Family says First Nations man brain dead after altercation with Saskatchewan police
April 21, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Apr. 21, 2023, Saskatoon, Sask. – The family of a First Nations man in Saskatchewan is calling for accountability and justice after an altercation earlier this month with Prince Albert police left him on life support with no brain activity.
The family of Boden Umpherville, 40, alleges officers used excessive force during a police stop in the city north of Saskatoon on April 1.
“I’m so sad. My heart is broken for my son,” his mother, Verna Umpherville, told a news conference in Saskatoon on Friday.
A news release from the Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team, which looks into serious incidents involving police, said the vehicle involved in the traffic stop had been reported stolen. But when officers pulled it over, the registered owner was inside, it said.
Police attempted to take Boden Umpherville into custody when there was an altercation, during which police used several weapons, including stun guns, batons and pepper spray, the police watchdog said.
Videos shared on social media show officers around a vehicle yelling before a stun gun can be heard going off multiple times. The videos show officers struggling with the person in the drivers seat and more stun-gun sounds are heard before the vehicle moves forward into a police cruiser.
Officers yell and struggle with the driver, who remains in the vehicle, before the person is pulled out onto the road.
The police watchdog said a loaded handgun was found at the scene.
Umpherville went into medical distress once he was in police custody and he was taken to hospital.
The family alleges Umpherville was left on the ground in handcuffs, without getting medical help, until an ambulance arrived. They say his heart had stopped beating for 20 minutes before it was revived.
Umpherville’s orbital bones were broken, there are cuts above his eye and on the top of his head, and stitches all over, his family said
“My brother never deserved any of this. No human being deserved what my brother went through,” said Darry Umpherville.
“I’m just disgusted with the police force for what they did to my brother.”
The Prince Albert Police Service said it could not comment on the probe, but all officers involved were given time to participate.
The officers remain assigned to regular duties and can receive support through in-house wellness strategies and other programs based on their needs as they return to duty, police said.
Vice Chief Edward Dutch Lerat with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations said Umpherville’s family will soon be taking him off life-support machines.
“His family are left with no answers to their questions and significant concerns over the transparency over any accountability for the police,” he said.
Lerat said Indigenous people are concerned by a string of serious situations involving police in Prince Albert.
Last year, the Saskatchewan government appointed a former Edmonton police chief to conduct an independent review of the force following the death of a 13-month-old-boy.
The child’s mother alleged that when she called police for help in the hours before his death, she was taken into custody because officers racially profiled her. The boy’s father was later charged with second-degree murder in the child’s death.
The federation also called for changes to the Prince Albert force following the deaths of three Indigenous men in custody in 2021.
“We have to have faith in a process that has not brought justice for the other recent tragedies,” Lerat said.
The federation, which represents 74 First Nations in the province, called on the serious incident response team and provincial justice minister to be open and transparent about the investigation into the police altercation with Umpherville.
Umpherville was a father of five, said his friend Chase Sinclair. Umpherville took care of Sinclair when they were younger and treated him like family. He was compassionate, caring and loved the outdoors, Sinclair said.
“This was uncalled for. It was unjust,” Sinclair said. “It was barbaric.”
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