The family of 16-year-old Eishia Hudson is calling for a public inquiry into police-related deaths of Indigenous people after Manitoba’s police watchdog did not recommend charges against the officer who shot the teen during a police pursuit in April 2020.
William Hudson addressed reporters after the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) released its final report Thursday afternoon calling it, “unclear and one-sided.”
During an emotional speech, Hudson described feeling frustrated and disappointed with the findings.
“[A parent] can never prepare yourself of this… I tried to pray for the best,” he said.
He asked police officers think twice before drawing their weapons on Indigenous people, “our lives matter.”
The agency that investigates police officer-involved shootings in Manitoba has concluded no criminal charges should be laid following her death on April 8, 2020.
Hudson was fatally wounded by a Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) officer firing his gun following an alleged liquor store robbery, said the final report into the incident released by the Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) of Manitoba Thursday.
It happened about 5:30 p.m. in the city’s east end after police pursued a Jeep Hudson was driving that was believed to be stolen, the report said.
A civilian witness said he “heard a voice or voices yell, ‘Get out of the vehicle!’ He then heard the sound of two pops, which he believed were gunshots,” the report said.
The names of the other four people in the Jeep were not released.
Such a review is mandatory in Manitoba when someone dies at the hands of the police.
The family has called for a public inquiry.
At the time of the fatality, WPS said Hudson was in the driver’s seat and likely driving the Jeep.
“While apprehending the five occupants, [a WPS officer] discharged his firearm striking a female occupant,” one of its spokespeople said at the time.
The IIU said seven police officers, who were on the scene, were interviewed as were 14 civilian witnesses – including three of four occupants of the Jeep. The agency said it also reviewed surveillance video obtained from area businesses.
Investigators are reviewed video posted to social media.
“The video footage did capture part of the pursuit of the Jeep and the officer-involved shooting,” the final report said.
“Subsequent investigation by IIU investigators revealed that a civilian witness…recorded this video on a cellphone while stopped at a traffic light at the intersection (of Lagimodiere Boulevard and Fermor Avenue).
It “is the most reliable piece of evidence available to assess this matter,” the report added.
One of the Jeep’s occupants told the IIU the driver was “goaded by the other passengers to drive faster and get away from police.”
The female occupant said police officers surrounded the vehicle after it collided with a pickup truck and came to a halt.
“She saw a police officer standing on the driver’s side of the vehicle with his handgun drawn, but did not see him shoot it. [She] states that there were other police officers on the passenger side and they smashed a window, pointing ‘Tasers’ at the occupants.”
The female occupant said the Jeep was “moving backwards” when she heard a gunshot and another person in the vehicle said, ‘They got us now.’
“Following that first shot …approximately four seconds later, when the Jeep had stopped, she heard a second gunshot,” the report said.
The occupants said the Jeep was then rammed in front by a police cruiser. And officers started striking the windows on the passenger side with their batons, and ordering them out of the vehicle.
A male occupant said he “heard the first gunshot and believed the officer who fired his handgun was at the front left corner of the Jeep.” After he heard a second gunshot, he said Hudson was being pulled from the vehicle.
The officer whose weapon was fired declined to be interviewed for the investigation but did provide his notes and a prepared statement, the IIU said.
“I pulled my firearm as I approached the suspect vehicle, as the occupants were unknown and had just committed a commercial robbery and threatened to stab staff…,” he said in his statement.
The officer said he pointed his weapon at Hudson and locked eyes with her, while yelling at her to exit the vehicle.
He said she “cranked” the steering wheel and reversed quickly.
“Fearing grievous bodily harm or death, I jumped back and fired one round at the suspect with my service pistol…,” his statement said.
“The suspect looked directly at me, glaring through the hole in the driver’s side window before she continued to reverse over the curb angling the vehicle to head southbound…”
The officer, who was not named, said Hudson continued to rev the engine and he feared she would drive forward into other officers or civilians.
“I took a step towards the suspect vehicle and fired another round at the suspects [sic] centre mass in an attempt to stop the immediate threat she was posing…,” he said in his statement.
“The suspect then looked at me again and mumbled, ‘ok, stop.’ She then opened the door and complied with direction to show her hands and exit the vehicle.”
He said Hudson was handcuffed, searched and placed on the ground.
It was later revealed she died of a single gunshot to the shoulder by the time she reached the hospital.
“The round travelled at a downward angle, from front to back, into her chest cavity and came to rest in her spinal column.”
The WPS said its officer properly followed its firearm discharge and use of force policies.
The IIU said the Manitoba Prosecution Service reviewed its evidence and concluded there was “no factual or legal basis to lay any charges” against the officer for his use of lethal force.
Zane Tessler, a lawyer and civilian director of the IIU, called the incident “a tragedy, magnified by the loss of a young life.”
Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth issued a statement late in the day Thursday.
“The circumstances led to a split-second decision to use lethal force to stop the scenario from escalating further,” Smyth said in a brief statement. “All of us would have liked the outcome to be different. I speak as a member of the community, and I speak as a member and the leader of the police service.
“The Medical Examiner will call for an Inquest in the near future. The Inquest will have a broader look at the circumstances that lead to Eishia’s death and may make recommendations to prevent situations like this in the future.
Smyth said the police service will “cooperate and participate” at the inquest.