WINNIPEG – A northern Manitoba community is outraged after a police officer shot a suspect during a foot pursuit through a baseball diamond where children were playing. Witnesses say the suspect was unarmed.
It happened in Norway House Cree Nation, 475 kilometres north of Winnipeg, late Sunday afternoon.
Witnesses told Global News an RCMP officer pursued a suspect on foot onto the field where two games were going on, one between 16-and-under teams and the other between 12-and-under teams. Witnesses said they saw the male suspect walking with his arms raised when the officer fired as many as four shots.
Leslie McKay was the umpire of the 16-and-under fastball game, between the Cross Lake Pirates and Norway House Nationals.
“He was just walking and he walked backwards, with his hands up,” McKay said, adding there was nothing in the suspect’s hands. “One cop shot off four bullets at the suspect, and down goes the suspect.”
Witnesses identified the suspect as Evan Cromarty. It’s unknown why Cromarty was being sought by police and RCMP are not commenting on the incident.
“He was trying to get away from police,” Norway House Chief Ron Evans told reporters in Winnipeg Monday. “He wasn’t threatening anyone at that particular moment,” Evans said, adding that Cromarty, “about 20 years old,” was wounded in the left shoulder. He was flown to hospital in Winnipeg and was to undergo surgery Monday.
“That boy had his hands up already and didn’t have anything in his hand. The cop had his gun drawn and all of a sudden I heard shots and the guy was down,” said a woman who was driving past the field and stopped to watch what was happening when police first arrived. She didn’t want her name used.
In a news release Sunday, RCMP only said a member “discharged their firearm” and a resident of Norway House suffered non-life-threatening injuries. A spokesperson would not discuss the incident further on Monday.
The province asked for an independent investigation of the shooting.
“The Manitoba government has requested the assistance of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) to investigate an officer-involved shooting that took place in Norway House yesterday,” officials said in a news release Monday afternoon. “They are currently travelling to the community to begin their investigation.”
“At first everyone was shocked and there were people screaming and yelling and some kids crying, and after a while a lot of the spectators were angry,” said Purvis Cromarty, who says he is a cousin of the man shot and was the umpire of the 12-and-under game between the Cross Lake Indians and Norway House Sluggers.
Players and spectators first noticed the drama when an RCMP vehicle with lights and sirens on stopped near the ball field, Cromarty said.
“The officer that did the shooting jumped out of the vehicle, ran towards the field and then ran across the field, and then I turned my head to look who he was looking for and I saw Evan walking across the field. And he was walking in the direction heading home and then as the officer got closer, he pulled out his gun and I’m not too clear on what he said, but I think what he said was stop Evan you’re under arrest and then Evan said something but I didn’t really hear what Evan said,” Cromarty said. “The suspect was walking, and then as the officer yelled out to him he continued to walk as if he didn’t do anything, he made a hand gesture to put his arms up and that’s when he got shot.”
Evans said investigators from out of province will be brought in to conduct the investigation into the shooting. He was due to meet with RCMP officials at D Division headquarters in Winnipeg Monday.