Today is the 25th anniversary of the freezing death of Neil Stonechild and while friends and family gather at a feast to remember the man, a book calling into question the inquiry is being launched.
A former Saskatoon cop believes the book, When Police Become Prey, provides a case for his innocence.
Speaking for the first time to reporters in Saskatoon, Larry Hartwig claims the public RCMP inquiry into Stonechild’s death excluded and manipulated evidence in order to pin the death of the 17-year-old on him and another officer Brad Senger.
“The fact is I did not encounter Neil Stonechild that night, I did not arrest him, I did not beat him up or drop him off somewhere,” Hartwig said. “I believe this public inquiry was used to validate claims and perceptions that police were killing aboriginal people in order to appease certain groups.”
Hartwig has been pushing the Saskatchewan Department of Justice to reopen the inquiry and have an out-of-province team look at the evidence again.
“Since Justice David Wright’s findings I have filed appeal after appeal with each appeal I tried to bring more evidence forward but we’ve been told we can’t bring evidence forward that was available at the time even if it was ignored,” Hartwig said.
The Ministry of Justice confirmed by email that it has received requests over the past few years to reopen this matter, adding they respect the findings of Justice Wright and the 2004 Commission.
Now retired, Wright said at this point, 11 years after the results of the inquiry were published, it would be inappropriate to comment on Hartwig’s allegations of misconduct during the inquiry.
“The facts speak for themselves,” Wright said.
Hartwig said the events after his termination from the Saskatoon Police Service have crippled his spirit and have damaged relationships in his family.
“It’s destroyed my life, my hopes and dreams, the hopes and dreams of my children I lost a relationship with one of my children over this,” Hartwig said. “It’s destroyed my soul.”
Hartwig said he wishes the RCMP laid a charge on him.
“Then at least I would’ve had the presumption of innocence, a means to defend myself and this would’ve been over a long time ago I would’ve been vindicated and start rebuilding my life,” he said.
At the centre of the case against Hartwig and Senger was Jason Roy, a friend of Stonechild’s who testified he saw Stonechild in the back of a police car screaming for help on the night he died. Hartwig continues to deny this and calls Roy a liar.
But even 25 years later Roy said he still remembers that night and he has always stuck to his story.
“I’ll always stand behind my story — I’m up for the challenge and my perspective is never going to change, I know what happened I was there,” Roy said.
Hartwig disagrees, adding he thinks Roy should tell the truth of what really happened that night.
“This all started with Jason Roy telling a very big lie when he was drunk and even today it continues to be a lie that has fooled many people.”
Roy is holding a special feast for Stonechild on Wednesday night at the St. Thomas Wesley Church in Saskatoon in remembrance of his friend who died 25 years ago.
Across the city at the same time author Candis McLean launches her new book “When Police Become Prey: the cold hard facts into the freezing death of Neil Stonechild”.
McLean was scheduled to have the book launch at McNally-Robinson in Saskatoon, however the events co-ordinator cancelled the event out of respect to Stonechild’s friends and family, citing the launch came too close to the 25th anniversary of Stonechild’s death.
McLean’s launch will go ahead at the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Centre on First Avenue North at 7 p.m. in Saskatoon.