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This article was published 18/4/2020 (389 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Angel Taylor’s hair falls across her face as she sobs in bed. Her one-year-old son squirming to get away, unaware of the pain his mother is feeling at the news his father won’t be coming home.
"He wasn’t a bad guy," Taylor said through tears.
Saturday Winnipeg police shot and killed Stewart Andrews, 22, who was originally from God’s Lake First Nation but who moved to Winnipeg for high school several years ago, where he met Taylor.
"He wasn't a thug. He wasn't a bad guy," she said. "This is so heartbreaking and devastating."
Taylor doesn't know what life looks like now for her and her son, Nicholas. She can't eat, she can't sleep. When her mother pulled up in front of her house she lept into her mother's arms and released a haunting wail.
According to the Winnipeg Police Service, in the early hours Saturday, they received a call from a resident of the 200 block of Adsum Drive in the Maples neighbourhood of Winnipeg. The resident reported that while taking out the garbage around 4 a.m. he was approached by two men with guns who demanded money. The resident was then reportedly assaulted before fleeing and calling 911.
A second call then came from another resident on the same block, reporting windows had been broken at an apartment complex. Officers began searching the area and by 4:19 a.m., the Winnipeg Police Service said, officers located two suspects near the intersection of Adsum Drive and Pipeline Road. An officer discharged their weapon, resulting in the death of the 22-year-old, with a 16-year-old being taken into custody. WPS has yet to announce if charges have been laid.
WPS would not confirm the identity of the victim, but Andrews' family has confirmed they were notified Saturday of his death. This was the third fatal shooting involving a Winnipeg police officer in 10 days.
Police Chief Danny Smyth told reporters weapons had been recovered from the scene Saturday, but he wouldn't elaborate.
The investigation of the incident has been handed over to the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU). Smyth also refrained from providing any further information about the moments leading up to the police officer discharging their weapon.
When asked about the message the frequency of officer-involved shootings sends to the city, Smyth said he was satisfied with officer staffing levels, and said he believed that during this lockdown period people had a heightened sense of concern for their neighbourhoods and their property.
"We're not really seeing any differences in the amount of crime that we're experiencing compared to other years. I think it's remarkable that it's just a decidedly different feel out in the community because there isn't as much traffic and as many people moving about. So the community has a very different feel for our officers and frankly anyone who is out and about," he said.
Alexcia Andrews woke up Saturday to calls from her brother's girlfriend, Taylor, worried about Stewart not having made it home the night before. She was Facetiming with her mom, who still lives in God's Lake First Nation, when council members showed up at her mom's door to inform her of Stewart's death.
"She just lost it. This is the second son she's lost," Alexcia said.
It has been less than a year since she lost her other brother to suicide, an occurence all too common in God's Lake First Nation which had to declare a state of emergency last August after a number of suicides and suicide attempts were seen in that community.
Alexcia is devastated by the loss of Stewart, but she's also angry — angry about the assumptions people will make about her brother because he's Indigenous, angry that the police couldn't have used other measures to deescalate the situation with her brother that might have kept him alive.
"I wish people could get a better understanding of Aboriginal people and their backgrounds," Alexcia said. "The intergenerational traumas, it is a real thing."
Her uncle was also killed after being shot by an RCMP officer. The repetitive cycles of grief have left her feeling jaded. She feels it's no coincidence that the three people who have died after being shot by police in the past two weeks were all of Indigenous heritage, she says it is evidence of the systemic racism that continues to exist in Manitoba.
Eishia Hudson, 16, was shot to death by police on April 8 after a reported robbery of a Liquor Mart in the south end of the city. The following day, Jason Collins, 36, was shot by police following a reported domestic dispute.
Alexcia hopes that people choose to give her brother the benefit of the doubt and see him as a loving father instead. She told the Free Press that Stewart had dreams of going to college, but with the birth of his son, he put those dreams on hold. "He considered Nicholas 'his magnet,' they were inseparable," she said.
"If you knew Stewart personally, than you know that he had a heart of gold. He knew how to cheer people up in their darkest times," Alexcia said.
Alexcia's boyfriend, Brennan Carrier, interjected, wanting to reaffirm that any violent activity was completely out of character for Stewart.
"He was such a great person to be around, so funny and awesome. I loved him, he was just awesome, an amazing person," Carrier said.
The 16-year-old man who was with Stewart when he was shot was treated for minor injuries. Winnipeg Police Chief Smyth said he believed those injuries were unrelated to the officer-involved shooting.
The residents who originally called 911 have been interviewed by police. The man who initially reported his assault was treated for minor injuries at hospital before being released.
Sarah Lawrynuik reports on climate change for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press climate change reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.