We Demand Answers – Family Statement read at a Public Vigil for Naverone Woods on February 28, 2015

By the family of Naverone Woods

Originally published in The Volcano

Naverone Woods
Naverone Woods

On December 28, 2014, 23-year-old Naverone Christian Woods was shot and killed by a female member of the Greater Vancouver Transit Police at the Safeway at 104 Avenue and King George Highway in Surrey, B.C.

Nav was clearly upset and distraught. He was not himself despite what the media says. He was not suffering from a mental illness. The family strongly denies these rumours. On Dec 27, Nav was admitted and discharged not once but twice from Surrey Memorial Hospital. We need to find out why he was admitted and more importantly why was he discharged.

There are two possible scenarios that played out in Safeway on Dec 28.

Scenario A: Nav is standing stationary stabbing himself and not complying with the transit policewoman’s command to drop the knife. So she shot him dead. If this is the case, she is not authorized under the criminal code of Canada to apply deadly force. She should be held accountable for her actions. No one is above the law. Not even the transit police.

Scenario B: Nav is stabbing himself and then advancing towards the police officer with his knife and she shoots him dead. This is what the police allege. If this was the case it only demonstrates that Nav was not himself. First, he would not have been stabbing himself. Second, he would not have advanced on a police officer.

At 11:30 pm the night before, Nav was picked up at a Surrey skytrain station unconscious or possibly having a seizure. Nav did not have a history of seizures and we would like to see footage of skytrain cameras. At 2:15 am, he was picked up by an ambulance, complaining he could not put any weight at all on one of his legs. Again, he was taken to Surrey Memorial Hospital and released at 5:15 am. It has been 2 months to the day since this tragic event. Family and friends and the Gitxsan community demand answers.

The average weight of a male grizzly bear is 800 lbs and this grizzly bear can be subdued with a tranquilizer gun. So why couldn’t the transit police utilize options other than deadly force. Even if Nav was advancing they could have deployed tasers, batons or good old-fashioned talking. Persuasion is always better than force.

We go so far as to speculate that if Nav was a 23 year old white man other options would have been deployed. This is not an outlandish speculation. Native men are being shot and killed all across Canada, similar to black men in the USA, by police agencies. Racism is alive and well in police agencies in Canada. This is a fact. The only thing they regret is they didn’t kill us all when they had the chance. It is what it is, sad but true.

Safeway has cameras everywhere. Cameras don’t lie and we need to see the footage of the events on Dec 28, 2014. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) would have obtained the footage and formed an opinion. It has been 2 months. We need to know that opinion. We need to see that footage. All we can do is hope and pray that the IIO establishes a timeline of Nav’s last 24 hours and does a complete and through investigation of the events that happened that night.

The family is appealing to the IIO to obtain skytrain footage of the night of Dec 27, 2014 as Nav was picked up by paramedics, unconscious. Also we are appealing to the public, anyone who may know what Nav was doing between 5:15 am and 8 am on the morning of Dec 28.

Nav was not distraught, agitated or suicidal. Something happened to him to seriously upset him. Everyone who knew Nav knew he was a gentle soul.

Constable Anne Drennan, a transit police spokeswoman, stated to the media, “When police take action in the line of duty there are often activist groups that respond either by protesting or holding vigils.”

As Naverone would say, first of all, we are not activists, we are family. Second of all, each and every one of us is here to question the action required. We are here to remind Constable Anne Drennan that no one, but no one, is above the law.

Drennan goes on to say, “Our officers will be on site at the vigil to ensure it runs smoothly, but we will not interact in any way unless safety issues arise.”

What she should have said is, our officers will not be shooting Indians on this particular day.