Linda Levi remembers her brother Rodney Levi as a harmless jokester and loving family man.
She tells APTN News that Rodney, a 48-year-old Mi’kmaw father of three from Metepenagiag First Nation, was shot and killed by RCMP in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick on June 12.
“He had the biggest heart, loved his family so much, he was a jokester and would never harm anyone,” Linda said.
On Saturday afternoon, RCMP confirmed an officer tasered, shot and killed a 48-year-old Metepenagiag First Nation man but did not release Rodney’s name.
It’s the second fatal police shooting in N.B. in just over a week that involved police responding to a report of a First Nations person in distress.
Quebec’s police watchdog is investigating the incident.
Linda says Rodney was visiting his pastor when the incident occurred. She said that Rodney had been dealing with mental health issues, he was depressed and would get paranoid.
“We kept taking him to the hospital, to the psych ward, they kept kicking him out, there’s nothing they could do for him,” said Linda.
“He took himself there, he threatened to harm himself and still they would never do anything.”
Linda said he had to be on medication, and that if he wasn’t he would become paranoid. She said this had been going on for the past year.
The family would call the RCMP to pick him up when Rodney was having trouble, she explains, but the police would never do anything.
“It was very frustrating, how many times we got in arguments with the medical staff and the police,” said Linda.
She said Rodney had been particularly struggling this past week.
“He would hide it from me, I tried to get him to rest and I woke up and Rodney was gone,” she said.
According to Linda, Rodney became paranoid while visiting his pastor and the RCMP were called.
“He was tasered and he dropped the knife, then the RCMP shot him twice dead centre in the chest, in his heart and his lungs,” said Linda, who says she got this information from the pastor who witnessed the incident.
At the hospital, “the doctor came to tell us he passed away and he died on the first shot,” she said.
On June 4, municipal police in Edmundston, N.B. shot and killed Chantel Moore during a wellness check.
Rallies were slated Saturday across the Maritimes in memory of Moore, a 26-year-old Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation mother whose family arrived in N.B. on June 8 looking for answers.
Moore’s death and other events created debate about the mandatory wearing of body cameras and whether armed police should be conducting wellness checks at all.
Quebec watchdog agency Bureau des enquetes independantes (BEI) said in a statement it will be investigating after a request from the RCMP. In a Saturday morning update, BEI said in French that it will be applying all its regulations even though this investigation falls outside of its normal jurisdiction.
Community members and Indigenous leaders voiced their solidarity, grief and pain on social media.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde called the death “devastating for First Nations across Canada.”
“I join the family in calling for a full independent investigation on the killing of Rodney Levi,” Bellegarde said in a tweet.
This morning, I woke up to the news that another First Nations Person was shot dead by the RCMP.
This is devastating for First Nations across Canada. We demand answers.
I join the family in calling for a full independent investigation on the killing of #RodneyLevi.
— Perry Bellegarde (@perrybellegarde) June 13, 2020
RCMP say they responded to a call of an unwanted person in a home near Metepenagiag at 7:40 p.m. local time.
The officers reportedly found the person in a building with a knife and an officer allegedly used a taser several times without success.
Police claim the person charged at the Mounties, and one of the officers fired.
The victim was given assistance and pronounced dead at the hospital. The BEI is asking the Surete du Quebec to assist in the investigation.
Linda joins a chorus people criticizing the RCMP for systemic racism.
“There’s racism all over the place, they choose to look the other way,” she said.
Rodney’s death comes on the heels of numerous headline-grabbing incidents of police violence against Black and Indigenous people, allegations of police brutality and widespread anti-racism demonstrations across the country.
There has also been a growing movement for police reform in Canada, sparked by a Minneapolis police officer’s alleged murder of an unarmed Black man named George Floyd.
On June 1, Nunavut RCMP garnered shock and outrage after a video surfaced of a Mountie hitting a stumbling man with the open door of a police pickup truck in Kinngait. Cabinet ministers called the video shocking, disturbing and dehumanizing.
On June 6, Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam held a press conference claiming Wood Buffalo, Alta., RCMP assaulted him and roughed up his wife during a March 10 confrontation over an expired licence-plate tag.
APTN obtained a copy of the nearly 12-minute dash-cam video that shows a Mountie tackling, punching and putting Adam in a chokehold before walking him cuffed and bloodied over to a police vehicle.
On June 11, APTN published an exclusive after obtaining affidavits filed by Indigenous people in Federal Court that describe decades of allegations of brutality, racism and neglect by RCMP in the three territories. They are part of an uncertified class-action against RCMP in the territories. Federal lawyers filed their respondent documents in February 2020.
On June 12, a Yellowknife Dene man named Benjamin Manuel came forward alleging RCMP assaulted him on June 10, the day after an anti-racism rally in the city. He claims police handcuffed him, drove him to an undisclosed location, kicked him in the face and left him unconscious by the side of the road. A photo taken by APTN shows Manuel’s barely-open right eye and boot print stretching across his face.
Rodney’s death comes only hours after RCMP Comm. Brenda Lucki said in a media statement, systemic racism exists.
“I do know that systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included,” said Lucki.
Lucki had to walk back comments she made earlier in the week in a round of interviews with national media where she disputed the definition of systemic discrimination.
APTN requested an interview with Lucki on June 8 and followed up again on June 11 after she granted interview to other national media. It was declined.
After this story was published Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office responded to APTN‘s request for comment.
Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for the minister, said the department will be “closely following the investigation by the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes,” and reiterated that the government is taking steps “to increase transparency in police interactions through the adoption of body-worn cameras,” as well as working “to co-develop legislation that recognizes First Nations Policing as an essential service.
“Our policing services must be equally committed to ensuring that they are always worthy of the trust put in them,” Power added. “Maintaining that trust, and rebuilding trust that has been lost, requires rigorous accountability and real action.”
APTN also reached out to the office of New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs but did not receive a response by publishing time.