GJOA HAVEN, NUNAVUT – The sister of a Nunavut man shot by a mountee says she is relieved of a jury in a coroner’s investigation that ruled her death a homicide.
Charles Kirgnirek, 21, was murdered on December 19, 2016, after the RCMP received reports of a man with a rifle at Gozo Haven airport.
Speaking after the jury read out its verdict on Friday, Shantel Kyrgenirk said she felt strong.
“I no longer have that pain in my heart,” she told The Canadian Press.
“He never wanted to hurt people. He wanted to make sure that he could see people smiling or caring for each other or just having fun,” she said, hanging her head in her lap through tears said.
Charles’ grandmother Eva Kirngirak said that she misses her grandson every day.
“He was outgoing, he was always happy … He did a lot for me.”
She said five years was a long time to wait for the investigation.
Lawyers for the Nunavut coroner’s office and Kirnagirak’s family had argued that his death was a homicide, while the RCMP’s lawyer said it was a suicide.
After deliberating for nearly five hours, the jury made 11 recommendations to prevent similar deaths, including suicide prevention training for the RCMP and more than one mental-health nurse in each Nunavut community.
The jury also recommended the RCMP to carry first aid kits on service calls, and the Government of Nunavut and the Hamlet of Gozo Haven formed a group for young men in the community.
cpl Ian Crowe testified during interrogation that Kirngirak himself shouted that he wanted to die before raising his rifle at Crowe and another mountie.
Ottawa police investigated the shooting and cleared Crowe, saying the officer’s use of force was justified.
The coroner’s attorney, Sheldon Toner, cautioned the jury that the coroner’s investigation should contain a presumption against suicide.
Interrogation revealed that Kirangnirk had gone to the airport that morning as he was upset with his girlfriend and the younger son was trying to move out of the community.
The jury was also told that Kurangnirk was at a high risk for suicide because of his age and background. But Toner said there was no indication he wanted to take his own life.
Toner said in the closing argument, “He’s not a running stereotype. He’s a person.”
He also said that Crowe testified that he heard Kirangnirk make suicidal remarks while walking with a rifle outside the airport that day, but that Kirangnirk did not direct the comments at the two officers.
Qirngnirq’s rifle was later found unloaded. He had two bullets, but during interrogation it was found that they did not work in the rifle.
Toner said, “A reasonable conclusion might be that he was just furious in the world. He was upset, but that doesn’t mean he was suicidal.”
“He wanted to live.”
RCMP lawyer Magnolia His-Vul had argued that Qirngnirq deliberately disobeyed the officers, pointed his rifle at them and used them to end his life.
“Charles, undoubtedly, could see the police vehicle in the flat icy tundra,” said His-Wool.
She said her family had called the RCMP last time saying she had suicidal thoughts. He told the jury that he had taken his rifle to the airport with the intention of dying that day.
“He was left with no option but to shoot the officers,” she said.
Nikolai Sitman, the lawyer for the Qirngnirq family, said the interrogation did not hear any evidence that Qirngnirq knew the officers were actually there.
“It’s about two police officers who saw a troubled young man walking with a rifle and felt so threatened that they shot him,” Sitman said.
During interrogation, it was found that when the officers arrived in Kyrgyzrk after the shooting, they asked, “Why do you shoot?”
“It’s a reaction to someone who didn’t want to be shot,” Sitman said.
The RCMP said that Crowe is currently on administrative duty. He was charged with assault earlier this year when he answered a call to service in Sanirjak, Nunavut, in August of 2020.
Crowe told The Canadian Press he had no comment on the assault allegation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 8, 2021.
This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.