The RCMP’s independent Civilian Review and Complaints Commission has launched a probe into how police investigated the killing of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man who was shot by a farmer in Saskatchewan in a case that sparked nationwide protests.
The probe aims to determine if racism played a role in the police investigation and whether the RCMP followed proper protocols in gathering evidence and maintaining the crime scene following the killing of Boushie on Gerald Stanley’s farm near Biggar, Saskatchewan.
Stanley was found not guilty of killing Boushie by an all-white jury last month. His lawyers argued his gun went off as a result of a hangfire and that the 56-year-old farmer had no intention of killing the young man who he believed had come onto his farm in order to steal his property.
Boushie’s family has been pushing for the independent probe. They say that Stanley was acquitted in part because police didn’t adequately investigate the killing of the 22-year-old man from the Red Pheasant First Nation.
"The RCMP did a botched-up job," Debbie Baptiste, Boushie's mom told the CBC following the killing of her son in August, 2016. "They looked, and then they looked away."
Independent investigators say police did not properly secure the crime scene, allowing crucial blood spatter evidence to be tainted. Boushie was shot while sitting in an SUV and police left the crime scene without covering the vehicle with a tarp or closing its doors, allowing a rainstorm to wash away blood evidence.
The RCMP could have flown in expert interrogators to question Stanley and top investigators to look into the case, Boushie’s lawyer, Chris Murphy, told VICE News last month. According to him, they also could have flown in a blood spatter expert, instead of having police analyze blood evidence through photos.
The RCMP did not take a statement from Stanley on the night of the killing. He was taken into custody and photographed and then allowed to return to the police station the following day to give a statement. Independent investigators say this time lag is not proper practice.
"In the course of our review and our ongoing monitoring of events related to this tragic incident, it has become apparent that additional matters related to the conduct of RCMP members involved need to be examined," Guy Bujold, chairman of the RCMP’s Civilian Review and Complaints Commission said in a statement on Tuesday
Boushie’s legal team has argued that police did not take the investigation seriously and race played a factor in this decision. The case has become a flashpoint for Indigenous people and their supporters who say First Nations people face structural inequities in accessing justice.
The RCMP said it will fully cooperate with the investigation, but refused to comment on alleged shortfalls in their work as the probe is ongoing.
"Maintaining public trust and confidence is critical to providing an effective police service," the RCMP said in a statement, Canadian Press reported. "We look forward to the process addressing any uncertainty or outstanding questions regarding our role in this matter."