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Alberta team probes shooting

Province orders external investigation into incident at Norway House

Police tape surrounds the baseball diamond in Norway House where Evan Cromarty was shot by an RCMP officer.

ANNIE ETTAWACAPPOW / SUBMITTED PHOTO Enlarge Image

Police tape surrounds the baseball diamond in Norway House where Evan Cromarty was shot by an RCMP officer.

There are many questions -- and few answers -- surrounding the shooting of a suspect during a youth baseball tournament.

But one thing is clear: Manitoba RCMP are promising a hands-off approach to the investigation that will determine whether their actions were justified.

Investigators from Alberta are on their way to Norway House to take over the formal probe into Sunday's incident. Five members of the 27-person Alberta Serious Incident Response Team will be involved.

"There is no rush. We do an objective, thorough and independent investigation," spokeswoman Lynn Crawford told the Free Press on Monday. She couldn't provide an expected timeline but said the findings would be forwarded to justice officials for review.

The Alberta team was brought in at the request of the provincial government, which is seeking an external investigation to avoid any allegations of bias or a conflict of interest. The unit routinely investigates cases involving Alberta police agencies that result in serious injury or death, as well as those involving sensitive allegations of police misconduct.

Manitoba has no such unit but is in the process of developing one. Norway House Chief Ron Evans said Monday he supported the call for an independent probe, which came just hours after the shooting. Premier Greg Selinger spoke with Evans Sunday night to discuss the matter and how it would be handled.

Manitoba RCMP have declined to make any comments about the incident, deferring all inquiries to Alberta. However, they issued a press release Monday afternoon reporting a face-to-face meeting between two senior officers and Evans.

"The meeting was positive, and concerns regarding the event and the relationship between the community and the police were discussed," the RCMP said. They would not provide any details on the victim of the shooting or the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Evan Cromarty, 20, remained in a Winnipeg hospital Monday after being shot in the shoulder. He was flown out of Norway House by air ambulance and is listed in stable condition.

Evans said about 300 people attending two baseball games witnessed the incident. One involved 12-year-olds and the other 17-year-olds. The teams were from Norway House and Cross Lake.

Many of the witnesses took photos and videos of the incident with their cellphones. That evidence is now being collected for the independent investigators to review.

"We're going to give them whatever evidence there is. We don't want anybody to jeopardize or tamper with it," Evans said. He said many of the witnesses are now traumatized.

Justice sources told the Free Press tensions are high in Norway House. Rumours were circulating on Monday the chief and council may seek to pass a resolution that bans the officers who were involved from the community, but Evans denied such a move is being considered.

No details have been provided by RCMP about the officer who did the shooting, including his age or years of experience. He has been placed on mandatory administrative leave pending an investigation.

The shooting took place around 4 p.m., said witness Annie Ettawacappow, 25, who lives next to the Rossville Diamond where the incident took place. She saw the man running toward the field, only to be confronted by a pair of RCMP officers who had their weapons drawn.

"A cop pointed a gun at him. I saw him put up his hands," she said. The police told him to "freeze," she said.

Ettawacappow claims Cromarty kept his hands up and was walking backwards. That's when one of the officers fired. She believes there were four shots.

"He went down and fell to the ground. He started twitching. I thought he was dead," Ettawacappow said. She didn't see Cromarty with any weapon, and Evans confirmed Monday he was unarmed.

www.mikeoncrime.com

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 6:44 AM CDT:
Replaces photo

Updated on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 7:49 AM CDT:
Corrects typo

Updated on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 11:52 AM CDT:
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