A group of Prince George Mounties have been charged with manslaughter and obstructing justice after an Indigenous man they arrested in the summer of 2017 died in their custody.
Constables Paul Ste-Marie and Jean Francois Monette are facing one charge of manslaughter each, while constables Arthur Dalman and Clarence (Alex) Alexander MacDonald and Sgt. Bayani (Jon) Eusebio Cruz are accused of attempting to obstruct justice.
Announced by the B.C. Prosecution Service on Wednesday (Feb. 1), the charges come close to three years after the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) recommended such action be taken against the RCMP officers.
In the course of their investigation, the IIO found police were responding to a call about a man allegedly checking out parked vehicles on the evening of July 18, 2017. When police arrived, the man reportedly tried to flee by bike. The officers caught up to him and a struggle ensued, in which police pepper-sprayed the man.
He was put inside a police vehicle where he appeared to be having difficulty breathing. Officers took him back outside, where the man collapsed. Paramedics were called and the man was pronounced dead.
The man was separately identified in a 2018 Police Act complaint by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association as 35-year-old Dale Culver.
The IIO didn’t detail why it was recommending charges of obstruction of justice, but in their complaint the civil liberties association said it had “learned of troubling allegations that RCMP members told witnesses to delete cellphone video that they had taken.”
The association also alleged that the officers used excessive force in arresting Culver and that racial bias may have played a part in their actions. None of their allegations have been proven in court.
All five officers are set to make their first court appearance in Prince George on March 14.