No charges planned against RCMP officer in fatal shooting of Rodney Levi

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New Brunswick prosecutors will not lay criminal charges against police officers involved in the shooting death of Rodney Levi of Metepenagiag First Nation.

Levi, 48, was shot and killed by RCMP on June 12, 2020, when they responded to a call for assistance on Boom Road, about 30 kilometres southwest of Miramichi.

"In our opinion, the peace officers in question were acting lawfully to protect the residents of the home on that fateful evening," the New Brunswick Office of the Attorney General said in a statement Tuesday.

Levi was the second Indigenous person killed by police in New Brunswick within a two-week period.

The first was Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old woman of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation in British Columbia, who was living in Edmundston. She was shot by an Edmundston police officer. Quebec's police watchdog, which was asked to investigate both killings, released its report on the Moore case around the same time as its report on Levi's.

The Crown decided not to pursue charges in the Levi case after it reviewed the report from the Bureau des Enquêtes indépendantes du Québec (BEI).

It has not said whether charges will be laid in the Moore case.

The two deaths sparked an outcry from the community, including calls for charges and an inquiry into systemic racism in the justice system in New Brunswick.

'This is not over'

Alisa Lombard, the lawyer for the Levi family, said Tuesday that family members are considering their legal options and would not comment for now.

"This is not over. Far from it," she said. "But for the moment, I think they just need some time to process before going out there and saying anything."

Lombard said the family met with the BEI and the director of prosecutions on Tuesday to learn details of the investigation.

"They're processing the information that was shared today and they did receive a lot of answers that they did not have prior," she said.

Tasered 3 times

In Levi's case, the BEI sent eight investigators to the Miramichi area and interviewed 11 witnesses. The Crown prepared a legal opinion, and shared it publicly Tuesday. The opinion includes a summary of each witness account.

The legal opinion says one of the witnesses, a close relative of Levi, describes him as "being severely depressed," in the days before he was killed.

"He kept talking about suicide and more specifically about 'suicide by RCMP' and was wondering if he would go to Heaven," the legal opinion says. "She [the witness] states that this is all he was talking about."

The opinion says Levi was living with this witness at the time.

"According to her, Mr. Levi left her place in the afternoon of June 12. She never saw him after that."

Other witnesses who were at the house where Levi was shot describe him holding two knives and refusing to let go. Witnesses said he was Tasered three times. He dropped one of the knives after the second or third time but bent down to pick it up immediately, the summary says. Multiple witnesses also describe Levi moving toward one of the police officers with the knife, and that's when he was shot twice.

"Some describe his move as a 'step,' other as 'lunging' with one witness describing the move as a 'charge,'" the summary says.

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The attorney general's media release said the BEI investigation also looked at a short video taken by one of the witnesses "that shows part of the actual event," and expert reports.

The media release said in order to lay charges, the Crown must be able to see "evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction." The Crown prosecutor's office did not see such evidence after reviewing the BEI report, the release said.

The release said the officer opened fire after "repeated attempts to engage with Mr. Levi peacefully, and followed several applications of a Taser to disarm him from the dangerous weapons (knives) he refused to yield."

Inquest planned

Regardless of charges, New Brunswick's Office of the Chief Coroner will be conducting an inquest into Levi's death on Oct. 4. The exact location and who will preside has not yet been announced.

During the inquest, the coroner and a jury will hear evidence and "make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances in the future," a provincial news release said.

New Brunswick RCMP Commanding Officer Larry Tremblay said in a statement the RCMP "respect the decision made by the Public Prosecutions Services," and will not be offering any further comment related to the BEI investigation.