Inquest jury rules 2017 police shooting of Nunavut man a homicide

SANIRAJAK, NVT. — The six-person jury at a coroner’s inquest has determined a police shooting of a Nunavut man almost five years ago was a homicide.

Jeremy Nuvviaq, 39, died after he was shot by RCMP in Sanirajak in May 2017 following reports to police of a suicidal man with a gun.

The inquest heard that Nuvviaq had mentioned suicide to others in the past and that he livestreamed himself on Facebook the night he died saying he wanted police to kill him.

Nuvviaq’s former colleague, who watched the video, testified that he had phoned police in the community to warn them that it looked like he was holding a toy gun.

After a few brief interactions with police, the inquest heard that Nuvviaq raised a pellet gun over his shoulder and aimed it at one of the officers before he was shot by Const. Stephen Currie. The officers later discovered it was a pellet gun.

Nuvviaq’s common-law partner testified that he was a good father to their two adopted children and wiped away tears as she spoke.

The jury has made 17 recommendations to prevent similar deaths, including that RCMP officers in the territory should be trained in Inuit knowledge.

Another recommendation suggests officers take suicide prevention, mental health training and run through scenarios where people want to die by police.

Ottawa police officers who investigated the shooting in 2017 cleared Currie of any wrongdoing. Currie had said he feared for his life.

Sheldon Toner, the coroner’s lawyer, told the jury that inquests must always have a presumption against suicide, but that much of the evidence showed Nuvviaq had wanted to die.

Coroner’s inquests are mandatory in Nunavut when someone dies at the hands of police and do not find fault or criminality.

The jury’s ruling follows a coroner’s inquest in Gjoa Haven, Nvt. into the police shooting of 21-year-old Charles Qirngnirq, where the jury also ruled his death a homicide.

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