Canadian Police-Involved Deaths in January 2024
At least four people had their lives taken in police actions in January 2024. The police-involved deaths include people who were directly killed by police, as in police shootings, or died during police deployments or in police custody. All deaths in January occurred during arrests or in custody. This includes two people killed during intoxication arrests, a practice that is often deadly and should be ended. There were at least 97 police-involved deaths in Canada in 2023, while in 2022, there were at least 117 police-involved deaths.
The details below are based on police reports, reports from oversight agencies, and in some cases information from families. As always, because there are no formal, systemic mechanisms for documenting and reporting police killings publicly in Canada, all numbers presented for police-involved deaths represent an undercount. In addition to the known cases, there are cases of police-involved deaths that have no reporting. For example, the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia (IIO) lists five deaths for which there is no public reporting, four of which were closed without a public report.
One of the victims has been confirmed as being Indigenous. He has been identified publicly as James Wood (35) who was killed by Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) officers.
January 2. Greater Grand Sudbury Police.
A 46-year-old man was killed when tased and arrested by Greater Grand Sudbury Police on January 2. It is reported that around 10:40 AM, officers were dispatched to a residence on Keith Avenue in relation to a domestic violence call. When officers arrived on scene, they entered the residence and tased a man in arresting him. He became unresponsive in police custody and was pronounced dead at the scene. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has assigned three investigators and one forensic investigator to examine the case.
Tasers are not non-lethal weapons. There have been numerous cases of people killed when police use tasers on them.
January 5. Edmonton Police Service. Intoxication Arrest.
A 49-year-old man died in Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Custody on January 5. EPS claim they arrested the man after officers responded to “trouble with person” reports at an apartment building near 112 Avenue and 80 Street. EPS assumed the man was “intoxicated” and he was taken into custody and transported to the EPS Detainee Management Unit (DMU).
EPS claim the man suffered a “medical event” upon arrival at the DMU. He was pronounced dead at the scene. EPS say the director of law enforcement was notified and has directed that the investigation into the death remain with EPS.
If true, this is troubling as investigations into in-custody deaths should be carried out by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT). No explanation has been given for this at present.
Intoxication arrests are often deadly. The practice should be ended immediately.
January 12. North Bay.
Ontario’s SIU is investigating the death of a 42-year-old man in North Bay on January 12, 2024. They report that that morning the man was transported from the North Bay Jail to the court cell block. Later in the day, he suffered a medical incident and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The SIU has assigned one investigator and one forensic investigator to examine the case.
January 27. James Wood. Winnipeg Police Service. Intoxication Arrest.
The Independent Investigation Unit (IIU) of Manitoba is investigating the death of James Wood, a 35-year-old Indigenous man, after his arrest by Winnipeg police in a parking lot on Fairlane Avenue, between Freemont Bay and Buchanan Boulevard. Witnesses have since come forward to report beatings by police and to say that they believe the victim was treated the way he was by police because he was Indigenous.
It is reported that a woman called police just after midnight saying her boyfriend was intoxicated and she was worried for the safety of her toddler and two infants who were inside their apartment suite. Police were sent to the unit at 12:09 AM.
The woman who called reportedly went to another suite in the building and made a call seven minutes later to say her boyfriend had fallen down the stairs and was lying in the snow at the base of the stairs. Another caller reported that the man had walked into the parking lot but had fallen on the ground.
Police arrived at 12:23 AM and reportedly found Mr. Wood lying in the parking lot. They handcuffed him and started to bring him to a police car, when they claim he “became unresponsive.”
He was taken to the hospital, where he died.
None of the police claims have been confirmed independently. In fact, numerous witnesses refute police claims and told CBC News that police beat the victim until he stopped moving. Multiple witness videos of the incident provided to media show the moments before and during police engagement with Mr. Wood and confirm acts of police violence.
A neighbour, Pete, who observed Mr. Wood’s actions before police arrived as well as the police interactions from his ground-level window, and called 911, told CBC News he saw him fall and never get up again. He told a 911 operator that it appeared the man had passed out and was not moving anymore. He says he told the operator it looked like the man was passed out and needed help.
Surveillance video from the scene reflects Pete’s account, showing Mr. Wood appearing to call for help, saying that he loves his children and shouting “come on” several times.
Pete says that police set upon Mr. Wood with force, quickly and needlessly escalating the situation. In his words, “They just kept beating him. They just kept beating him, they wouldn’t stop. He actually at one point reached out his hand, and he says, ‘please stop, please stop.’ He tried to protect himself, he never once reacted … in offence to try and get them off of him. Everything he did with his arms and stuff like that, he was protecting himself.”
Pete says the man’s girlfriend also yelled at police to stop and the man was “still” by the time the police had him handcuffed.
Another witness, Kristina Bauer, also describes police setting upon the man quickly and beating him. She says that when officers approached him he was “kind of half asleep at the same time.” She says that when officers tried to pick him up, he slipped because he was not fully awake and was wearing no shoes.
Bauer reports that officers told the man to stop resisting but “he wasn’t resisting, he literally just fell.” She says that as soon as he hit the ground police went on his back and then beatings started. She says that one officer took out a baton and started “smashing him with it. They just kept beating him and beating him and beating him until he didn’t move anymore.”
A video from the scene shows at least one officer kneeling down on Mr. Wood. Another officer is seen putting pressure on his legs and taking out a baton then striking him in the legs multiple times. At that point the man stops moving and more officers move on him.
Bauer and another witness, Mason Kabestra, say that it appeared to them that officers Tasered him.
Winnipeg Service Chief Danny Smyth said in his statement that police called an ambulance and administered first aid until paramedics arrived. The three witnesses dispute this claim. Pete says that “The ambulance driver, when they got here, asked, ‘Why is no one doing CPR on this guy?’ Not one fricken cop was doing CPR on him. They stood there like 15 minutes waiting for an ambulance while this guy is not moving.”
Pete and Bauer, both of whom are white, believe Mr. Wood was treated the way he was because he was Indigenous.
Jeff Shantz is a long-time anti-authoritarian organizer, researcher, and writer who lives and works on Kwantlen, Katzie, and Semiahmoo territories (Surrey, British Columbia).