VICTORIA — Two RCMP officers are accused of manslaughter in the July 2017 death of an Indigenous man in Prince George, B.C., while three of their fellow Mounties are charged with attempting to obstruct justice.
The BC Prosecution Service said in a statement Wednesday that constables Paul Ste-Marie and Jean Francois Monette have been charged with manslaughter.
Sgt. Jon Eusebio Cruz and constables Arthur Dalman and Clarence MacDonald are accused of attempting to obstruct justice.
The person who died was 35-year-old Arthur Culver, also known as Dale Culver, an Indigenous man from the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Nations, who was arrested in Prince George on July 18, 2017.
An RCMP release from the time says police received a report about a man casing vehicles and found a suspect who tried to flee on a bicycle.
B.C.’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, investigated the death and issued a recommendation of charges to the prosecution service in May 2020.
A report from the investigations office said there was a struggle when police tried to take the man into custody, other officers were called and pepper spray was used. Officers noticed the man appeared to have trouble breathing before he died while in police custody, the report said.
Following Culver's death, the BC Civil Liberties Association said it was aware of reports from eyewitnesses that Culver "was taken forcibly to the ground by RCMP members immediately after exiting a liquor store, apparently unprovoked."
The association said there were "troubling allegations" that RCMP members told witnesses to delete cellphone video that they had taken.
"This would provide a strong basis on which to question the accuracy of certain RCMP members’ statements to investigators and notes, as well as RCMP public statements," the association wrote in a 2018 letter to the chairperson of the civilian review and complaints commission for the RCMP.
Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, said in a statement that in-custody deaths are rare and tragic and the process in this case was "far from timely."
"The investigation by the Independent Investigations Office of BC, the charge assessment by the BC Prosecution Service, and the ultimate charge approval decision by BC Crown counsel took almost six years, creating an extensive period of uncertainty for our members, Mr. Culver's family, and the community of Prince George," he said.
"While we understand the challenges associated with insufficient funding and human resources, this delay is simply unacceptable and unfair, and British Columbians deserve better."
He said plans to deploy body-worn cameras across Canada will help protect police and the public and provide transparency, evidence, and accountability.
"Out of respect for those involved, we ask that everyone allow the legal process to unfold in the courtroom, rather than in the media."
The prosecution service said the charges were approved by an experienced criminal lawyer who has no prior or current connection with the officers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.
The Canadian Press