Canadian Police-Involved Deaths in April 2023
Canadian Police-Involved Deaths in April 2023
At least five people had their lives taken in Canadian police actions in April 2023. Three of the victims have been publicly identified as Erin/Chug Norman, Derek Deon, and Boden Umpherville. Mr. Norman and Mr. Umpherville were Indigenous men. Mr. Norman was shot by Surrey RCMP. Mr. Deon was shot by Red Deer RCMP.
At least two of the five victims were in mental health crisis at the time police encountered them. One was in health crisis. Three people died during or after arrest, one of which was a Mental Health Act arrest. This is a reminder that policing is not about health and wellness and police are not an appropriate response to health needs.
At least eight people had their lives taken in Canadian police actions in March 2023, at least six people in February 2023, and four people in January 2023. In 2022 there were at least 117 police-involved deaths in Canada.
The details below are based on police reports, reports from oversight agencies, and in some cases information from families. As always, because there are no formal, systemic mechanisms for documenting and reporting police killings publicly in Canada, all numbers presented for police-involved deaths represent an undercount.
In addition to the known cases, there are cases of police-involved deaths in March that have no reporting. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of British Columbia reports three police-involved deaths in April for which there is no public reporting (Boston Bar, April 2, Pitt Meadows, April 10, and Terrace, April 14). All of these involved the RCMP.
April 2. Peel Regional Police. Mental Health Act Arrest.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating the death of a 34-year-old man early on the morning of April 2 in Brampton. They report that at approximately 4 AM, Peel Regional Police officers responded to a disturbance call at an apartment building in the area of Kennedy Road North and Vodden Street East. Officers became involved in some type of interaction with a man. The man was apprehended under the Mental Health Act.
A short time after, the man went into distress and then went vital signs absent. The man was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The SIU has assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to examine the death.
Policing is not about health care. Police are not an appropriate response to mental health issues.
April 5. Erin/Chug Norman. Surrey RCMP. Shooting
RCMP in Surrey, British Columbia, shot and killed Erin/Chug Norman, an Indigenous man, on the evening of April 4. The IIO reports that Surrey RCMP officers responded to a call at a multi-unit residence (the former Travelodge motel) in the 13900 block of 104 Avenue at around 9:30 PM regarding a suicidal person. When officers were attending the call, motel staff reported an armed robbery happening nearby.
Officers acted on that report and located two individuals. During that engagement, an officer fired shots. One person was struck and died at the scene. The second person was arrested and taken into custody.
RCMP blocked off the area near 104 Avenue and 139 and 140 streets overnight.
IIO head Ronald MacDonald reports that it appears only one officer fired, but it is not yet clear how many rounds were discharged.
It is also reported that the suicidal person who was the subject of the original call was spoken to and their well-being at the time was assessed.
April 13. Derek Deon. Red Deer RCMP. Shooting.
Red Deer RCMP shot and killed 33-year-old Derek Deon while he was in mental health crisis on April 13. His parents who say there was no reason for RCMP to deploy lethal force against their son. Mr. Deon was shot three times by RCMP officers and was tased. Details have been disclosed in interviews with Alberta media.
Jane and Vernon Deon report that the call to police was a mental health call and Red Deer RCMP knew about their son’s situation. They say that, despite this, officers “stormed” into their house and confronted their son. Vernon Dean recounted: “They came in and stormed the house, there was no plan. It was a complete take-down, it was completely unnecessary.” In his view, police “came down like they were going to war.”
The parents say that when the three police officers entered Derek’s bedroom he was only resting on his bed and fidgeting with a steak knife. They estimate that police tased Derek after only around a minute of conversation with him. Derek fell off the bed onto the ground. His parents report that an officer shot him three times before he could regain his footing. His father recalls, “I told them, ‘Don’t shoot’ … all the officer had to do was back up, he put himself in that position.”
As has been the case in numerous police killings of people in mental health crisis, the interaction with police happened very quickly with no apparent effort to speak with and comfort the person before resorting to lethal force. Vernon shares the sentiment of many family members and loved ones who have had people taken by police violence when he says that he wishes the officers had taken more time to talk to his son: “What was the rush? Just calm down — it doesn’t make any sense. It’s wrong … that wasn’t communicating. They wanted to sort it out in 30 seconds after I waited all week (for help for my son).” The Deons believe the officers’ aggressive actions escalated the situation needlessly.
Derek Deon’s parents say they did not feel physically endangered by their son, who had never held the knife up to either of them before the police arrived. In Vernon Deon’s words, “This wasn’t a hostage situation.” The family also disputes the RCMP press release claiming that they had been called for a complaint that the parents had been threatened with a knife.
The killing also shows the limits of the Police and Crisis Team, units that embed mental health workers with police. The local PACT had reportedly interacted previously with Derek on several occasions but was busy on another call at the time police were deployed to the Deon home.
Now another family is left in pain and sorrow for simply trying to get help for a loved one, in a system that provides police violence over care. Jane Deon says, “I wish we had never called the police.” No family should have this regret on top of their grief.
April 26. Boden Umpherville. Prince Albert Police. Beating. Taser.
Boden Umpherville, a 40-year-old Indigenous man left brain-dead after being beaten by police in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan on April 1, died on April 26, according to relatives. He had been on life support since the beating and was recently taken off.
Mr. Umpherville was stopped by Prince Albert Police Service officers on April 1. The Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) reported that the vehicle involved in the traffic stop had been reported stolen. When officers pulled it over, the registered owner was inside.
Videos posted on social media show officers using stun guns multiple times and struggling with a person said to be the driver of the vehicle. SIRT reports that Mr. Umpherville went into medical distress once he was in police custody.
The family says that Mr. Umpherville was left on the ground in handcuffs and his heart stopped beating for 20 minutes before it was revived when paramedics arrived.
Mr. Umpherville was a father of five.
April 28. Toronto Police Service. Arrest.
Ontario’s SIU is investigating the death of a 32-year-old man in Toronto police custody on April 28, 2023. They report that the man was arrested in the area of Wellesley Street East and Jarvis Street and placed in a cruiser to be taken to the police station.
Police claim the man ingested a substance while in the cruiser and the officer re-routed to hospital. Later in the day, the man went vital signs absent and was pronounced dead.
The SIU has assigned one investigator and one forensic investigator to examine the death.