October 17, 2017

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Family of hit-and-run victim calls for justice

A curbside vigil for a man killed in a hit-and-run allegedly involving a city police officer evoked a mixture of sorrow, remembrance and anger Wednesday afternoon.

The family of 23-year-old Cody Severight called for justice prior to the pipe ceremony, just outside the Sutherland Hotel, where Severight was struck about 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. The driver immediately sped from the scene and was later apprehended by police.

"It isn't right," Nancy Gabriel, Severight's aunt, told reporters. "He's not a dog or anything, he's a human.... a nice guy. This happens too many times. When does it ever stop."

Severight's grandmother, Gloria Lebold, said police never contacted the immediate family to notify them that the victim had succumbed to his injuries.

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A curbside vigil for a man killed in a hit-and-run allegedly involving a city police officer evoked a mixture of sorrow, remembrance and anger Wednesday afternoon.

The family of 23-year-old Cody Severight called for justice prior to the pipe ceremony, just outside the Sutherland Hotel, where Severight was struck about 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. The driver immediately sped from the scene and was later apprehended by police.

"It isn't right," Nancy Gabriel, Severight's aunt, told reporters. "He's not a dog or anything, he's a human.... a nice guy. This happens too many times. When does it ever stop."

Severight's grandmother, Gloria Lebold, said police never contacted the immediate family to notify them that the victim had succumbed to his injuries.

"Nobody came to my door to let me know my grandson passed on," she said. "Nobody told me anything. As a grandmother, I should have been told."

Family members comfort Gloria Lebold, centre, grandmother of 23-year-old Cody Severight who was struck and killed by a vehicle on Main Street near Sutherland Ave. at about 8 p.m., Tuesday.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS.

Family members comfort Gloria Lebold, centre, grandmother of 23-year-old Cody Severight who was struck and killed by a vehicle on Main Street near Sutherland Ave. at about 8 p.m., Tuesday.

Const. Justin Holz, 34, has been arrested for impaired driving causing death and failure to stop at the scene of an accident in a fatal hit-and-run. Severight's brother, David Hunter, was angered that the officer was already released from custory on a promise to appear in court Nov. 22.

"I think that's bullshit," Hunter said. "I'm really pissed off. He shouldn't be out. Whether it's his first charge or not. He killed someone.

"What if he had stayed and helped him (the victim) until the ambulance came?"

One witness said Severight "flew 15 feet" from the impact of the car, which never stopped. "He (the driver) took off," Donnie Fizell added. "He fled. He nailed him (the victim) and just kept going."

One source told the Free Press the officer behind the wheel originally panicked at the scene, and fled. But after continuing to travel north, he stopped and called police to turn himself in just south of the perimeter.

According to several of Severight's friends, the young man, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, was a fixture of the New West Hotel, just across the street from the Sutherland.

"He was my sidekick," said Diane Hatch, who said she's known Severight for the past two years. "He was everyone's sidekick. Everyone has their troubles, all of us. But he was a good kid. One of the best ones.

"He knew how to comfort people when they were down. He could make you smile."

Severight was taken into Child and Family Services at age 9 and had a "regular teenage life", said his uncle, Paul Lebold. He was raised by foster mother Karen Beaudin until the age of 21.

Beaudin said Severight was a "bit of a joker" who was "very giving."

Severight never graduated high school, but had attempted to get his adult education in subsequent years. In fact, Beaudin said Severight was at her home for Thanksgiving dinner on Monday, talking about another attempt to get a high school diploma.

<p>Friends and family hold a vigil Wednesday on Main Street near Sutherland Ave. for Cody Severight.</p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS.

Friends and family hold a vigil Wednesday on Main Street near Sutherland Ave. for Cody Severight.

"He was trying," Beaudin said. "He was making changes in his life. He was pretty happy. He had his issues, but he was trying to work through them."

Severight was not a stranger to tragedy. His mother, Julia Hunter, died in 2012 at age 41. She was found dead in a stairwell. Although no charges were laid in connection with Hunter's death, she is listed among Manitoba's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. So is her sister, Jennifer, who died in the early 1990's, after being found dead in a Winnipeg hotel room.

Gloria Lebold, the mother of Jennifer and Julia and grandmother of Cody, said the loss seems "never ending."

"I don't know how I've lived so far," she said.

Leslie Spillett, executive director of Ka Ni Kanichihk, who performed the pipe ceremony, said Severight's death "is just a tragedy — again — especially for this family that's lost so many."

"Sometimes it's hard to understand the tragedies communities live with," Spillett added. "I don't even know if it's understandable. It seems like families are forever grieving."

Meanwhile, Beaudin said she was still in shock, given that Severight was only in her home eating turkey and talking optimistically about the future the day before the accident. "You get that, 'I can't believe it feeling,'" she said.

"It's sad that it happened in that way," Beaudin added. "With a police officer, with alcohol involved. I try not to get too angry and upset about things. You hear a lot of rumours. I just hope justice is done in the right way. Hopefully, the courts will do what's right."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @randyturner15

Read more by Randy Turner.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 6:20 PM CDT: Edits photo captions.

7:05 PM: updates officer's release details

October 12, 2017 at 1:41 PM: Comments turned off.

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