Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Starlight tour' made up: police

Aboriginal youth facing charge of mischief for allegations

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A storm of controversy about Winnipeg police appears to have crumbled into a pile of lies.

A young aboriginal man faces a criminal mischief charge for allegedly fabricating the tale of a starlight tour by two city officers, and a police union spokesman says he wants an apology.

Police announced Friday they have what they describe as proof that Evan Maud, 20, invented a story about officers harassing him and dumping him on the city's outskirts about two weeks ago.

"We're hopeful that there will be a recognition that there was a significant error made, and for us, we're interested in turning a corner, and we think a perfect start to that would be a sincere and unequivocal apology," said Mike Sutherland, president of the Winnipeg Police Association.

"Mr. Maud can make that decision, and (I) hope he has the courage and support to do so."

Maud came forward to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network last week saying he'd been victimized by men dressed as police officers who drove him to the edge of the city, took his clothing, and forced him to run as fast as he could.

He said he then walked home from the city's outskirts.

He echoed the same version of events to other reporters.

The allegations made headlines across the country, but police said an investigation by their professional standards unit shows Maud's claims were baseless.

"It's rare that you have so much evidence to show 100 per cent that it did not happen," said Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill at a news conference announcing the charge against Maud.

He said on the night in question, officers pulled over and stopped Maud after they saw him walking in the middle of a road, then they ran a check on his name.

However, McCaskill said Maud never got into their cruiser and never left the city.

He said the officers "acted appropriately." McCaskill said footage from two city buses proves Maud was on those buses during the time he alleged he was with officers. The chief said the police service was taking an unprecedented step by discussing evidence like the global-positioning-system tracking, independent witness evidence and video surveillance used to suss out Maud's claims. "It's important to us to be able to get to the bottom of an incident and find the truth, and we have found the truth in this case."

Maud told the Free Press in an earlier interview that he'd had five or six beers before the alleged starlight tour happened.

Manitoba Grand Chief Ron Evans joined McCaskill at the news conference. The AMC had provided advice and assistance to the young man and his family.

"As a leader, sometimes the truth can take you to very difficult places," said Evans, who accepted the police findings.

The AMC wants to continue to help Maud, Evans said, but he didn't have any insight Friday on the young man's behaviour.

"We will continue to work with him, we will continue to support him, we will continue to encourage him, to... give him the kind of support that he needs," Evans said, adding the young man is in a "dilemma."

Joseph Maud, a Skownan First Nation councillor and Evan's uncle, still believes his nephew was dumped outside the city by police. He said he was "disappointed" but "not surprised" by the police statements Friday. He questions why officers who encountered Evan did not take the young man to the drunk tank if he was inebriated.

Joseph said the family intends to retain legal counsel.

"This is far from over," he said, adding that McCaskill was "quick to exonerate his own."

Joseph said Evan was "doing not too bad."

"I stand by (my nephew) 100 per cent," the uncle said.

In the wake of the initial media reports, McCaskill asked Maud to make a statement to officers and launched an investigation into the claims. Maud, who told media he was afraid of the police, finally made a statement to officers Dec. 11. McCaskill said he found it "very disconcerting" that allegations against officers went national "before the facts were known."

Sutherland said the intense media coverage of the incident left "somewhat of a tarnish" on the reputation of the Winnipeg Police Service, and he called the allegations a "blatantly false and baseless smear." He also said some academics and media outlets cast the image of officers in the "worst possible light."

The charge of mischief relates to reporting an offence that has not been committed. Maud was released on an appearance notice.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 18, 2010 A3

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