Nunavut RCMP admit they got the wrong man when four Iqaluit RCMP members pulled their weapons on an Inuk hunter on Saturday.
Police say they received a complaint that a man was pointing a rifle at people outside an Iqaluit convenience store. The description they received was that the suspect was “wearing dark pants and camouflage jacket with a long barrelled (sic) rifle.”
In Iqaluit, that is a very common description, as the fall hunting season is coming to a close. RCMP soon learned that first hand.
Officers saw a man fitting the description about half a kilometer from the original sighting.
They proceeded to make what they describe as a “high risk arrest”, with the suspect face down in the middle of the street with firearms pointed at him.
The young man’s mother, Iqaluit Deputy Mayor Janet Brewster, watched as four officers pointed firearms at her 23 year-old son, Ashevak Montague.
TW: Gun Violence
As a mother who has raised hunters, a main gun safety rule has always been ‘never, ever point a gun at a person.’
Yesterday the RCMP pointed four high powered weapons at one of my sons who had left our home to go hunting with his gun and gear slung on his back. pic.twitter.com/UD2iSi5Ro2
— Pitsiulaaq ❄️ (@pitsiulaaq) September 28, 2020
Montague had just left his home, was only on the street for under a minute.
She wrote on Twitter, “My beautiful son just happened to have the misfortune of walking out of our home at the wrong time.”
According to Brewster, Montague was the one who de-escalated the stressful situation.
She wrote, “He was calm and compliant, and was allowed to leave in time to catch his boat before the tide went out.”
Brewster lives on the shores of Frobisher Bay. Hunters are a common sight in her neighbourhood.
Brewster said her son was walking with a rifle over his shoulder following safety best practices, the firing bolt was removed from his rifle while he was on his way to the boat to hunt.
“People carrying guns are extremely common in the areas of the beaches, causeway and breakwater as they access the ocean, our highway to wildlife. Someone had just left my neighbour’s with a gun,” explained Brewster.
Once the officers had put away their weapons, Brewster was able to ask them some questions.
“The officer that I interacted with suggested to me that it might not have gone down the way it did if my son had been using a rifle case,” she said.
Montague was released without charge and Iqaluit RCMP say they are still seeking the original suspect.
In a written statement, Iqaluit RCMP wrote, “After an initial assessment and investigation it was determined that although this individual matched the description of the suspect and was in possession of a rifle, he was not the suspect police are seeking.”
Nunavut’s minister of Justice weighed in on the story.
Jeannie Ehaloak told APTN News that she was “saddened” by what took place Saturday in Iqaluit.
“I’m discouraged myself. We have a lot of Inuit who go out hunting. I mean, there is that possibility that Inuit will be going out walking with their rifles, or to get to their vehicles to go to where they want to go, to do their hunting. I was saddened to hear that this has happened.
“I think the RCMP should take into consideration that, you’re in the North, you’re going to see people walking around with guns.”
As for Brewster, she remains shaken by seeing her son detained by RCMP for such a common description.
“I can’t even begin to describe how terrifying it was to see these people point their guns at my child,” she said. “There has to be a better way than this.
“Not everyone can remain calm in this situation, and this is why people die.”
Correction: The original story said that Ashevak Montague was arrested on Sunday. The arrest took place on Saturday.