Friends and family in two provinces are mourning the woman they call ‘Sunshine Girl’ after she was shot and killed by Calgary police May 17.
The body of Josephine Pelletier, 33, was buried on the Muskowekwan First Nation June 9, her mother Donna Pelletier said Wednesday.
“She had a hard life – she did struggle lots,” Donna said of her second-oldest daughter.
“She tried her best but then she would meet the wrong people and off she would go.”
Josephine, 33, was living in a half-way house in Calgary after spending most of her life behind bars. She spoke to APTN News in 2016 about wanting to turn her life around.
Donna says she was told Josephine was missing from the half-way house for about two days when she spied an open door to a basement suite and went in.
“They went in an open house. Nobody was home,” the mom said.
But someone upstairs called police who say they responded to the report of a home invasion with a K9 unit before summoning the tactical team.
News reports say at least two officers fired on Josephine and the male she was with, claiming they heard sounds of distress and found the pair barricaded inside.
Awo Taan Healing Lodge Executive Director Josie Nepinak ‘There is a war on Indigenous women in Canada,,, Just two weeks ago here in Calgary there was Indigenous was women who was shot 7 times by Calgary City Police’ #mmiw #inquiry #canada #alberta #calgary #yyc #testimony pic.twitter.com/wYdjYiw0oA
— Lowa Beebe () May 31, 2018
Her close friend Tanya Sugar says the women grew up in Regina together.
“Josephine, you were loved, man. You were my little sister.”
Sugar says Josephine died at the scene after being shot seven times. Something she was able to confirm after accompanying Donna to view her daughter’s body at the funeral home.
Sugar says the male with Josephine, who was injured after police fired rubber projectiles at him with an ARWEN launcher, remains in custody on various charges. He was unable to attend Josephine’s funeral, Sugar added.
I am a former corrections officer who spent a lot of time with Josie. This breaks my heart
— Tanja Campbell () June 12, 2018
Police say the male suffered serious stab wounds, allegedly inflicted by Josephine before she was shot, but Sugar and Donna don’t believe it.
“Calgary Police are lying,” Donna said. “She didn’t hurt (him)…it was the police who hurt him.”
The fatal incident is now being investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which takes over when officers are involved.
APTN is still waiting to receive more information from ASIRT.
“Nobody deserves (to) leave this world the way she did,” said her sister Mariah G-Lynn on Facebook.
“She had heart, she had love, she had a mother and a son, she had brothers and sisters. She was a mother herself.”
“She was not a target to be shot at many times by multiple cops,” added her sister Shalene Jobin.
Josephine, also known as JoJo or Josie, struggled with drug addiction, Sugar said, but was trying to become clean with traditional ways.
“I watched her grow and mature and become a beautiful Indigenous woman the past five years,” Sugar said on a memorial page.
“She was praying and singing (and) coming to the sweat when she could. She just didn’t have enough support in her life that were healthy and teach her a better way.”
Sugar hosted an event in Calgary to help raise $2,000 so Donna could take her daughter home and bury her.
Donna says she was shocked at the condition of Josephine’s body.
“I had to have a closed coffin,” she said through tears.
Donna says the half-way house gave her the wrong clothes – “three times bigger than Jo” – and Calgary Police Service victim services was unable to help because her daughter was shot by officers.
“They said it was a conflict with city police,” Donna said in a telephone interview from her Saskatchewan home.
A spokesperson for Alberta Justice was unable to comment on this specific case due to privacy issues, but offered a link to eligibility requirements that confirmed a crime must be involved to access funds.
Donna says she works but doesn’t make much money and didn’t have the savings to cover the unexpected travel and funeral expenses.
She says Alberta Human Services gave her funds to get to “the Saskatchewan border.”
She plans to buy a headstone when she can “do fundraising” and says she needs to save up “$200” needed to buy her daughter’s autopsy report.