Watchdog Still Won’t Say How Indigenous Man Died in Police Shooting

But police and the town did honour a police dog who died during the same altercation.
June 22, 2021, 4:59pm
RCMP police interceptor
Alberta's police watchdog offered more details into the death of Lionel Ernest Grey but still did not say if he was killed by police. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A 29-year-old Indigenous man died shortly after two cops shot at him following a manhunt in northern Alberta last week, according to a report from the province’s police watchdog.

The RCMP, Canada’s federal police force, said at a press conference last week Lionel Ernest Grey from Gift Lake Metis Settlement died following a two-day manhunt but would not say how. The incident also resulted in the death of a police dog.

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Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), a watchdog that investigates police shootings, released a report on the incident Monday that does not explicitly say the man was killed by police, but elaborates that “both officers discharged their service firearms” and the man “fell to the ground in the tall grass” and died at the scene. 

According to ASIRT, RCMP tried to stop a red Cadillac associated with Grey on the morning of June 17 but the driver fled. Officers allegedly did not chase the car, but 30 minutes later a different RCMP unit found it stuck in the mud and partially covered with a blanket. The report says two officers found a bag with ammunition and the man’s ID in the empty vehicle. 

Another officer joined the search with a police dog, who tracked the suspect “into thick bush” for several kilometres over about two hours. 

When officers found the man, he allegedly “exchanged gunfire” with police, during which time the police dog, Jago, was killed. ASIRT does not clarify who shot Jago.

Police backed down and were airlifted out by a civilian search and rescue helicopter, but returned with more resources and again found the suspect. Several officers fired shots and believed they hit him, but the man escaped again and police established he “did not, in fact, appear to be injured.” 

Several hours later, around 11:45 a.m. on Friday, two officers allegedly found Grey in a ditch and a “confrontation occurred” that led to the two officers firing shots and Grey dead.

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The report says a loaded semi-automatic .22-calibre rifle and a rangefinder were recovered from the scene.

ASIRT is continuing to investigate the police actions and is not offering any further details. 

RCMP said Grey was wanted on outstanding warrants for “persons crimes” but would not specify what  those crimes were. Court records show Grey was facing several charges related to an alleged sexual assault that took place in January 2020 in the Edmonton area.

Alberta RCMP posted a photo collage tribute to Jago on its Facebook page Friday, while the neighbouring town of High Prairie lowered its flags to half mast to honour the dog, who was handled by Cpl. Scott MacLeod. 

Police and some media outlets were slammed on social media for focusing more on the dog than the man who died.

The watchdog is also investigating another shooting in northern Alberta during which a suspect was killed and a police dog was injured. RCMP say they were responding to a dispute in a vehicle near Ardmore, three hours northeast of Edmonton, on Sunday night when there was a confrontation and an officer fired a gun. 

A CTV news analysis from June 2020 examining 100 recent cases of people shot and killed by police in Canada found that out of 66 deaths where the victim’s race could be determined, 25 were Indigenous.

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The analysis determined 1.5 out of every 100,000 Indigenous people in Canada are shot and killed by police, compared to a rate of 0.13 per 100,000 for white Canadians. 

In May, Indigenous leaders on Vancouver Island called for an investigation into RCMP conduct after two members of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation were shot by police in a three-month span, including 28-year-old Julian Jones.

Last June, the chief of Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation in New Brunswick spoke out after Rodney Levi was shot and killed by the RCMP, saying Levi was not a violent person.

Follow Kevin Maimann on Twitter.