The RCMP’s fatal shooting of an Indigenous Saskatchewan man last summer will now be reviewed by provincial Crown prosecutors.
Lucien Silverquill, a 37-year-old Saulteaux man, died on Aug. 27, 2019, outside his family’s home on the Fishing Lake First Nation reserve, located about 20 kilometres southeast of Wadena, Sask.
According to an RCMP statement at the time, officers from Wadena were called to the home early that afternoon because Silverquill had a knife and was causing a disturbance. Shortly after officers arrived, at least one member shot Silverquill under circumstances that remain unclear. Silverquill died at the scene.
The Moose Jaw Police Service investigated the shooting. Superintendent Brent Mackey said he planned to deliver the investigative file to provincial Crown lawyers this week. They will review the case for signs of criminal wrongdoing, which is standard in police-involved deaths.
If no such signs are found, Silverquill’s death will likely be the subject of a public coroner’s inquest. That process is not meant to assign blame but rather prevent similar deaths.
The shooting probe was overseen by an investigation observer who is not an ex-RCMP member, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said.
‘They held him down,’ sister says
Silverquill’s sister, Dolores Silverquill, said she did not witness the shooting but heard the gunshots and filmed part of the aftermath on her phone. She shared the video with CBC News last week.
In the short video — shakily filmed by a sobbing Dolores through her trailer window — two officers are seen crouching by Silverquill, their hands placed on his left arm.
Twice, the officers appear to have Silverquill’s body in the recovery position. According to the Canadian Red Cross, the side-lying recovery position is meant for people “who are unresponsive and breathing normally.”
The officers visibly scan the scene around them. Several of Silverquill’s family members were present that day, watching from the side.
Dolores said she’s concerned that she never saw officers doing CPR on her brother.
“They held him down,” she said. “They should have … let us go and sit with him and tell him that it’s going to be OK, it’s going to be OK — something so that he wasn’t alone when he died.”
Officers performed first aid: RMCP
According to the original RCMP statement about Silverquill’s death, “police officers called for assistance and performed first aid on [Silverquill] until the Wadena Emergency Medical Service arrived.”
The release said additional police officers arrived at the scene at the same time to help EMS with Silverquill and to “secure the area.”
This week, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Rob King said first aid measures were taken before the start of the video.
“While we cannot get into the specific injuries that were sustained, we can confirm that first aid was provided on the scene and this included the application of a tourniquet,” King said. “As the incident is still being investigated by the Moose Jaw Police Service, we are unable to comment further.”
According to the Red Cross, “the use of a tourniquet should be considered for life-threatening external limb bleeding that is not controlled by direct pressure, or for circumstances such as wound inaccessibility, multiple injuries, multiple people/disaster setting, remote locations.”
‘No compassion,’ brother says
Silverquill’s brother, Moses Silverquill, said the coroner’s service shared the results of Silverquill’s autopsy with the family. Silverquill was shot twice and died of a severed artery, Moses said.
According to Kelly Prime, owner of the Shamrock Ambulance service in Wadena, paramedics were called 16 minutes after the RCMP officers were dispatched to the Silverquill home. The paramedics arrived in just over 15 minutes, Prime added.
Moses said he drove to the property before the ambulance arrived and saw his brother being held down by officers.
He said the family was yelling at the officers to stop and let the family approach Silverquill.
“I didn’t see no compassion on the police officers’ part, to try and get this guy as comfortable as they could,” Moses said.
‘They didn’t tell us anything’
Silverquill still showed some signs of life after he was shot, Moses said.
“He managed to look up because I yelled out ‘Hey bro!’ He kinda lifted his head up a little bit,” Moses said.
Dolores said the male officer told everybody to stay away.
“Then the other RCMP officers came and they just stood guard and made sure that nobody went near him,” she said.
A STARS air ambulance was also called to the scene and landed about an hour after the ground ambulance arrived, according to STARS spokesperson Mark Oddan.
“The situation was such that we were no longer medically required,” Oddan said.
Moses said he figured his brother was dead when the air ambulance was sent away.
Dolores said exhausted-looking paramedics emerged from the ambulance van — still parked on the family property — about an hour after Silverquill was put inside.
“They still didn’t tell us anything,” she said.
The family only received confirmation of Silverquill’s death at the hospital, Moses and Dolores both said. Moses said he had asked officers at the scene about his brother’s condition.
Moses said his brother’s death left him wondering not only about less lethal options such as a Taser but also about the training rural RCMP officers have to treat shooting victims.
He said he hopes a coroner’s inquest takes place.
“For the RCMP to come in and handle things the way they did — that’s the big question that remains with the family.”