Inquest jury delivers homicide verdict during inquest into 2016 death of man in Nipigon

Daniel Legarde of Red Rock Indian Band died after being shot by an OPP officer

Sarah Law · CBC News · Posted: Aug 14, 2023 9:02 AM EDT | Last Updated: August 14

A coroner’s jury has delivered a verdict of homicide during an inquest into the death of a 45-year-old Ojibwe man in Nipigon, Ont. in 2016.

Daniel Legarde, known as Gazo, was described as a loving father of two children, now both young adults. He was a member of Red Rock Indian Band.

A jury of five, consisting of three men and two women, determined that Legarde died at the Nipigon District Memorial Hospital on Nov. 26, 2016, and that his death was caused by a gunshot wound to the abdomen. His means of death was determined to be homicide.

In a coroner’s inquest, the term homicide has no criminal liability, but rather indicates that the death was the result of a person – in this case, a Nipigon OPP officer – killing another person.

In 2017, a Special Investigations Unit report into the incident determined no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against the OPP officer involved in Legarde’s death. However, a coroner’s inquest was still mandatory under the Coroners Act, since Legarde died during an interaction with police.

The inquest jury delivered its verdict virtually on Friday, nearly seven years after Legarde’s death. The inquest began July 31 and heard from 18 witnesses.

Recommendations focus on police training, resources

Witnesses testified that police were called to remove Legarde from a residence, and that when officers arrived, he came out carrying a kitchen knife. Legarde was asked to drop the knife, and was shot when he approached one of the officers while still wielding it.

Jurors delivered 18 recommendations, 12 of which were addressed to the OPP, to prevent future, similar deaths.

There was a key focus on improving Indigenous-specific training for OPP officers and on helping police build better relationships with First Nations. These recommendations include:

  • Refresher training for past participants of the OPP’s Indigenous Awareness Training Course (IATC); and
  • Increasing resources to help the Indigenous Awareness Training Unit deliver more IATC courses, and to help more people participate in it.

It was also recommended that the Nipigon OPP detachment, and similar detachments, are supported in increasing the number of officers on each shift and having officers receive more specialized training.

The OPP, along with the Ontario Police College, received training recommendations on:

  • Responding to intimate partner violence calls and calls related to unwanted persons.
  • Mental and emotional preparedness for dealing with violent incidents and with people in crisis.
  • Verbal and non-verbal de-escalation techniques.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General was also encouraged to review the Ontario Public – Police Interaction Training Aid every five years.

Jurors heard witness testimony that Legarde was behind on his child support payments, which became a source of stress for him and his family. As such, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services was given recommendations to improve communications with Indigenous communities about the Family Responsibility Office’s policies and programs, and on how to better explain people’s options with payment plans.

The inquest was opened and closed with a prayer from an Elder of Red Rock Indian Band.

Link to original article.