APTN National News
Nearly seven years ago an Aboriginal man was shot dead by Winnipeg police on the front lawn of his home.
And to this day the family of Craig McDougall, from Wasagamack First Nation, have been trying to find out what happened.
All they know is that their son is dead and the officers involved were cleared.
Police shootings in Manitoba are subject to an automatic inquest but in the case of McDougall, 26, the province of Manitoba didn’t call one until last August.
“The question is why on earth would it take seven years?” said the family’s lawyer Corey Shefman. “It’s a little bit crazy and it makes the rest of the inquest that much less influential, because, of course, witness seven years down the road are not going to remember something other than what’s in their notes.”
After McDougall was killed the case was reviewed by up to three “outside” agencies, said Shefman.
“It first went to an outside police force, it then went to an outside Crown attorney (outside of Manitoba), then we believe it went to another outside police force for a follow-up investigation,” said Shefman. “But we’re not entirely sure because those reports haven’t been released to us and that is one of things we’re going to be asking for.”
Still, he said those investigations shouldn’t have taken so many years.
A date for the inquest hasn’t been set but Shefman expects the earliest it can happen is November.
McDougall’s family came to a routine hearing in February despite knowing they weren’t going to learn anything.
Shefman said they are desperate for answers and waiting for “justice.”
They want to know what happened in the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 2008.
Police said they were responding to 788 Simcoe St. on a disturbance call. They said at the time that McDougall had a knife when they shot him. APTN has confirmed McDougall was found with a kitchen knife. But it’s unknown how he got it.
Bob Norton is a former inspector with the RCMP and was hired as a private investigator to look into the shooting several years ago. The following narrative is based on portions of his report.
McDougall lived at 788 Simcoe St. with his dad Brian McDougall.
Brian returned home from a local bar at about 2:30 a.m.
People were having a few beers and about 45 minutes later an argument breaks outs forcing Brian to tell everyone to leave.
He also tells Craig to leave and not come home until he’s sober.
Craig is then seen in the lane behind the residence upset and arguing with people. One witness recalled Craig saying he wanted to kill himself.
Shortly after three females leave the back lane and Craig follows them onto Notre Dame Avenue. They allege he assaults them, pulling one of the females to the ground. Witnesses said he was yelling and screaming but didn’t know why.
The girls flag down a truck and the driver calls 911.
Craig returns home, shirtless, talking on his cellphone.
He was calling his girlfriend.
The three females tell police Craig assaulted them and give officers his home address.
While on the phone with his girlfriend police then show up at the house at about 5 a.m. and the girlfriend hears a female officer say “drop the knife”. Then she hears a male officer yell “drop the damn knife”.
She then hears four gunshots followed by a voice saying “man down, man down.”
Craig’s brother Johnny McDougall is at the house too and remembered seeing six officers outside and recalled hearing an officer say “He’s got a weapon. Put that knife down.”
Johnny saw two officers with their guns drawn.
It’s dark out with the scene lit only by a street light across the street.
He said Craig took a few steps towards police then they started shooting and he fell on his back. He said police were on the sidewalk and Craig was in the yard. Between them was a four-foot fence.
Police then handcuffed Brian, who was trying to get to his son. They also handcuff Johnny and a woman.
An ambulance doesn’t arrive within the 20 minutes following the shots and until police took Brian, Johnny and the woman away for questioning.
A total of five witnesses told Norton they never saw Craig with a knife in the period leading up to the shooting.
It’s not known where Craig would have gotten the knife because he never entered the house and it was too big to fit in a pocket.
The family have told Shefman they don’t trust police and want the relationship between Aboriginal people and the Winnipeg police to be part of the inquest’s mandate.
But Shefman said Winnipeg police have objected.
“I don’t think you can look at the death of a young First Nation man by police without exploring the larger issue of the relationship between police and Aboriginal people,” he said. “Craig McDougall’s father has said to us they don’t trust police.”