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This article was published 9/11/2019 (326 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A slain three-year-old boy who was stabbed inside a North End home late last month has been designated an honorary constable with the Winnipeg Police Service.
Hunter Haze Straight-Smith wanted to be a police officer fighting "bad guys," the toddler would tell his friends. After his short life ended, his dream was realized: police officers asked his family for permission to recognize "Cst. Hunter" at his funeral service Friday night.
Const. Shawn Smith, an officer with the WPS’s Indigenous Partnership Section, and Staff Sgt. Bob Chrismas, with the community support division, gave Hunter’s family a certificate signed by police chief Danny Smyth and a shadow box Smith made using brass insignia from a police uniform. In law enforcement circles, shadow boxes that contain badges and other artifacts are traditionally included in memorials or retirement services.
"A few days ago, I spoke with a family friend to get a sense of Hunter, as I did not have the pleasure of meeting him. The family friend expressed that little Hunter made it no secret to all his friends and family that he wanted to be a police officer, and wanted to catch ‘bad guys.’ When hearing this about little Hunter — a child’s vow to be a peacekeeper and what chasing ‘bad guys’ represents (to be a good person, to do what’s right, to walk an honourable path) — is a testament to his character and spirit, both things that we can all learn from," Smith wrote in an email Saturday.
"Hunter truly is Ogichidaa (warrior), and it was essential to acknowledge him as such on behalf of all police officers – especially those members and first responders that were with little Hunter in his time of need."
Hunter was stabbed repeatedly overnight on Oct. 30 and died in hospital Nov. 2 after he was taken off life support. His mother’s ex-boyfriend, 33-year-old Daniel Jensen, has been charged with second-degree murder in his death. Jensen is accused of fighting with Hunter’s mother, Clarice Smith, at a Main Street location, assaulting her, and then going to the Pritchard Avenue home where Hunter was likely sleeping and attacking him.
Hunter died during an eruption of recent violence in Winnipeg and his death has prompted pleas for change. Community members mourning the loss of the little boy have attended anti-violence vigils and rallies in the city and have amplified calls for action on domestic-violence prevention.
Chrismas said it was a privilege for him to show respect for Hunter and his family during a "heartbreaking" situation. He said he discussed with the police chief’s office the idea of offering Hunter’s family a certificate, and they came up with the honorary constable title. It’s the first time in his 30-year career that anyone has been given that title, Chrismas said.
"The tragedy of it when a child dies, it hits everyone in the community and in the police service," he said.
"We were doing that on behalf of the officers who responded and who worked around that investigation, and officers who deal with that kind of violence on a day in and day out basis. It was an honour, but we weren’t there for ourselves. We were there to represent all of the police officers who’ve been working so hard, especially lately, around violence in the community," Chrismas added.
"I think bad things can ripple through the community, and good things can, too."
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Updated on Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 10:23 PM CST: Edited
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