O’Chiese First Nation members call for more support following shootings

Shootings on two First Nations in Alberta have people on edge.

Residents of O’Chiese First Nation in Alberta say the community is on edge after a series of shootings on the reserve.

Trent Firth, 24, was shot and killed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP on April 3, 2021.

His grandmother, community member Lena Firth, told APTN News she raised Trent since he was four years old.

“It’s been very scary, people are more afraid,” said Firth standing on her front porch on the O’Chiese First Nation, 225 km southwest of Edmonton.

A press release from RCMP said officers were responding to a complaint of a disturbance at a residence with the caller reporting that a man was jumping on vehicles.

When they arrived, they encountered a known individual who went back into the home closing the door.

The release said police checks confirmed that the individual had outstanding warrants.

The man then exited the home with an axe and a confrontation ensued.

The officer discharged several rounds from his service pistol, striking the man.

He was pronounced dead on scene.

By the time Lena arrived at her grandson’s home, he was already on the ground.

“I saw two police cars there,” she said. “And as I got out of my van I started running towards his house and I seen him lying on the ground. He didn’t have a shirt on.”

Lena admits Trent was known to police and said his actions may have been a result of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).

“He was very quiet. But as he grew older, he was FASD. When he got tested, they found that he was brain damaged a little bit. He was quiet but he’s been in trouble with the police for about a year maybe.”

RCMP said they cannot comment on this incident as it is being investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT)

“Right now, everybody is in a sad state, very emotional and very I would say, mad at the same time, angry at the same time,” said O’Chiese member Douglas Bonaise.

He said community members are angry and frustrated.

Days after the RCMP-involved shooting, three shootings, not related to police, occurred within an hour on April 5, 2021 on both O’Chiese and the nearby Sunchild First Nation, resulting in injuries to four men.

In a media release, RCMP said all four men are in stable condition.

Keith Beaverbones, 28 and Zachary Yellowface, 19, both have been charged with four counts of attempted murder.

O’Chiese member Darcy Good Running said it could have been prevented by providing more support to youth.

“We have a lot of people who are crying out for help, we have a lot of people who are wondering what to do, where to go,” he said.

Good Running said before the pandemic, he and Bonaise ran classes on traditional songs and dance to keep youth off the streets and connected to their culture.

“We don’t have no pow wows anywhere. Round dance also, that’s been put on hold. So, what is there for youth to do out here besides….there’s nothing out there,” Good Running said.

“Too much of this has been happening, too much,” Bonaise added.

“There’s no jobs here for nobody. And if there is some, there’s no encouragement, there’s no place for them to go and have activities, there’s nothing.”

APTN reached out to the O’Chiese chief and council for a comment, but were unable to reach them.

While Bonaise and Good Running call for better services and a better relationship between RCMP and First Nations, Lena Firth seeks answers about her grandson’s death.

“What I don’t understand is, why did they have to shoot him like that? They could have Tasered him, but they shot him.”

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