2 Prince George Mounties charged with manslaughter, 3 others facing obstruction charges
PRINCE GEORGE --
The head of the union representing R-C-M-P officers says charges laid against Mounties in Prince George are "far from timely."
Constables Paul Ste-Marie and Jean Francois Monette have been charged with manslaughter. Three others, Sgt. Jon Eusebio Cruz and Constables Arthur Dalman and Clarence MacDonald are accused of attempting to obstruct justice.
Brian Sauve, president of the National Police Federation, says the six-year process leading up to charges created uncertainty for everyone involved and is simply unacceptable and unfair.
The prosecution service says the charges were approved by an experienced criminal lawyer who has no prior or current connection with the officers.
The person who died was 35-year-old Arthur Culver, also known as Dale Culver, an Indigenous man from the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Nations, who was arrested in Prince George on July 18, 2017.
An RCMP release from the time says police received a report about a man casing vehicles and found a suspect who tried to flee on a bicycle.
B.C.'s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, investigated the death and issued a recommendation of charges to the prosecution service in May 2020.
LOVED ONES REACT TO CHARGES LAID
Culver's loved one said they're pleased by the prosecution.
"I'm happy that it's going through and it's giving closure to Dale's family and friends and it helps with any other cases across North America," said Johnny Lee Morris, Culver's longtime friend.
"I'm feeling relieved that Dale's death is being noticed. And I know anybody that knows Dale knows that had (police) stopped and talked to him properly, that this wouldn't have happened," added Sylvia Jack, Culver's friend from high school.
"I'm glad this is bringing awareness that the RCMP do need a little more training and be better equipped with handling situations like this," she continued.
Terry Teegee, Regional Chief with the B.C. Assembly of First Nations said the charges might provide some relief and hope for loved ones.
" I don't know if they'll ever find real justice but this is a good step to question and to acknowledge that there is a real problem to the policing system here in British Columbia and in Canada," he said.
“TROUBLING ALLEGATIONS” INVESTIGATED
A report from the investigations office said there was a struggle when police tried to take the man into custody, other officers were called and pepper spray was used. Officers noticed the man appeared to have trouble breathing before he died while in police custody, the report said.
Following Culver's death, the BC Civil Liberties Association said it was aware of reports from eyewitnesses that Culver “was taken forcibly to the ground by RCMP members immediately after exiting a liquor store, apparently unprovoked.”
The association said there were “troubling allegations” that RCMP members told witnesses to delete cellphone video that they had taken.
“This would provide a strong basis on which to question the accuracy of certain RCMP members' statements to investigators and notes, as well as RCMP public statements,” the association wrote in a 2018 letter to the chairperson of the civilian review and complaints commission for the RCMP.
Brian Sauve, president of the National Police Federation, said in a statement that in-custody deaths are rare and tragic and the process in this case was “far from timely.”
“The investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of BC, the charge assessment by the BC Prosecution Service, and the ultimate charge approval decision by BC Crown counsel took almost six years, creating an extensive period of uncertainty for our members, Mr. Culver's family, and the community of Prince George,” he said.
“While we understand the challenges associated with insufficient funding and human resources, this delay is simply unacceptable and unfair, and British Columbians deserve better.”
He said plans to deploy body-worn cameras across Canada will help protect police and the public and provide transparency, evidence, and accountability.
“Out of respect for those involved, we ask that everyone allow the legal process to unfold in the courtroom, rather than in the media.”
The prosecution service said the charges were approved by an experienced criminal lawyer who has no prior or current connection with the officers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Tahmina Aziz