RCMP went to a home in Opitsaht after receiving a report of a woman in distress.
B.C.’s police watchdog is investigating after an Indigenous man was shot and killed during a confrontation with the RCMP in a remote First Nations community near Tofino on Saturday.
Tofino RCMP said in a statement that officers went to a home in the Tla-o-qui-aht Village of Opitsaht around 9:30 p.m. after receiving a report of a woman in distress.
Opitsaht, which is home to about 150 members of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, is located on Meares Island, which is off the west coast of Vancouver Island and is only accessible by boat.
The RCMP says an “interaction” took place after they arrived at the residence that resulted in one man being fatally shot and another taken into custody.
A woman was also found and taken to hospital for medical assessment.
The Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, a civilian agency that investigates all police actions resulting in death or serious injury, has confirmed that the man was shot and killed by the RCMP.
“The IIO is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death. Further details will not be released at this time in order to protect the integrity of the investigation,” the IIO said in a release.
No names have been released but the man shot by police has been identified by family and friends as being 28-year-old Julian Jones.
“Last night my brother Julian Jones was shot and killed by the Tofino RCMP on unceded Indian land,” Leo Jackson wrote on the Facebook group Indigenous Rights Watch.
A picture of Jones, with a message calling for justice in his death, has been shared by more than 100 people on Facebook.
Jones had a long history of run-ins with police, including a 2020 conviction for assaulting an officer.
Moses Martin, chief councillor of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations, says the shooting has devastated the Indigenous community.
“Just like any other time, the many times, that this kind of thing has occurred in our community, it is very irritating … especially for the family … the immediate family of the victim,” said Martin. “The community is feeling pain about what happened.”
This is the second police shooting involving a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in less than a year.
Last June, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old woman from Port Alberni, was shot and killed by a police officer in Edmundston, New Brunswick, where she had recently relocated.
Edmundston police said they had been called to Moore’s home after receiving a request to check on her wellbeing. Police claimed Moore was shot after she had threatened the officers with a knife.
After her killing, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations put out a statement that issued several demands, including a call for the police officer who shot Moore be charged with murder, body cams to be made mandatory for all police officers, and a full national inquiry be launched to “examine the root causes of … and the full extent of police brutality against Indigenous people.”
Quebec’s police watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes Indépendantes, investigated Moore’s shooting and forwarded its report to the New Brunswick prosecution office in December, but no charges have announced.
“It’s a very difficult situation for us to deal with,” said Martin. “We put out quite a strong statement regarding (Moore’s shooting) but still the same things are happening in our community. There are no words.”