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Rodney Naistus

Retracing Rodney Naistus's footsteps up to the day he died

Rodney Naistus, just released from jail, was celebrating a reunion with his brother and cousin in Confederation Park hours before he was found frozen to death on Jan. 29.

Queen Elizabeth II Power Station

The body of the 25-year-old man from the Onion Lake reserve was discovered near the Queen Elizabeth II Power Station in the city's southwest corner.

His death is being investigated by Saskatoon police and RCMP to see if there is any connection to an incident a week later where two uniformed police officers are alleged to have dumped a man by the same power station.

Starlight Tour

"I'm always thinking about why, why, why was he out there," said Naistus's mother Marvina Sandirson, in a telephone interview on Wednesday from her home in Lloydminster.

She said Naistus was released from the Saskatoon Correctional Centre's Urban Camp facility on Thursday, Jan. 27 and then met up with his older brother Darrell. The mother did not know why Rodney - who is called Steven by family and friends - was incarcerated.

The brothers were staying at their cousin Charlene Baptist's place on Maxwell Crescent in Confederation Park. They were waiting until Darrell got his Social Services cheque so they could get on a bus back to the reserve, where they planned to return to their grandfather's house.

Baptist said the Naistus brothers and a few other people went to the Red Rock Grill on 22nd Street Friday afternoon for drinks. They met up with a man named Pat and quickly befriended him.

"(Rodney) was just so happy. We were all partying with him. We were just celebrating that he was there with us," said Baptist. The group went back to her home at about 7 p.m.

"We sat there and had a couple more beers. That guy Pat said he wanted to leave. He said he was going to Jax. He invited (Rodney) with him. We were telling (Rodney) to stay. He said, 'No no no. I'm going to go find myself a woman,' " said Baptist.

The two men left at about 9:30 p.m. for the Jax Nite Club on Pacific Avenue in downtown Saskatoon. Naistus was wearing two pairs of pants - jeans and sweatpants - a shirt and jacket, remembered Baptist.

She didn't hear from her cousin again.

The partially clothed body of Naistus was found the next day, Saturday, Jan. 29, south of the power station. Police said he died of exposure.

The funeral for Rodney Naistus was held on Feb. 5 in Onion Lake. About 30 friends joined family to remember the man described as quiet and gentle by his grandfather Alphonse Naistus.

"He was wonderful. He was a nice, nice guy. This is the first time I have lost a grandson."

Thinking his grandson may have been the victim of potential police wrongdoing makes him angry, he said.

Sandirson said she only found out Wednesday from a friend of Rodney's that her son's death is part of a larger investigation involving allegations against police officers. She said police later that morning called her son Darrell with similar information.

The two boys were very close, said their mother, having built up a friendship in their younger years by lifting weights and boxing together.

She is pleased the RCMP will investigate the case. She wants independent investigators to find the answers to why her son ended up dead and whether local police officers were involved.

"I'd like to find out what really happened to put my mind at rest."

Mother sues cops over son's death

The mother of a Saskatoon man who died of exposure near the Queen Elizabeth Power Station last winter has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the police force and two unknown officers, claiming her son was taken from her prematurely because of police misconduct.

Rodney Naistus, 25, was found frozen to death in front of Shamrock Feeds Ltd. on Schyler Street last Jan. 29. His mother, Marvina Naistus, filed a statement of claim against the Saskatoon police and "John and/or Jane Doe, unidentified members of the Saskatoon Police Service" in Court of Queen's Bench last month.

Naistus' death is under investigation by an RCMP task force formed last year to look into the complaint of Darrell Night, another Native man who says two police officers ejected him from their cruiser near the power station in freezing temperatures.

Night came forward with his story shortly after the bodies of Naistus and another man, Lawrence Wegner, were found in the same vicinity. The task force is also investigating Wegner's death.

Saskatoon police constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson are awaiting trial on charges of assault and forcible confinement in connection with Night's complaint. Night, too, is suing the police force, claiming more than $2 million in damages. Naistus was last seen Jan. 28, 2000 - the same day Night claims he was dumped.

Marvina Naistus' statement of claim says her son was walking with an unknown companion near Maxwell Crescent in Confederation Park, heading for Jax Nightclub, but somewhere along the way he encountered police officers, who put him in the back of a marked cruiser "without lawful reason." They then drove him to the remote location south of the city and forced him out of the car in freezing temperatures, "wearing attire that was wholly inadequate for survival in cold weather," although they must have known that leaving him there would cause his death, the claim says.

Marvina Naistus relied on her son for financial support and help with shopping and housework - and she would have become even more dependent on him in her old age, it says.

She is asking for damages in an unspecified amount "for gross misconduct and the mishandling of the occurrence . . . which is so far from appropriate, normal conduct by trained police officers or anyone that aggravated damages are warranted," it reads, "particularly in light of Mr. Naistus' race and recent disclosure by the Saskatoon Police Service of systemic racism within the police force."

No statement of defence has yet been filed on behalf of the police force.