Rodney Levi could have been saved by community policing, says inquest witness

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Ken Levi, the first witness at the coroner's inquest into Rodney Levi's death, testified he thinks the fatal shooting wouldn't have happened had there still been   community policing. (Graham Thompson/CBC - image credit)
Ken Levi, the first witness at the coroner's inquest into Rodney Levi's death, testified he thinks the fatal shooting wouldn't have happened had there still been community policing. (Graham Thompson/CBC - image credit)

The first witness at the inquest into Rodney Levi's death said a community policing model that relied on Mi'kmaw peace officers working with the RCMP was effective before it was cut.

Ken Levi says he's convinced that if it had been a band officer who was first on the scene the night of June 12, 2020, that officer would have already known Rodney and could have persuaded him to leave peacefully.

Instead, Levi was fatally shot by the RCMP, after several failed attempts to get him to give up two large kitchen knives that he had been wielding at a residence on Boom Road near Sunny Corner.

"We would have been on that call," said Ken Levi, a former community officer and Rodney's uncle. "We would have been there first."

"And I'm pretty sure he would have come home. I'm pretty sure."

Submitted by Tara Louise Perley
Submitted by Tara Louise Perley

Ken Levi said he was speaking from experience. Before his career as a peace officer with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, he worked as a supernumerary officer back in the 1980s.

He said band constables spoke Miꞌkmaq, had connections in the community, developed relationships and did outreach with youth "so they wouldn't grow up being scared of uniforms."

He said the program relied on three officers from Metepenagiag and another three officers from Eel Ground until it was cut around 2012.

Ken Levi, who served on the Metepenagiag band council from 2008 to 2012, recalled council trying to fight to keep the program. But somebody "higher up" in Ottawa didn't agree, he said.

During part of his testimony Wednesday, he also showed the jury two boxes that were delivered to him by the Quebec agency that investigated the actions of the RCMP that day.

He opened them up in front of the jury, breaking through the seals to do so. The boxes contained clothing that Rodney Levi had been wearing as well as two large kitchen knives.

The inquest also heard from the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Dr. Ken Obenson attributed the cause of Levi's death to the two gunshots fired at him. He said the first bullet pierced his body in the upper right chest, perforating his right lung and the second bullet pierced his chest and lacerated the wall of his heart.

He said Levi's body also showed signs of injury to his arms and legs and the side of his face.

He said some of those injuries would have been consistent with being Tasered, and he may have injured his face when he fell down after being shot.

At the opening of the hearing Wednesday, coroner John Evans explained that the inquest had three purposes.

Rachel Cave/CBC
Rachel Cave/CBC

One was to establish basic facts such as cause of death and the identify of the deceased — what he called the who, what, when, where and how.

He said the inquest also serves to focus the community's attention on what happened and allow the community to form a response.

The inquest should satisfy the community that the death of one of their own is not being overlooked, concealed or ignored., he said.

The jury also saw photos of the white house next to the Boom Road Pentecostal Church and its back deck, which was described as the "the heart of the situation" by a Quebec provincial police identification officer who took the photos.

Graham Thompson/CBC
Graham Thompson/CBC

It's the residence of the church pastor, Brodie MacLeod. He turned to social media to explain that Rodney Levi had been a welcome guest in his home that evening.

MacLeod is also expected to testify at the inquest.

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