Yellowknife RCMP say they have charged a man and a teen with assault, following allegations that another man was assaulted by police officers last week.
In a Friday afternoon press release, RCMP said following a “rigorous investigation” by the Yellowknife RCMP’s General Investigative Section – including interviews with over 20 people – they concluded no officers had contact with the victim on the day of the alleged assault.
According to the release, Jamal Moosenose, 22, and a 16-year-old male have been charged with assault causing bodily harm. The teen cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Last week, Benjamin Manuel, a Dene man, said he was assaulted by RCMP in Yellowknife on June 10.
He claims he was walking home that evening when police “just picked me up, beat me up, and threw me to the side of the road” behind Kim’s Confectionery, on the corner of Franklin Ave and 54 St.
Manuel’s partner, Dorothy May Betsaka, said she found him lying outside the convenience store bleeding and she could see a boot-print on his face.
During an RCMP press conference on June 12, held in response to a Black Lives Matter solidarity march and motorcade, reporters asked Chief Superintendent Jamie Zettler – commanding officer of the NWT RCMP – about Manuel’s allegations.
Zettler said the detachment first became aware of the claims through a Facebook post. He said RCMP had reached out to the man involved and were planning to follow up.
Zettler told reporters, however, that without further information, RCMP were not prepared to make a statement on the matter. He also could not confirm whether RCMP had any record of an incident matching the description given by Manuel.
After the allegations were made public, witnesses came forward who claimed they saw Manuel being assaulted by a group of people, who were not police officers, on June 10.
One witness, who asked not to be named, said they saw three men kick Manuel in the head, face, and ribs while he was on the ground outside City Hall that night.
The witness said the attackers left when they heard sirens and Manuel had walked away by the time RCMP and medical services arrived.
When asked about the incident, Manuel told Cabin Radio he stood by his allegations about police and was also assaulted before police arrived on June 10. He said he was assaulted by two people outside City Hall before police arrived, but had difficulty recalling details of the incident as he was experiencing migraines and dizzy spells.
A photo of Benjamin Manuel following Wednesday’s incident shows significant bruising to his face.
On Wednesday, Yellowknife RCMP confirmed they were investigating allegations that the same victim was assaulted in two separate incidents on June 10.
Friday, RCMP told local media they would hold a press conference on the investigations. One hour before the conference was set to take place, however, RCMP announced it was being cancelled “due to unforseen circumstances.”
In an initial Friday press release, RCMP said the allegations against officers had been “discounted.” That term, along with some comments from Inspector Alex Laporte –officer in charge of the Yellowknife detachment – were absent in the revised release.
In both versions of the release, RCMP said they responded to a call for service on June 10 at Somba K’e Park around 7:48 p.m. and saw the victim leaving the area but were unable to speak to him. They said officers searched the surrounding area but were unable to locate either the victim or suspects.
RCMP are asking any additional witnesses to contact the Yellowknife detachment.
“We continue to work with the victim, to support him through the trauma of an assault,” Inspector Lapointe was quoted as saying.
RCMP could not be reached for further comment.
Wednesday, Manuel said he was picked up by police and left on the street on June 10. He said he was not taken to hospital or given medical attention by RCMP or emergency medical personnel that evening.
Betsaka said she went to the hospital with Manuel and began filming hospital staff when she asked them how long he would have to wait for treatment. She told APTN they had been waiting for three hours.
Betsaka told Cabin Radio she and Manuel decided to leave before he received medical treatment, after she claims hospital staff threatened to take her phone away and call RCMP.
David Maguire, a spokesperson for the territorial health authority, said he could not comment on specific incidents involving patients for privacy reasons.
Speaking in general terms, he said if someone is filming in the public area of a health facility where other patients are present, security staff would intervene and ask them to stop, to protect the privacy of other people receiving care.
“Our first goal would be to settle any conflict through de-escalation and building common understanding about the reasons we have these processes in place,” Maguire said in an emailed statement.
“Any situation that escalates to a point of disruption or threatening actions would result in a call to the RCMP.”
Maguire said the authority is still working on clarifying whether people can record their own care interactions or those of family members.
“We recognize that recording interactions with providers – in areas where privacy of other patients can be protected – may be useful for patients to enable recall of the advice, instructions, and discussion,” he said.