Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Silence on incident widespread

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Nearly a week after a deadly standoff in the North End, Winnipeg police have offered few facts about what happened to Andrew Baryluk -- whether he had a gun, how many shots police fired at his home or whether any of those bullets hit the 53-year-old.

The same silence has seized nearly everyone with civilian oversight of the police -- the chairman of the police board, the justice minister, the mayor and those running to be mayor.

Coun. Scott Fielding, chairman of the year-old Winnipeg Police Board, said he could not comment on the shooting nor the delay in making details public because it's an ongoing police investigation. He said the police service's first obligation is to ensure a thorough investigation.

"You want to make sure all the due diligence was followed," said Fielding. "That's as far as I'm going to go on this."

'You want to make sure all the due diligence was followed. That's as far as I'm going to go on this'

-- Coun. Scott Fielding, Winnipeg Police Board chairman

Fielding said he spoke to Chief Devon Clunis about the shooting but declined to say when.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan was not available for comment Tuesday, even via email. In a written statement, Mayor Sam Katz said he expects police will release the findings of their investigation as soon as possible.

Echoing the views of several mayoral candidates reached Tuesday, Judy Wasylycia-Leis said she was reluctant to pass judgment on the police investigation or the paucity of information released so far.

"This is a disturbing story, all the way around," said Wasylycia-Leis. "It would be wrong of me to second-guess anything about it."

Like Katz, Wasylycia-Leis said she assumes there will be a report to the public or to city council at some point.

That's not certain. Unless charges are laid against officers involved, which is rare, police typically say little about whether officer-involved shootings were justified or followed proper use-of-force protocol.

Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said the public and the media must be patient as police gather the facts, interview officers involved in the Stella Avenue standoff and await autopsy details such as toxicology reports.

"We're going to release information accurately and it may take some time," said Michalyshen, who would not say whether gunshot wounds were found on Baryluk's body.

Homicide officers conduct the investigation and determine whether criminal charges ought to be laid against police. The results of the investigation are then forwarded to an outside police force for review. Then, if police actions caused someone's death, an inquest is held, usually years after the incident.

Police shootings in Winnipeg have been flashpoints for years, reigniting tensions between officers and indigenous people in the years following the 1988 shooting death of J.J. Harper and now raising questions about how police handle people in the throes of mental or emotional distress, as Baryluk was.

Six years ago, police shot and killed 26-year-old Craig McDougall, prompting First Nations leaders to raise concerns about the length of time the internal police investigation was taking, the secrecy surrounding it and the shortage of information about whether police followed best practices.

At the time, police chief Keith McCaskill said police had learned much in the years since Harper's death and the sweeping Aboriginal Justice Inquiry that followed.

"One of the things we learned was not to draw conclusions on an instant or release details prior to the completion of an investigation," said McCaskill. "Doing so compromised the investigative process and many believe tainted the outcome of that investigation."

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 6, 2014 A3

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