Police say an investigation continues into allegations RCMP assaulted a Dene Yellowknife resident last week. Witness reports of an attack on the same man are also being examined.
Cabin Radio understands multiple witnesses have provided signed statements to RCMP that they saw Benjamin Manuel being attacked by other people, who were not police officers, on the same night.
Manuel says there were two separate incidents on Wednesday, June 10: he says he was first attacked by a group of people, then assaulted by police.
Photos of him with an apparent boot-mark to his face were widely shared on social media last week. He, his partner, and his employer all alleged the mark came from the boot of an RCMP officer.
Manuel subsequently protested outside an RCMP news conference on Friday. At that news conference, Chief Superintendent Jamie Zettler – NWT RCMP’s commanding officer – said police were looking into what had taken place.
RCMP now say they are investigating both the allegation that he was assaulted by officers and the apparent assault on Manuel seen by other residents on the same night.
One witness, who did not want to be named for fear of involving herself in gang violence, described to Cabin Radio seeing Manuel be attacked outside City Hall at around 7:45pm on June 10.
“One of the men involved had fallen to the ground and the three other men involved were kicking him quite badly in the head, face, and ribs. It was really awful,” the witness said.
She described residents intervening to stand between the attackers and the victim – who she is certain was Manuel – while RCMP were called.
“When they heard the sirens of RCMP, the attackers took off down the trail,” the witness said.
“The guy was on the ground. He is the guy from the photos on Facebook, his face was super-beaten. Those marks, I won’t forget those.
“We said, ‘Buddy, just stay, you need to get some medical attention.’ But he muttered that he did not want to be apprehended. I could not believe he could even stand but he walked up to Mildred Hall School and, by the time RCMP and the ambulance arrived, he was out of sight.”
The witness provided both photo and video evidence of the incident’s aftermath to RCMP. Cabin Radio has seen that evidence, which mostly shows the attackers but also contains footage of the victim.
“When I saw that post on Facebook I was like, ‘That’s totally the guy,'” said the witness, who believes at least 10 to 12 people saw the assault.
Manuel files complaint
The witness said she heard apparent gang-related terms being used by the attackers during the assault outside City Hall. She suggested Manuel had in fact been assaulted by a gang, and not by police officers.
Manuel, however, told Cabin Radio he was the victim in two separate incidents on the same evening.
A witness interviewed by Cabin Radio last week – who supported Manuel’s initial account, in which he described being beaten up and “thrown to the side of the road” by police near the Kim’s Confectionery convenience store – had stated Manuel was involved in “an argument” with other people prior to RCMP arriving.
Manuel said he “can’t really recall” details of the attack outside City Hall, but agreed it had taken place. He said his encounter with police had followed that attack, and they had not taken him to the hospital but left him “out on the street.”
He said he has since filed a formal complaint with RCMP, and they have been in touch.
“They just told me they had some footage of me at City Hall,” Manuel said, “and then they asked me if I was willing to charge those two guys that jumped me, beat me up.” (Manuel referred to two men while the witness described three.)
“So I’m just wondering about that part, kind-of debating right now,” Manuel said, referring to the prospect of charging his attackers.
“So if it was the police or it was… I don’t know, I can’t recall,” he continued. “And that’s because I’m starting to get migraine headaches and dizzy spells.”
RCMP provide update
Police on Wednesday said they were investigating both reports of assault.
“RCMP became aware on June 11, 2020, of the allegations of assault, by a victim, alleging an assault by RCMP officers on June 10,” read a statement provided by police to Cabin Radio in response to questions.
“Yellowknife RCMP General Investigative Section (GIS) began an immediate investigation. That investigation is ongoing and progressing,” the statement continued.
“On June 13, RCMP became aware of an incident during which it is believed the same victim is alleged to have been assaulted by other individuals, during the evening of June 10.
“This is also being actively investigated. We are not able to provide further details at this time, as the investigation remains active.”
Police said a further update would be provided “at the earliest availability.”
Emily Blake contributed reporting.