“Rodney Levi was a welcomed guest at our home and he attended our residence where he shared a meal with my family and I on Friday evening,” Rev. Brodie MacLeod said in a statement Sunday.
“I am sharing this information only to address the inaccurate information that is circulating in the community and on social media.”
MacLeod said 48-year-old Levi “attended Boom Road Church and was loved by our congregation.”
“This is an ongoing police investigation. We are cooperating fully and will have no further comment at this time.
“We have reached out to Chief Bill Ward to offer our sincere condolences along with any way to be of assistance to the community.”
In a Facebook post, Chief Ward of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation said the statement “means so much” to Levi’s family.
“This means so much to the family of Rodney and our community,” he wrote. “It is heartbreaking to read this but I am glad it is out there. Let’s end these negative narratives from misinformed individuals.”
New Brunswick RCMP was not available for comment Sunday.
The RCMP said in a June 13 statement that it received a call Friday about an “unwanted person” at a home on Boom Road, near Metepenagiag First Nation. The RCMP claims that officers were met with a man carrying knives once they arrived on scene, and that several attempts to subdue him with a stun gun failed.
That’s when an RCMP officer shot Levi, who was taken to hospital. He was declared dead later that night. Friends identified him to Global News as a member of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation.
On Saturday, Ward said Levi was attending a barbecue, where he had planned to seek guidance from a church minister.
Ward described Levi as a troubled man who was seeking help with his mental health, but the chief insisted he was not violent.
“He had his demons but he was always very friendly,” he said Saturday. “He never tried to harm anybody. … He wasn’t some monster that they’re going to try to paint him to be.”
Earlier on Sunday, Ward issued a statement on Facebook, saying he was responding to a request from Levi’s family. He asked the community to refrain from speaking to media.
“I, as well, will respect this request at this time,” Ward said in a brief post.
Ward took part in a live, hour-long Facebook session on Saturday and has said investigators from Quebec’s independent police watchdog agency are working with family members to determine if charges should be laid against the RCMP.
The Quebec agency is investigating because no such unit exists in New Brunswick.
“Please respect this investigation,” Ward said in his post. “The family will reach out to the media when they are ready.”
Levi’s death is the second time a police officer has fatally shot an Indigenous person in New Brunswick in less than a month.
On June 4, Chantel Moore, 26 — originally from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in B.C. — was shot by an officer with the Edmundston Police Department.
There have been calls for a broader inquiry to examine systemic racism in the province’s policing and criminal justice systems. New Brunswick’s minister of Aboriginal affairs, Jake Stewart, has said he supports the call, saying the province has a problem with systemic racism.
— With files by The Canadian Press