The first week of a conduct hearing into the actions of two Thunder Bay police officers has concluded.
Staff-Sgt. Shawn Harrison and Det. Shawn Whipple are facing Police Services Act charges of discreditable conduct and neglect of duty in connection with their roles in the 2015 death investigation of Stacy DeBungee.
Harrison has already entered a guilty plea on the neglect charge. The two have pleaded not guilty to the other charges.
The death of DeBungee, 41, of Rainy River First Nation, prompted an investigation by the Ontario police watchdog, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).
In December 2018, OIPRD released its Broken Trust report concluding systemic racism exists within the Thunder Bay Police Service.
The two-year investigation by Independent Police Review Director Gerry McNeilly found “significant deficiencies” due, in part, to racism in the police force.
McNeilly recommended police reinvestigate nine sudden death cases in Thunder Bay involving Indigenous people, including DeBungee’s.
In March, APTN News first obtained a confidential report detailing 14 new sudden deaths of Indigenous people warranting further investigation.
The report also confirmed there were 25 unsolved missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls cases sitting with the Thunder Bay criminal investigation branch.
Thunder Bay police board chair apologizes to families, says board not currently focus of ongoing investigations
Brad DeBungee, Stacy’s brother, along with former Rainy River First Nation Chief Jim Leonard, filed the original complaint with the OIPRD.
Brad testified this week that police told him his brother had passed out and rolled into the river.
In a media release at the time, Thunder Bay police concluded DeBungee’s death was non-criminal.
DeBungee testified he felt he was “getting the run around” from police and the coroner’s office after his brother’s body was found.
In October 2021, nearly six years to the day of DeBungee’s death, the Ontario’s attorney general called for a new investigation into DeBungee’s death.
“Mr. DuBungee’s family, friends, community and the public deserve to know what happened,” said an Ontario Provincial Police inspector in a release.
The hearing is expected to last three weeks and will resume again on June 6 when both Harrison and Whipple are expected to testify.