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HomeNewsManslaughter charges dropped against officers involved in 2017 death of Dale Culver

Manslaughter charges dropped against officers involved in 2017 death of Dale Culver

Constable Paul Ste-Marie and Constable Jean Francois Monette will not stand trial for the death of Dale Culver.

In a preliminary hearing this afternoon (Friday) at the Prince George Courthouse, Crown Counsel called a Stay of Proceedings – saying the evidence presented is not enough to prove the officers were responsible for Culver’s death and “there is no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction.”

According to a BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) report (linked at the bottom of this article), on the evening of July 18th, 2017, police responded to a report of a man “casing vehicles” on the 1000 block of Central Street West.

The man, Culver, was riding his bike and refused to stop when he was approached by an officer.

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A brief chase ended with Culver being physically pulled off the bike from behind, leading to a fistfight between himself and the officer. Pepper spray was used on Culver in the fight, Culver was rolled over onto his stomach but the officer “had difficulty handcuffing him” and called for backup.

Cst. Ste-Marie was the first officer to arrive, he punched Culver in the head. Then, Cst. Monette kicked / kneed Culver in the head or upper body.

More officers arrived, seven surrounded Culver – delivering several “hammer fists” to his legs, twisting his ears, and applying pressure points – until he was put in two sets of handcuffs and taken to the back of a police vehicle.

According to one officer, Ste-Marie also pepper sprayed his own glove and used it to cover Culver’s mouth.

Culver then had trouble breathing and requested medical assistance from the back seat.

When the ambulance arrived Culver was initially responsive. Under a minute later he collapsed and died. This was 29 minutes after the initial police encounter.

The BCPS said charges were laid on the officers after an initial panel of pathologists’ report and review found six factors contributing to Culver’s death, including methamphetamine toxicity and blunt force head trauma.

However, as the case progressed, Crown Counsel had outstanding questions the first pathologist was unable to answer.

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Another pathologist with “extensive experience in police-involved death cases” was consulted, they did not confirm the findings of the original report.

In its statement, the BCPS said “the reviewing pathologist found the cause of death to be acute and chronic adverse effects of methamphetamine following a struggle. The mechanism of death was sudden cardiac (arrhythmic) death.”

The report said Culver had an enlarged and weakened heart, caused by methamphetamine use.

This led the BCPS to conclude “there is no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction against the two officers charged with manslaughter.”

No lesser charges will be pursued against the two officers, though both pathologists agree the encounter with the police exacerbated Culver’s death, something Counsel reaffirmed in the courtroom, saying “that altercation was not in and of itself fatal.”

Counsel also said “Dale Culver did not deserve to die, and he should not have died that day… He would not have died that day if not for this altercation with police.”

That did not provide any comfort to Culver’s friends, family, and supporters – about 100 of whom gathered in front of the court from 10:00 – 11:00 this morning and 60 of whom stayed until the delayed 12:00 start of the court session.

Crying could be heard throughout the courtroom as the final statements were given by Crown Counsel and the Defense.

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Outbursts towards Counsel and the judge were made once the session adjourned, including from Culver’s daughter, Lily Speed-Namox.

“How would you feel if that was your father that died under those RCMP?” she asked. “How would you feel if you had been beaten to death by these RCMP and nobody is there to help you? Those are the people that are supposed to be giving you justice. It must be nice that they get to go home to their families every day, isn’t it? To see their sons, daughters, moms and cousins. Their friends. It must be nice.”

My PG Now spoke with Speed-Namox and Culver’s other family that was present at the hearing, as well as some who attended the gathering before the court session was held.

Those interviews will be published in a separate article later this afternoon – once it is posted, you can find it here.

Ravi Hira K.C., the defense lawyer from Vancouver based Hira Rowan LLP, also spoke with media after the adjournment.

“There was no homicide here,” he said plainly. “Because components of the system – the pathologists – got it wrong, the families have, for seven years, believed the police were involved in the death of Mr. Culver. These two police officers, for seven years, have had their lives on hold.”

“What has happened here is tragic,” he continued. “One would not have thought a component of the system would have got this that wrong. As the crown said, there were no fatal injuries caused by the police, and that is the end of it.”

Cst. Arthur Dalman, Cst. Clarence (Alex) Alexander MacDonald, and Sgt. Bayani (Jon) Eusebio Cruz are all still facing attempt to obstruct justice charges related to Culver’s death. They have also pled not guilty.

You can find the BCPS’ full report here.

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