One of two RCMP officers who confronted an armed 21-year-old Inuk man the morning a Mountie shot him in a remote Nunavut community says she feared for her life that day.
Former corporal Tanya Kellogg told a coroner’s inquest Tuesday into Charles Qirngnirq’s death that she had been working relief in Gjoa Haven for about a week when Qirngnirq was shot on Dec. 19, 2016, outside the airport.
Kellogg, who is now retired, said she and Const. Ian Crowe had responded to calls of a suicidal male with a rifle. It was about -33 C, but conditions were clear, she said.
Crowe and Kellogg, who were with the RCMP for 17 years, were the only two officers working in Gjoa Haven that day.
She said they left the detachment after receiving the calls and brought a carbine _ a high-powered rifle equipped with a telescopic sight _ with them. They drove down the road to the airport, where they spotted Qirngnirq outside the terminal building, and stopped.
Kellogg said she didn’t initially see Qirngnirq holding a rifle, but then spotted it when he turned away from the airport to walk toward town. She said he was “pumping” the rifle and yelling.
Crowe got out of the police vehicle and positioned himself behind the hood on the driver’s side with the carbine, she testified.
Kellogg said she sat on the passenger side on the edge of her seat and yelled over the vehicle’s loud hailer for Qirngnirq to stop and put the gun down, but he did not.
The officers were roughly 140 to 155 metres from Qirngnirq, Kellogg said, while Qirngnirq was about the same distance from town.
She said she feared for her life as only the vehicle door was between herself and Qirngnirq.
“Training would teach me to take cover when I see a gun. In this situation, I didn’t seek proper cover.”
Kellogg said Qirngnirq was not facing them, but then seemed to turn and aim his rifle at the officers.
She said she heard “a loud bang” _ which was Crowe firing the carbine _ seconds after Qirngnirq turned to face them.
“He pointed it to us and in seconds he was shot,” Kellogg said.
Officers are trained that when a gun is pointed at them and they fear for their lives, the proper police response is to shoot, she told the inquest.
She said when they reached Qirngnirq, she remembers him saying to the officers, “Why do you shoot?” while they were handcuffing him.
Qirngnirq had been hit in the right hip and was taken to the health centre. Like 24 of Nunavut’s 25 communities, there is no hospital in Gjoa Haven.
Nurses tended to Qirngnirq, who was still alive. At one point, Kellogg held the gauze over the bullet wound, she said.
“He looked up at me and said, ‘You shot me.”’
Qirngnirq died before a medevac plane could leave the community.
Kellogg also testified that she hadn’t received much training from the RCMP about Nunavut before coming to the territory as a relief officer.
She said she had concerns for her and Crowe’s safety following the shooting, and she left the community two days later.
Crowe was expected to testify at the inquest later Tuesday.