Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'It was like they'd just shot a dog'

Dad recounts aftermath at ball game in Norway House; says son was unarmed

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Evan Cromarty's father says the RCMP bullet that struck his son Sunday entered under his arm and exited through his neck and shoulder.

Brian Cromarty said Monday doctors in Norway House Cree Nation weren't even sure whether Evan was hit by one or two bullets.

Cromarty, 20, was under police guard Monday at Health Sciences Centre, where he was airlifted after first being treated in the community of 8,000 on the northern tip of Lake Winnipeg.

Surgeons were still in the operating room late Monday in an effort to remove bullet fragments.

Brian Cromarty spoke with the Free Press from his home in Norway House where he's looking after the family's two young sons and grandchildren.

Evan's mother was in Winnipeg along with extended family. She was the only relative permitted to see him, and then, only briefly.

The father recounted the minutes leading up to the shooting and its immediate aftermath.

Police arrived at his home Sunday looking for his son, Brian said.

He saw his son take off through another door and watched as the RCMP chased Evan to the Rossville Diamond, where two baseball games were taking place between 12-year-olds and 17-year-olds from Norway House and Cross Lake.

"Evan didn't have a gun. He didn't have a knife," Brian said. "When the cops asked him to 'freeze' he froze and when he lifted his hands, that's when they shot him.

"He wasn't armed... Maybe he uttered threats but is that enough to shoot someone... " the outraged father said.

Cromarty said he didn't witness the shooting and he has yet to see a cellphone video that is said to have captured the incident. "I heard the shots," Cromarty said.

"The ball field is a couple hundred yards from my house so me and my wife went running there. I saw my son laying on the ground."

Emergency workers had yet to arrive.

"There was three cops standing around him, not even trying to help him. The guy still had his gun out. He said, 'Stay back.' I said 'I'm trying to help my son. He's bleeding. He's dying in front of me,' " Cromarty recounted.

"Eventually he let me through," he said, his voice breaking up over the phone.

The father said his son's arm was shot up.

"I grabbed my son. I had to put my hands where the blood was gushing out and I put pressure on it to try and stop the bleeding."

Initial shock among the few hundred in attendance was turning to anger as the crowd watched, with spectators yelling at the officers and children screaming and crying, the father said.

"The officers didn't try to help me, didn't try to stop the bleeding. It was like they'd just shot a dog," Cromarty said.

"There was a couple hundred people, spectators at the ball field and they saw all this that went down. In front of all the kids, this guy did this."

"Then the cop that shot my son, the RCMP threw him in the back of the truck and got him out of there. To protect him, I guess," Cromarty said.

The officers left, the emergency workers arrived, and Brian realized his son's shooting had been witnessed by his own brother.

"My young son was playing ball. It was a beautiful day. They were all having fun.

"The saddest part of all this is my young son, a nine-year-old boy, saw his brother get shot. By cops... My son was in shock. He was screaming and yelling. He said. 'Dad, they shot off his arm!' He was in shock. He's still in shock. He's been traumatized by all this," Cromarty said.

Violence in the past has sparked tensions between the RCMP and Norway House Cree but this time, it may be far worse, Cromarty warned.

"I don't have anything against the RCMP but I don't have any respect for them right now and I know a lot of Norway House people don't. They're going to have a hard time policing our community, that's for sure," Cromarty said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 22, 2014 A4

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