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Melvin Bigsky

The truth of what happened to Melvin Bigsky is most likely in the original reports, included on on this page in descending order: more often than not the first reports are the most accurate. In all the inquests so far into cops killing Natives, the police have lied on the stand and have succeeded in discrediting the aboriginals seeking justice -- except in the case of Darrell Night who was able to produce unimpeachable evidence for his claim that Hatchen and Munsen took him to the edge of town and left him there to freeze to death. These killers were charged and found guilty of relatively minor crimes and lost only their jobs . . . Sheila Steele

Inquest hears RCMP rules in dealing with dangerous suspect

Kim McNairn, Saskatchewan News Network; Saskatoon Starphoenix, Saturday, October 05, 2002

SASKATOON -- Two shots towards the torso and a final one to the head were fired at Melvin Bigsky the night he died, just like RCMP officers are trained to do as a last resort to stop a dangerous suspect, an inquest heard Friday.

James FlackThe RCMP handbook on using lethal force was under scrutiny Friday on the final day of evidence at the coroner's inquest into the shooting death of Bigsky on a grid road east of Saskatoon in April 2001.

Jurors and the lawyer representing Bigsky's family questioned if there were other ways Const. James Flack (right) could have resolved the situation besides shooting Bigsky in the head.

Bigsky was shot as the suspect sat in the driver's side of a pickup truck in the ditch, the rear wheels spinning in reverse.

In the previous minutes, he and Flack had dealt blows to each other and then retreated to their vehicles. A car chase ensued. Flack testified earlier this week that he feared for his life.

Sgt. Sandy Ervin, who handles training for the RCMP, told the inquest that lethal force is just one component of a model officers use to help determine the risk of a situation, and what actions are warranted.

Officers are taught to constantly reassess circumstances to determine the best way to resolve a situation and protect the public at large.

If suspects are co-operative, he said, verbal communication works well. As the suspect becomes more combative, so do the levels of force officers are authorized to use -- hand controls, pepper spray, physical strikes, batons, flashlights, and then lethal force.

However, if nothing else works and the suspect must be stopped to protect the public safety, officers are taught to shoot at the centre of the body. Firing at legs and arms is discouraged, he said, because those areas of the body are smaller and therefore harder to hit. The goal at this point, said Ervin, is to stop the threat.

He told the jury of a training exercise called "failure drill." Officers have five seconds to draw the pistol, fire twice to the centre of mass, and if the danger is still imminent, fire a final shot to the head.

"The first two shots delivered have not had the desired effect. They haven't stopped the person," Ervin told reporters outside the courtroom.

"The best chance of stopping them quickly is to deliver a shot to the head area. It gives you the best chance to stop the person from doing what they are doing at that particular time."

A stream of questions runs through an officer's mind when responding to an incident, said Ervin. In determining the risk, they need to know everything from the number of suspects to how firm their footing is on the ground. However an officer reacts is much more complex, he said, than just the physical characteristics of the person.

Ron Piche, the lawyer representing the Bigsky family at the inquest, contends Flack had other options than to fire the fatal shot. He points to the RCMP policy on shooting at tires. Officers are discouraged from firing at tires when a vehicle is in motion.

However, the policy states nothing about what to do with spinning tires on a stationary vehicle as was the case with Bigsky that night. If Flack believed Bigsky would use the truck to try and kill him, why not shoot out the spinning wheel, asked Piche.

Risks associated with shooting at spinning wheels include ricochet, said Ervin. He also said often times vehicles can still move with flat tires.

The inquest continues Monday with final addresses to the jury by the coroner and the lawyers involved in the case. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Monday.

© Copyright 2002The Leader-Post (Regina)

'I feared for my life:' cop
Lethal force only option, officer testifies at inquest

Lori Coolican, The StarPhoenix, October 04, 2002

The RCMP officer who shot and killed Melvin Bigsky on a grid road northeast of Saskatoon says he felt he had no choice but to use lethal force, because Bigsky wanted him dead.

"The suspect in this case was trying to use his truck to kill me," Const. James Flack told the coroner's inquest into Bigsky's death Thursday. "I feared for my life and felt the only alternative I had was use of force."

Flack, who joined the RCMP in 1996, spent more than five hours in the witness box at Court of Queen's Bench detailing his actions on the night of April 27, 2001.

Though the inquest is scheduled to conclude today, it has fallen behind schedule and will likely continue next week.

Flack said there were "red flags" going off in his head from the first moment of his encounter with Ivan Indian, the owner of the truck, and his passengers, Melvin and Rose Ann Bigsky.

He'd been dispatched to a complaint of a drunk driver in a late-model pickup who'd nearly run a Saskatoon couple into the ditch off Highway 41 a few minutes earlier.

When he spotted the truck, it sped up, then turned onto a gravel road and stopped in a location that could not be seen from the main road, he said.

He called for back-up immediately because the situation felt wrong, Flack said. Before long Bigsky started to approach his cruiser, asking "in an assertive tone of voice" why they'd been stopped.

He ordered Bigsky back to the truck, then Rose Ann approached and started talking to him. When Melvin returned, impatiently demanding to know why they'd been stopped, Flack said he drew his gun and pepper spray because he couldn't see the other man's hands. Bigsky ignored his orders to go back to the truck, saying, "Well, just f--ing shoot me," Flack testified.

"I said, 'I don't want to do that, so go back to the truck.' "

Cpl Brian Jones

Once he could see Bigsky's hands, he put the gun away, he said. Rose Ann was telling Melvin to return to the truck, and they began to "scuffle" in front of him, so he pushed Bigsky and sent a shot of pepper spray into his face.

Bigsky "became very irate by being pepper sprayed," but soon walked back to the truck, he told the jury. Ivan Indian got out, obviously drunk.

He denied being the driver and claimed to be sober, but co-operated during his arrest for drunk driving, Flack said.

Then he noticed Melvin and Rose Ann fighting between the two vehicles, "striking at each other in a wrestling-type fashion," he said.

Somehow, Melvin ended up flat on his back in the road, not moving. Flack said he thought Bigsky might have passed out, so he decided to handcuff him. He only got one of the cuffs on before Bigsky sat up and the two men began their own wrestling match.

Flack ended up on the bottom. Bigsky punched him twice in the face, leaving a cut over one of his eyes.

"I was feeling scared," Flack testified. "I had a guy who outweighed me by quite a bit . . . straddling me and trying to beat me up. I feared for my life at that time."

Flack said he managed to get Bigsky off and retreated, but the bigger man followed him around the cruiser.

When Bigsky charged him, he used his baton twice with no real effect, he said.

"I remember him saying, 'You shouldn't have f--ing done that.' "

He and the Bigskys got in their separate vehicles. What followed was a bizarre car chase in reverse, with Bigsky backing the truck towards the cruiser, and Flack backing out of the way.

The truck lost control and went into the ditch. Bigsky drove it through a field of summerfallow and headed back towards the highway.

Flack said he stayed on the road but followed the truck -- until Bigsky drove back onto the road and straight towards him. The truck slammed into cruiser, sending it into the ditch and nearly rolling it.

Flack couldn't get it free. The truck was partly in the ditch, its back tires spinning. He got out and drew his pistol.

"I was yelling, 'Shut the truck off,' " he told the jury. "I felt the police car was disabled, I didn't have anywhere to go. The vehicle was rocking (backwards and forwards). There was no compliance with my commands

. . . I was yelling at the top of my lungs with what breath I had left."

His RCMP training had taught him never to shoot at a moving vehicle or a spinning tire, he said. Instead, he aimed at the middle of Bigsky's body. His first two rounds went into the truck door with no result, and his training told him to shoot elsewhere to stop the threat in those situations, he said.

The third shot hit the back of Bigsky's head, and he slumped over into his wife's lap.

Flack denied Rose Ann's claim that her husband had his arms out the window yelling "I give up" just before the shooting.

Throughout his cross-examination by Ron Piche, lawyer for the Bigsky family, Flack maintained he was following his training and had no choice. He was not concerned that Rose Ann might be hit because he was confident enough in his shooting abilities, he said.

Ron Piche

He denied Piche's assertion that he "drastically overreacted" to the situation, saying it wasn't safe to wait for backup because he didn't know how long that would be.

The truck was stuck in the ditch, but he didn't know if it would stay that way, he said.

"I knew it was stuck. I did not know the vehicle was immobile."

Flack is not facing any criminal charges in connection with the shooting.

He told the inquest he was transferred to another detachment because threats were made against his life sometime after the incident.

There is no indication the threats came from Bigsky's family, the inquest heard.

Officer accused of racism, inquest hears

Lori Coolican The StarPhoenix, Thursday, October 03, 2002

Melvin Bigsky accused Const. James Flack of being a racist minutes before the RCMP officer shot him with his service revolver, Bigsky's widow told the coroner's inquest into his death Wednesday.

"The cop was scared because there was two Natives," a tearful Rose Ann Bigsky told the jury. "They were arguing about whether he was racist or not when he pepper sprayed Melvin and told us to get back in the truck."

The 32-year-old mother of three was distraught as she described the chaos that unfolded after Flack responded to a drunk driving complaint a few kilometres northeast of Saskatoon on April 27, 2001. It ended when Flack shot Bigsky in the head.

Rose Ann and Melvin Bigsky, along with her brother Ivan Indian, were driving to Saskatoon from their farm near Nipawin, she testified. Melvin and Indian had been drinking from a 26-ounce bottle of rye along the way.

Rose Ann Bigsky

"They only had a few drinks," she testified.

Mary-Ellen Sharp, an RCMP toxicologist who analysed samples of Bigsky's body fluids, contradicted that statement, telling the inquest his blood-alcohol level was more than 0.25 -- a level at which most people would have trouble walking.

Bigsky would have had to consume between 21 and 54 ounces of hard liquor in the hours before his death to reach that level, Sharp testified.

Rose Ann said when Indian noticed the flashing lights of Flack's patrol car, he pulled off Highway 41 to a grid road and stopped, then asked her to take the driver's seat because he knew he was impaired. The ruse didn't work.

Melvin got out of the truck and began asking the officer why he'd pulled them over, but Flack ordered him to get back in the vehicle while he took Indian to his cruiser, she said. Shortly after that, Flack and Bigsky began to argue outside the truck. Bigsky accused Flack of pulling them over because they were aboriginal, saying he would not have stopped a car full of white people, Rose Ann testified.

Flack was responding to a call placed by Jay Beavis, a local bar owner who told the inquest he had to drive in the ditch to avoid a head-on collision with Indian's truck because it was driving in the wrong lane a few minutes earlier.

"The cop got mad and pepper sprayed him," Rose Ann said. They were ordered back to the truck.

As she climbed in, she accidentally hit the gear shift into neutral and the car coasted forward a few feet -- and that's when Flack came over and told Melvin he was under arrest for drunk driving, even though the engine wasn't running, she said.

As Flack began putting handcuffs on her husband, she came over and began asking why he was under arrest, she said. Flack waved his arm and ordered her back inside the truck -- but Melvin, partly blinded by pepper spray, thought he was hurting her, she said.

"Melvin was just trying to protect me."

Melvin swung his arm and struck Flack. A wrestling match ensued, with Melvin getting the upper hand. He was straddling the officer on the road and landed a few punches before she stepped in, Rose Ann said.

"I told (Melvin) to leave him alone, so Melvin let him up."

Flack went back to his cruiser and the Bigskys got back in the truck. They started to drive away, heading into the ditch and through a field of summerfallow, she said.

They struck the cruiser just as they got back on the road, sending it into the ditch. They got stuck themselves as they tried to turn around. Melvin rocked the truck in forward and reverse gear several times to free it, only to get hung up again on the axle, she said. It wouldn't budge.

"I told him, 'Just give up,' so he put his arms out the window and said, 'I give up, but don't do nothing to my wife, she had nothing to do with it,' " she sobbed. "He was hollering. I could see the police officer standing there with his gun out."

Melvin pulled his hands back inside and turned to look at her when he suddenly slumped over in her lap, she said. It took her a few moments to realize he'd been shot in the head.

Rose Ann told the jury she didn't hear the first two bullets hit the door of the truck -- just a "pinging" sound she thought was gravel from the spinning truck wheel.

Rose Ann has a record of obstruction and assault of police officers, and is in custody awaiting sentencing for impersonating another inmate in an attempt to escape during a court appearance in August.

The inquest is expected to continue today with testimony from Flack and Indian.

© Copyright 2002 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

Truck stuck, inquest hears
Bigsky at wheel of damaged vehicle when fatally shot

Lori Coolican, The StarPhoenix, October 2, 2002

Melvin Bigsky was behind the wheel of a badly damaged truck that wasn't going anywhere when RCMP Const. James Flack fired the shot that killed him, a coroner's inquest heard Tuesday.

RCMP accident reconstructionist Ian Mitchell told the six-member jury he arrived at the scene of the fatal shooting on April 28, 2001, to find a blue truck and a patrol car firmly stuck in the soft, dry dirt of the ditch.

The truck could not be taken out of reverse, the rear tire on the driver's side was completely disintegrated from spinning in place and the steering column was damaged, he noted.

If Bigsky had somehow managed to get it loose, driving the truck would have been difficult and slow -- especially backward, Mitchell said.

"It would have been tough, but it was doable."

Lawyer Ron Piche, who represents Bigsky's family, told reporters Flack gave a statement a few hours after the incident saying he knew the truck was incapable of moving. Flack is expected to testify later this week.

"The question still comes down to, why fire at the occupant of a vehicle that isn't going anywhere?" Piche asked reporters. "That, in my view, cries out for an explanation. Let's not forget, there's also another occupant in that vehicle as well."

The incident began after Flack pulled the truck over in order to arrest its owner, Bigsky's friend Ivan Indian, for drunk driving. Once Indian was in the back of his cruiser, the situation rapidly spun out of control.

Flack found himself in a frightening altercation with Bigsky -- a tall, heavy-set man who was severely intoxicated. Bigsky managed to wrestle Flack to the ground and land a few punches to the officer's face, seemingly undeterred by a blast of pepper spray and blows from Flack's baton.

He then climbed into the truck with his wife Rose Ann, drove through a field of summerfallow, and ended up back on the road. The truck appears to have been on the wrong side of the road headed straight toward the cruiser when Flack hit the gas and began steering for the ditch to avoid a collision, Mitchell said.

The truck hit the driver's side of the patrol car and sent it skidding into the ditch, where it was buried up to its axle in dirt.

Bigsky was trying to back the truck out of the opposite ditch, jammed in reverse, when it too became stuck. Flack stood on the road a few metres away, toward the back of the truck, fired two shots at an angle into the driver's side door, but they didn't penetrate, the inquest heard.

Dean Dahlstrom, a civilian firearms expert for the RCMP's forensic lab, testified the third and ultimately fatal shot was a near-miss that came close to just grazing the back of Bigsky's head.

The angle of the bullet indicates Bigsky was looking away from Flack, with his head in profile, when the officer fired that shot, he said.

"The shot came from the side of the head, almost 90 degrees."

Bigsky's wife Rose Ann launched a civil suit against the RCMP last year, claiming her husband was holding his hands out the window and yelling "I give up" when Flack fired his gun. She is in custody on unrelated charges and is expected to testify later this week.

The RCMP conducted an internal investigation that resulted in no charges against Flack. The police force denies Rose Ann's story, saying the shooting was justified.

© Copyright 2002 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

Plan for racially balanced jury hits snag: Several Natives decline jury duty in Bigsky inquest

Lori Coolican, The StarPhoenix, October 01, 2002

The coroner's jury which began hearing evidence at Court of Queen's Bench Monday has a narrowly defined task -- to decide on the date, place and manner of Melvin Wayne Bigsky's death, and make recommendations to prevent similar tragedies.

But issues of prejudice and counter-prejudice had already pushed their way to the surface even before jury selection was over.

Bigsky, 33, was fatally shot in the head by RCMP Const. James Flack on the night of April 27, 2001, following a violent confrontation on a grid road near Highway 41 just north of Saskatoon.

Bigsky's wife, Rose Ann, who was sitting next to him in their friend Ivan Indian's pickup truck when he died, claims Flack had no good reason to shoot, because her husband was trying to give himself up at the time. She launched a lawsuit against the RCMP last year.

Flack's version of events -- detailed later in the RCMP's statement of defence -- differs widely, saying the shooting was justified for the sake of Flack's safety, as well as that of the public and of Rose Ann herself.

Bigsky, who was severely intoxicated and had already assaulted Flack and rammed his patrol car with the truck, was trying to drive away and was most certainly not surrendering, according to the RCMP's version.

The inquest drew potential jurors from two pools of local residents -- aboriginal and non-aboriginal -- with the intention of having both groups equally represented on the six-member panel. However, that plan hit a snag when several prospective jurors from the aboriginal pool asked to be excused.

Most of them expressed doubts about their ability to be impartial, because they hold negative feelings about the RCMP. One woman told presiding coroner Doug Kovatch she's prejudiced against the RCMP, because "they're prejudiced against us."

In the end, the pool of prospective aboriginal jurors ran out, with only two on the panel.

"I think already you've seen, both from the aboriginal community and the white community, certain views that people are predisposed to have with respect to this," Ron Piche, lawyer for the Bigsky family, told reporters outside court.

"Unfortunately, because of those views, the aboriginal contingent on this jury is less than what we would have liked to have seen."

Most of the testimony the jury heard Monday outlined evidence and photographs gathered at the scene of the shooting. The inquest also heard an audio tape of radio communications between various RCMP and city police officers as the situation unfolded, including snatches of conversation between Flack and a dispatcher as he called repeatedly for backup. Indian, who was a drunk driving suspect, was in the back of his patrol car.

Flack can be heard reporting that Bigsky had been pepper sprayed but was trying to back the truck into his cruiser, then later telling the dispatcher that a man and woman were fighting inside the truck.

"I'm bleeding pretty good here," Flack reports later. He'd suffered a black eye and a gash on his forehead while trying to handcuff Bigsky. The cuffs were found later, still attached to one of Bigsky's wrists.

"He's coming right at me," a breathless Flack tells the dispatcher moments later. Dead air follows, then he returns to the radio and reports, "suspect has been shot."

Sparks flew momentarily as the RCMP's lawyer, Bruce Gibson, raised the issue of criminal records. Both Indian and Bigsky have past convictions for violence, and Rose Ann has several for obstructing and assaulting peace officers.

Those aren't relevant to whether the shooting was proper, Piche argued, because Bigsky's past was unknown to Flack at the time. Kovatch let the evidence in, saying he'll speak to the jury later about how it can be applied to the case.

Several members of Bigsky's family attended the hearing but refused to speak to the media.

His mother Christine was overcome as an RCMP witness described his injuries and explained a series of photographs taken during the autopsy. She left the room sobbing and was soon followed by the rest of the family.

"Regardless of the troubles that Melvin Bigsky had in his life, he's a son, he's a brother to these people," Piche said. "And they continue to have very deep questions as to what happened here."

© Copyright 2002 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

Inquest begins into death of man shot by police

Lori Coolican of The StarPhoenix, September 30, 2002

Two vastly different versions of the dramatic shooting by police of an aboriginal man with a violent past are likely to emerge this week, as a coroner's inquest examines the death of Melvin Wayne Bigsky.

The 33-year-old was fatally shot on April 27, 2001 during a confrontation with a lone RCMP officer on a gravel road just off Highway 41 near Saskatoon.

Coroner Doug Kovatch will oversee the hearing, which begins today and is expected to last all week at Court of Queen's Bench. A six-member jury will make findings on the date, location and cause of death, as well as recommendations on how to prevent a similar death in the future.

Bigsky and his wife Rose Ann were in a truck driven by their friend Ivan Indian, on their way to Saskatoon from Nipawin, when a lone RCMP officer pulled them over to investigate a report of a drunk driver.

RCMP officials have said Indian ignored the officer's flashing lights and turned onto the gravel road, continuing for about a kilometre before abruptly stopping. The struggle with Bigsky unfolded while the officer was trying to process Indian for a drunk driving charge.

The RCMP major crimes unit investigated the incident, and the provincial Justice Department determined there was no basis for criminal charges against the officer, who had been on the force for five years at the time. His name has never been made public.

Rose Ann launched a lawsuit against the RCMP and the Attorney General less than a month after the shooting, claiming her husband died needlessly while holding out his empty hands and yelling, "I give up."

She also claimed officers arrested her without cause and held her in a jail cell, splattered with her husband's blood, until the following day, refusing to even tell her if he was alive or dead.

The RCMP vehemently denied those claims two months later in a detailed statement of defence, saying the officer used deadly force only after all other methods -- verbal warnings, a baton and pepper spray -- had failed to get a drunken and belligerent Bigsky under control.

Bigsky's lengthy record included pleading guilty to manslaughter in 1994 for stomping one of his relatives to death during a drinking party.

He and his wife disobeyed several orders to remain in the vehicle while the officer dealt with Indian. Bigsky overpowered the officer during the confrontation, pinning him to the ground and striking him in the face several times, according to the defence statement.

It also alleges Bigsky punched Rose Ann in the head while she stood outside the truck, then later got behind the wheel and rammed the cruiser's driver-side door with the truck, pushing it into the ditch and disabling it.

The truck got hung up and Bigsky was behind the wheel trying to get it free, ignoring the officer's repeated orders to turn the engine off, when the shots were fired, according to the RCMP's statement. Rose Ann was in the passenger seat next to him at the time.

She was informed of her husband's death while still at the scene, was asked to change her clothes while in custody and was offered a shower and grief counselling during her detention -- which was warranted because she had outstanding charges of theft and driving while disqualified, it adds.

© Copyright 2002 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

RCMP puts new spin on shooting
Police version differs widely from story given by Bigsky's widow

By Lori Coolican of The StarPhoenix, July 12, 2001

The RCMP's version of the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Melvin Bigsky on Highway 41 near Saskatoon in April differs widely from allegations made by his widow in her lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada.

In a statement of defence filed last week and obtained by The StarPhoenix, the police force gives a detailed account of the terrifying confrontation between Bigsky and an unnamed constable, as well as their treatment of his widow, Rose Ann, in the hours after his death.

The officer was on routine patrol at about 8:20 p.m. on April 27 when he responded to a report of a drunk driver in a truck registered to Ivan Indian, who had a criminal record including violence and weapons convictions.

Noting the truck was straddling the white line, the officer turned his cruiser around to follow - but the truck sped up, the statement of defence says.

It didn't stop for his emergency lights, and though he could see a number of people inside, he couldn't tell how many there were. He called for backup. The truck slowed down, turned south onto a gravel road, continued for about one kilometre and suddenly stopped.

While the officer waited in his car for help, Melvin Bigsky, apparently drunk, got out of the truck and came toward him, demanding to know why they had been stopped, the document states. The officer told him to get back in the truck, which he eventually did.

"During this time, it appeared the other individuals in the truck, including the individual in the drivers' seat, were switching places," the statement says.

A few minutes later, Rose Ann Bigsky got out and approached the cruiser. While the officer questioned her about who was driving, Melvin once again got out and "moved aggressively towards the constable. Bigsky appeared angry," the defence says.

The officer pulled out his gun and pepper spray, pointing both at the man and ordering him back to the truck.

"Bigsky yelled `go ahead shoot me

. . . f--n shoot me.' The constable explained that he did not want to shoot and once again directed Bigsky to return to the truck," the statement says.

When the man started to move away, the officer returned his gun to its holster, but Bigsky came back, pushing Rose Ann aside, it says. The constable pushed the 250-pound man with no affect. The officer sprayed him in the face with pepper spray and he staggered back to the truck.

Then, Ivan Indian got out. He co-operated during his arrest for drunk driving and was placed in the back of the cruiser without handcuffs. Rose Ann was told to return to the truck. She walked to the back of the vehicle and leaned against it, the statement says.

Inside the cruiser, the constable was talking to Indian. Meanwhile, Melvin got out of the truck again and punched Rose Ann in the head before falling on his back, it says.

The constable, still waiting for backup but unwilling to let the assault go on, got out of his cruiser and tried to arrest Melvin, the defence says.

He got one handcuff on the man, then "Bigsky overpowered the constable and ended up on top of the constable on the road," it states. "Bigsky punched the constable two times in the face. The fight continued and the constable was able to get to his feet and strike Bigsky two times with his tactical baton. Both strikes appeared to have no affect on Bigsky who then began to chase the constable around the cruiser."

Bigsky ran to the truck and got in, followed by Rose Ann.

The officer called in the situation on his radio. His eye was bleeding and his vision was getting blurry, the statement says. The truck began backing toward him, so he put the cruiser in reverse and backed away from it.

"It appeared that Bigsky lost control of the truck and ended up backing into the ditch. Bigsky then drove the truck into an adjacent field," the statement says.

Turning on his siren, the officer noticed the truck was headed back his way. "The constable was concerned that Bigsky would return to the main highway and endanger the lives of the public. It was approaching dusk and the truck did not have any lights on."

Veering toward the cruiser, the truck rammed its driver-side door and kept going, pushing it into the ditch at an angle and disabling it. Backing several feet into the ditch, Bigsky tried to turn the truck around, but got stuck. Behind the wheel, he was rocking it back and forth, trying to get it moving again.

The constable got out of his vehicle and approached, drawing his gun and repeatedly telling Bigsky through the open driver's-side window to stop the truck and turn it off - but the man ignored him, the statement says.

"The constable fired one round into the driver's door. Because the first round had no effect on Bigsky's actions, he fired another round into the driver's door with still no effect," it states.

"He then fired a third round towards the head of Bigsky at which point it appeared that Bigsky ducked down, out of sight and the engine of the truck began revving even more."

A few seconds later, Rose Ann got out of the truck yelling at the officer. He told her to stay in the ditch and a few minutes later Saskatoon police arrived on the scene, the document states.

Contrary to her claim, Rose Ann was advised of her rights and allowed to call a lawyer, it says. Police also discovered she was wanted on charges of driving while disqualified and theft under $5,000. She was taken to the RCMP detachment in the city, where she was booked into a cell.

A prisoner log shows she placed a call at about 10:20 p.m.

Also contrary to her claim, the defence says she was asked to change out of her bloody clothes at about 11:30 p.m., but refused. Because they were needed for evidence "she was eventually convinced to change her clothing within two hours of being booked into cells," the statement says.

"The plaintiff was given the opportunity to shower before she left the detachment the next day. She also had access to a washroom if she wished to clean up," it says.

The RCMP denies Rose Ann's claim that officers refused to tell her if her husband was alive or dead, saying she was told at the scene that he'd been killed.

Before she was released the next day, a female officer interviewed her to make sure she had family support, though she wanted to leave on her own, the document states.

"The RCMP was concerned that she might harm herself. She was allowed to leave with family members and she was offered, and refused, grief counselling."

Rose Ann's claim that the officer could have avoided the shooting is unfounded, it adds.

"The risk posed to public safety by Bigsky prevented the constable from a tactical repositioning completely away from the situation. . . . He was justified in using deadly force because he believed it was necessary for self-preservation and the preservation of Indian and (Rose Ann)," it states.

Violent death recounted
RCMP pepper-spray, beat victim before shooting, friend says

By Dan Zakreski, Senior Reporter Saskatchewan News Network, Apr. 30, 2001

An eyewitness says Melvin Wayne Bigsky was pepper-sprayed, clubbed and electrically shocked by RCMP before an officer shot him in the back of the head, killing the 33-year-old Nipawin farm worker while he sat in his half-ton truck.

Other members at the scene Friday then handcuffed the body on the side of the highway east of Saskatoon.

Ivan Indian says an estimated dozen or more RCMP and city police were on the scene at the time of the shooting. RCMP Sgt. Cory Lerat, however, says the officer who shot Bigsky was the only member on site and that backup did not arrive until after the shooting. Lerat could not explain the contradictory versions.

In an interview Sunday, Indian said he was travelling to Saskatoon with Bigsky and his wife Roseann, who had both moved to Nipawin less than a month ago to work on a farm.

They were coming to Saskatoon to visit Melvin's mother, Christina Bigsky. Indian said they were just approaching Saskatoon on Highway 41 at dusk when they were pulled over by the RCMP. Indian and Bigsky got out to ask why they had been pulled over "and he told us to get back in the truck."

When Melvin refused and asked again why they had been pulled over "he got pepper-sprayed in the face."

"I was behind Mel when it happened. The officer then said we were both under arrest and he put me in the car."

Bigsky, he said, was crawling around on his hands and knees, rubbing at his eyes with a jacket.

"The officer went over and whacked him with a club and then shocked him a couple of times with a stun gun," Indian said.

"Roseann came out of the truck and the officer shoved or hit her. Melvin said `Don't hit my old lady,' and they tussled on the ground."

The RCMP member broke free and ran back to his car. By that time, Indian said "there were a whole bunch of RCMP there."

Melvin got back into the truck and tried to escape by driving through the ditch. Instead, he rammed the cruiser where Indian was in custody.

"Then he got out, on his knees with his hands in the air . . . and he got whacked by the officer again. And they started fighting."

Indian estimated at this point there were at least a dozen officers on the scene, most with guns drawn, in a loose circle.

"Melvin got up and went back into the truck, saying he gave up. I heard four shots, and one shot hit him in the back of the head. He fell out of the truck, and they handcuffed him on the ground," Indian said.

Christina Bigsky said she learned midday Saturday that her son had been killed. She viewed his body Sunday at the St. Paul's Hospital morgue. He is married with two daughters and one son.

"We'll bury him at Kinistin reserve," she said.

She confirmed that Melvin had recently served a six-year prison sentence for killing his cousin, Clifford Moosewaypayo, in Saskatoon. She said that the men were drinking and wrestling and she described the death as accidental. "He was such a nice guy, always concerned about me," she said.

The shooting of two Native men by the RCMP in less than a week raises the issue of police training and the use of deadly force, says vice-chief Lawrence Joseph of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN).

A Native man in Ile-a-la-Crosse was shot and wounded Tuesday morning after a standoff with RCMP at a house in the small northern community. His injuries were not considered life threatening.

"There's a lot of questions from everyone. For instance, from a First Nations perspective, is there an official and separate response for First Nation offenders?" Joseph asked.

"Is there a practised, rehearsed response for that?"

RCMP spokesperson Heather Russell said that officers are instructed to use deadly force as a last resort. There is no separate policy for dealing with First Nations offenders, she said.

Joseph said there must be more work put into exploring and using alternatives to deadly force.

RCMP are not releasing any more details of the Bigsky incident, other than to say it is under investigation by the Saskatoon major crimes unit.

He had no right to shoot my husband'
Bigsky's wife says Melvin tried to give up; RCMP offer account

By Dan Zakreski, Senior Reporter Saskatchewan News Network

Roseann Bigsky says her husband Melvin died in her arms, fatally shot in the back of the head, moments after trying to surrender to an RCMP officer.

"He had no right to shoot my husband. Melvin had his hands outside the window to give up," she said in an interview Monday.

"The cop started shooting and then he fell on me. I asked him to wake up, don't leave me and the children, but he wouldn't wake up."

Melvin Wayne Bigsky, 33, died Friday night of a single gunshot wound after an altercation with RCMP on Highway 41 east of Saskatoon. The RCMP officer had pulled over the blue GMC Sierra after a report of a possible impaired driver on the busy highway.

There were three people in the truck - Roseann and Melvin Bigsky, and Ivan Indian, the driver and owner of the truck.

They were travelling from Nipawin to Saskatoon to visit Bigsky's mother.

Indian offered a detailed account Sunday of what happened alongside the highway.

He said that the officer's backup had arrived before the shooting - that Bigsky was surrounded by a dozen police - and that the officer used pepper spray, his baton and an electrical device to stun Melvin during the fight.

RCMP say that backup didn't arrive until after the shooting and that members do not carry stun guns. Cpl. Jerry Wilde did confirm Monday, however, that the member had used pepper spray and his baton during the confrontation.

Roseann Bigsky confirmed other officers did not arrive until immediately after her husband was shot.

Commenting on Indian's version of events, Wilde said "witnesses viewing an incident all look at it, and people have different versions of what has happened, different interpretations."

Wilde gave a general account of what happened. The incident is still under investigation. The RCMP member located and stopped the half-ton at about 8:30 p.m.

The officer immediately called for backup.

"During the investigation, the officer was confronted by one of the male persons in the vehicle. The suspected driver of the truck was determined, and he was placed in the back seat of the police car," Wilde said.

This person was Ivan Indian.

"A second confrontation occurred with the passenger, and the member was assaulted by this person. The confrontation escalated, as did the member's response as to dealing with the person. Pepper spray was first utilized and then later, in the struggle, a baton was utilized."

This confrontation involved Melvin Bigsky.

The officer and Bigsky separated and returned to their separate vehicles.

"The officer was inside his police car when it was struck by the other vehicle. The police car was disabled and the officer exited the vehicle and fired shots at the truck. After the shooting, backup arrived a few minutes later."

Saskatoon city police were the first to arrive. Staff Sgt. Al Sather said that four cruisers were eventually dispatched to the scene. Other RCMP arrived shortly after.

The first call for an ambulance came in to MD Ambulance at 8:57, the two vehicles arriving at the scene at 9:11 and then leaving at 9:30, said spokesperson Cynthia Block.

Wilde said the member called for backup, more than once, because "he feared the situation was not in control." There is an audio recording of his exchanges with dispatch that will be part of the investigation.

Wilde confirmed the officer was able to attach a handcuff to one of Bigsky's wrists during the struggle. He also confirmed Bigsky was inside the truck, and it was not moving, when he was fatally shot.

Roseann Bigsky said she felt the incident didn't spin out of control until she exited the truck and tried to speak with the RCMP officer, "because I didn't think he'd feel threatened by me."

"He told me to get back in the truck, and that's when Melvin freaked out."

After wrestling the officer to the ground and still wearing the handcuffs on one wrist, he returned to the truck and rammed the cruiser while trying to drive away.

The truck then became hung up in the ditch, its tires spinning.

"The cop started toward the truck with his gun out and Melvin was saying 'I surrender, I give up' with his hands out the window," she said.

The officer then opened fire. Bullet holes were visible in the driver's side door, by the handle, and in the windowframe of the truck.

"He had no reason to fire his gun. He's a murderer in my books. He took away a father, husband and son without thinking," she said.

Melvin Bigsky will be buried Wednesday at the Kiniston reserve.

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This page was created May 27, 2001