

For Indigenous women in Ontario: Talk 4 Healing 1-855-554-HEAL

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (Phone) | 45645 (Text)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat counselling at

About the Author

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him