A year since a 22-year-old man was shot and killed on a rural property north of Biggar, Sask., a lawyer working with his family says he still has serious concerns with the case.
Colten Boushie died Aug. 9, 2016. He was a passenger in an SUV that drove onto a property owned by Gerald Stanley, 55.
Stanley has been charged with second-degree murder in Boushie’s death.
Details that have come out in court during a bail hearing and a preliminary inquiry held since Boushie’s death are subject to a publication ban.
Family’s lawyer says issues remain unaddressed
Chris Murphy is an Ontario-based criminal defence lawyer working with the Boushie family.
A former prosecutor and RCMP special constable, Murphy said he’s still waiting to hear back on a number of items he’s raised with police and the Crown.
He said the family remains particularly upset with the police search of the home of Debbie Baptiste, Boushie’s mother, shortly after the shooting.
“It was just, in my view, a very inhumane way to deal with the mother of a young man who had just been shot and killed,” he said.
Murphy previously told 650 CKOM that the search involved officers asking Baptiste if she’d been drinking and saw police go as far as checking inside her microwave when she said she’d left dinner waiting for Boushie’s return.
With Wednesday marking exactly one year since Boushie’s death, Murphy said the family is still waiting for a formal report in response to a complaint they filed with RCMP in early 2017.
He said they’ve been told informally that none of the officers involved in searching Baptiste’s home would face discipline.
“The RCMP officers who were involved in notifying Debbie Baptiste and Colten’s brothers have all essentially been found not to have committed any kind of wrongdoing whatsoever.”
Murphy said he doesn’t buy the justification he’s heard so far for the search. On one hand, Murphy said police have claimed they had reason to believe there could have been an armed individual in the home. On the other, he said officers stated Baptiste invited them inside.
“I’ve been doing criminal law for a long time. Those two things cannot co-exist. If the police believe that there is a person who is armed inside a residence, they don’t stand at the front door and have a conversation with the owner of the home about whether or not they can come in,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the family was still hoping for more information.
“We still haven’t received the final report. It’s been, now, eight months since the complaint was filed. It’s something the family wants answers to and they haven’t got them,” he said.
Along with the issues around the search of Baptiste’s home, Murphy said the family still hopes to have success with a petition to bring in an outside prosecutor and a different police agency to work on the case.
Murphy said that request stemmed from issues with how and when evidence was gathered.
In particular, Murphy said RCMP’s handling of the SUV Boushie died in had left a lack of confidence in how the case was being conducted.
The vehicle was left outside at a private impound lot, before Stanley’s defence ever had a chance to look it over. Murphy said this left the evidence compromised, and potentially jeopardized the case. What’s more, Murphy said it appeared RCMP had lost track of the vehicle entirely, as it was due to go to auction before he discovered where it was.
“It just leaves the general impression amongst the family members that this case is not being taken as seriously as it should be. And that is gravely concerning to this family upon the one year anniversary of this young man dying,” Murphy said.
Gerald Stanley’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 29 in Battleford Court of Queen’s Bench.
RCMP report no hate crime charges
The Boushie case generated a large volume of online comments in the weeks and months following the shooting.
Many of those comments crossed the line, including threats of violence and racist invective. Premier Brad Wall even took to social media to plea for civility.
Shortly after the shooting, RCMP issued a warning that some online comments could be considered criminal in nature.
A year later, police stated that no one ended up being charged and that there were no current investigations into online comments surrounding the Boushie case.
— with files from Chris Vandenbreekel