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Manitoba orders independent investigation into police shooting at ball tournament

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government has ordered an independent investigation into the shooting of a man by the RCMP in full view of children and families at a baseball tournament in a northern aboriginal community.

The shooting occurred Sunday afternoon on the Norway House Cree Nation reserve. The RCMP say an officer discharged a firearm and a Norway House resident suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

In a two-sentence statement issued Monday, the province said it has asked the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, known as ASIRT, to investigate the shooting.

"They are currently travelling to the community to begin their investigation," the statement said.

Premier Greg Selinger's office confirmed he talked to Norway House Chief Ron Evans about the independent investigation hours after the shooting on Sunday. Evans said he welcomes the outside investigation since many had concerns about the RCMP investigating its own officers.

ASIRT's mandate in Alberta is to investigate serious injuries or deaths in which police have been involved. The unit has a civilian director and most of its members are civilian.

The young people who witnessed the shooting on his reserve are traumatized, Evans said.

"It's something that they only see on TV, not in real life," the chief said Monday. "They saw all of it ... Some of the parents told me that their kids had a hard time sleeping. I imagine most of the kids are that way."

The community of about 8,000, which is about 450 kilometres north of Winnipeg, immediately dispatched councillors to help those upset by what they had witnessed.

About 200 people were watching two baseball games involving 12-year-olds and 17-year-olds at the time of the shooting, Evans said. RCMP officers recognized a suspect there and began chasing him, he said.

When he was told to stop, the man kept walking, but put his hands up and declared he had no weapons, Evans said.

"They shot him anyway. The member fired four times and I think he hit him twice in the shoulder in front of all these kids.

"There's absolutely no reason for that to happen the way it happened. It was poor judgment on the part of the officer that fired the shots."

Many people caught what happened on their smartphones, Evans said. That video evidence will be turned over to the independent investigation team rather than the RCMP, he said.

Evans met with RCMP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Brosseau on Monday to discuss the shooting.

"The meeting was positive, and concerns regarding the event and the relationship between the community and the police were discussed," the RCMP said in a statement. "The RCMP values the relationships it has with the communities it polices, and the force will continue to focus on those valued partnerships.

"As this is an active and ongoing investigation, the RCMP will not speak to any matters related to the investigation."

It will take the community some time to heal the rift caused by the shooting, Evans said. He pointed out that with so many children and families nearby, the shooting could have easily turned tragic.

"There are homes in the area. There were lots of children. With a stray bullet, it could have been a lot worse."

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