Not to pick on the RCMP, but if a probe into the death of native man 15 months ago can improve how police officers respond to potentially dangerous situations then we can hope everything is being done to ensure there are no more John Simons.
Simon was a 44-year-old fisherman who struggled with alcoholism and drugs. His widow has admitted her late husband was drinking and distraught on the night he died. When she left the house she took the keys to the vehicle and the gun cabinet, but didn’t know he had copies.
When RCMP arrived Simon was alone in the couple’s Wagmatcook bungalow armed with a rifle and threatening to kill himself if police entered. His widow and members of the First Nations community in Cape Breton are convinced Simon would still be alive today if the responding member of the RCMP had listened to his superior’s orders and stayed out of the house. Instead, he climbed through a window, allegedly escalated the situation and Simon was shot and killed.
We may never know exactly what happened inside that home. The RCMP officer claims he had to fire because Simon pointed his firearm at him. However, if he had not entered the home there may have been no need for the officer to fire his sidearm.
The community believes there’s a coverup, while it seems the RCMP are in full damage control since this incident appears to be the latest in a string of bad news stories that have dogged the force in recent years.
As much as the provincial government doesn’t want to touch this complaint, as shown by Justice Minister Ross Landry’s refusal to call a public inquiry, residents of Wagmatcook and all Nova Scotians need to be assured this won’t happen again. As long as we continue to hide from what happened that fateful night we run that risk.
Thankfully that’s what the RCMP’s watchdog agency is going to do. And, by looking at the actions of its officers, studying the department’s policies on handling barricaded and presumed suicidal people and assessing whether the police investigation was without bias, we hopefully will come to an understanding of what happened so the healing in this community can begin.