The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed a complaint against the Prince George RCMP in relation to the police-involved death of a First Nations man in July.
Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Wet’suwet’en man, died after he was pepper-sprayed while being arrested by Prince George police. The Independent Investigations Office was called into investigate. According to a release issued by the IIO at the time: “According to police, at 10:32 p.m. on Tuesday July 18, RCMP officers were responding to a call of a man ‘casing vehicles’ in the 1000 block of Central Street West in Prince George. Officers located the man and attempted to take him into custody. Police say a struggle ensued and they used pepper spray to subdue the man, who was then placed in a police vehicle. The man appeared to be having trouble breathing and police requested medical assistance. Police say once the ambulance arrived, the man was taken out of the police vehicle and collapsed. He was pronounced dead in hospital shortly after midnight.”
The BC Civil Liberties Association claims that members of the Prince George RCMP told witnesses to delete cellphone video evidence of the incident. In the complaint, the BCCLA questioned whether racial bias on the part of RCMP officers played a role in the incident.
“We have heard from witnesses that the police told them to delete the cellphone video they had taken of the incident,” said Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BCCLA, in a press release. “It is a crime for police to tell witnesses to delete evidence that could be relevant to an investigation. We expect that the Independent Investigations Office will fully investigate the allegations that police officers caused evidence to be destroyed, or attempted to do so. And if any other witnesses saw this happening, hopefully they will come forward.”
The BCCLA also claims, based on reports, that the RCMP saw Culver hours after the call had been made, and had no information that he was connected to any suspicious activity when they began to question him.
The IIO stated that it believes there were a number of eyewitnesses to the incident.
“Dale Culver should not have died that night,” said Chief Namoks of the Tsayu clan of the Wet’suwet’en, in a press release. “We need to get to the bottom of why he wound up dead at the hands of the Prince George RCMP, and of the allegations that officers told witnesses to delete their cellphone video evidence of the incident.”