Two RCMP officers charged with manslaughter in the 2017 death of an Indigenous man in Prince George have pleaded not guilty.
The two officers charged with manslaughter, Const. Paul Ste-Marie and Const. Jean Francois Monette was not present in Prince George’s courtroom for their arraignment on Tuesday.
They entered their plea through their lawyers, who appeared remotely via video on a console that was only partially visible to the small courtroom gallery.
BC’s police watchdog says RCMP encountered Dale Culver on July 18, 2017, after responding to a report of a man dodging vehicles. RCMP says Culver tried to flee on a bicycle. He was sprayed with pepper spray and placed in the back of a police car.
Culver, a man from Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan and the father of three children, had trouble breathing and later died in hospital
Outside the courthouse, Culver’s cousin, Wesley Mitchell, remembered Culver for his positive influence.
“He could walk into a room where grief was going on, where a lot of people were lost, and he could lift our spirits.”
In March and again in May, Culver’s relatives from BC and Alberta traveled to Prince George to attend hearings, but the court proceedings were postponed at the last minute.
The arraignment continued on Tuesday morning, but it lasted less than 15 minutes and moved so quickly that Culver’s family and friends, who were consoling each other outside the courthouse, did not make it to the courtroom in time to observe the proceedings.
Prince George’s drummers played a native healing song as some of Culver’s relatives cried and hugged.
Laura Holland, the mother of a BC police shooting victim, had traveled to Prince George to be with them.
Her son, Jared Lowndes, a Wet’suwet’en man, was shot in 2021 by RCMP outside a Tim Horton’s in Campbell River.
“It’s very important to be here because these are my people,” she said.
BC Assembly of First Nation regional chief Terry Teegee said he was there to “seek some semblance of justice. Far too often our indigenous peoples are murdered in custody.”
Nearly six years after Culver’s death, five RCMP officers were charged.
The date for the preliminary investigation of the two officers charged with manslaughter has not yet been set.
Three other Mounties, Const Arthur Dalman, Const Clarence Alexander MacDonald and Sergeant Bayani (Jon) Eusebio Cruz, are charged with obstruction of justice and will face charges in July.