The father of an Indigenous teen killed by a Winnipeg police officer last April is criticizing a police watchdog report, which says no charges are recommended against the officer involved in the fatal shooting.
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba released a report Thursday on its investigation into the April 8, 2020, death of 16-year-old Eishia Hudson. The girl was shot and killed following a pursuit, in which police say she drove a vehicle involved in a liquor store robbery in Winnipeg’s Sage Creek neighbourhood that day.
“She had a great smile.… Anybody out there who knew her, you know she definitely wanted to light up the room,” said William Hudson, Eishia’s father, at a Thursday afternoon news conference following the release of the report.
“She wanted to be the loudest one in the room,” he said, describing his daughter as a girl who loved playing hockey and basketball.
At the news conference, he and Manitoba Indigenous leaders criticized the report’s findings.
Hudson dismissed the report as “biased,” saying he did not trust the Independent Investigation Unit to be impartial, and called on Premier Brian Pallister to launch a public inquiry into his daughter’s death and other fatal police encounters involving Indigenous people.
“This incident is a tragedy, magnified by the loss of a young life,” IIU civilian director Zane Tessler said during a separate news conference announcing the findings of the report.
During its investigation, the IIU talked with 14 civilian witnesses — including three of the four passengers in the vehicle driven by Hudson, in addition to reviewing forensic evidence, and audio recordings of a 911 call and Winnipeg police radio transmissions.
The IIU also talked with several witness police officers. The officer directly involved in the shooting declined to be interviewed, but provided notes and a prepared statement, the IIU said.
The report includes an account from a witness who recorded cellphone video of part of the incident at the intersection of Lagimodiere Boulevard and Fermor Avenue.
WATCH | Witness video of the April 8, 2020 incident:
He described seeing a vehicle, which was being pursued by police, hit another vehicle. Then, as the first vehicle — which was surrounded by police officers — tried to reverse, he heard the sound of gunshots, according to the IIU report.
One bullet hit Hudson, killing her.
“I watched the video over and over, I don’t know how many times,” William Hudson said Thursday.
He said the officer’s written account of the incident didn’t match up with what was shown on the video.
3 police shootings in 2 weeks last year
The shooting — the first of three fatal encounters involving Indigenous people and Winnipeg police within a span of less than two weeks last spring — sparked rallies, vigils and calls for justice.
The Independent Investigation Unit — which is mandated to investigate all serious incidents involving Manitoba police — launched its investigation into Eishia Hudson’s shooting in April of last year.
Tessler said he was satisfied that “no stone was left unturned,” and he hoped that releasing the full report will mean the public can have confidence in the investigation.
“In the end, I think what’s critical is that all factors have been presented to the public for their consideration,” he said.
“I can understand that there is upset by many, but the facts are what drives any investigation.”
The IIU report says it had referred the case to Manitoba Prosecution Services, which recommended that no charges should be laid.
An excerpt of the 45-page report prepared by the prosecution service was included in the IIU report.
“We have concluded that there is no evidence that [the officer] acted outside of the scope of … the Criminal Code [section] that governs the use of force by police officers,” the prosecution service wrote, according to the report.
Tessler said he invited members of Hudson’s family to meet with him before the report was released, but they declined.
Indigenous leaders, including Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, met with Tessler to discuss the report, he said.
“The issues that were of concern to Chief Daniels are issues that still exists regardless of this report. I’m hopeful that people will give due consideration to the efforts undertaken by the IIU investigators in accumulating all of the evidence … and to the efforts undertaken by prosecutions in reviewing this manner.”