Haineault family reacts to recommendation

by Phil Ambroziak

Satisfaction may be something that will never come easy for the family of the late Harry Haineault.

That was the message shared by the Clearwater River Dene Nation man’s brother, Walter Haineault, following the conclusion of a long-awaited coroner’s inquest held at the Meadow Lake courthouse Dec. 3-6.

“I’m not surprised – I never expected anything more than what we got,” Haineault said with regard to the single recommendation made by a six-person jury at the conclusion of the proceedings.

The recommendation calls for all RCMP members, no matter how many years they’ve been on the job, to participate in continuous risk assessment training in an effort to prevent future incidents similar to the one that claimed the life of Harry Haineault.

Haineault, 38, was fatally shot on Sept. 2, 2008 during an altercation with a La Loche RCMP officer at Clearwater River Dene Nation. During the inquest, testimony was given by RCMP Cst. Jamie Grant (the officer who shot Haineault), Clearwater member Doug Clark who witnessed the two men run into the woods, EMT Dean Herman and RCMP toxicologist Jennifer Finlay.

According to Grant, he felt he was in a life-threatening situation when his attempt to pursue a fleeing Haineault on foot resulted in a struggle. He said Haineault began kicking him while the two were on the ground and even put the officer in a leg-scissors hold. When his baton and pepper spray proved ineffective, and fearing Haineault was attempting to reach for the officer’s sidearm, Grant made the decision to shoot.

While Finlay testified no evidence of pepper spray was found on Grant’s clothing or gloves, she also said a hand sanitizer Grant claimed to have used could have limited the ability to detect the spray. She also said the level of alcohol in Haineault’s system at the time of his death was more than three times the legal limit, allowing for his mental processes to possibly be delayed, yet also potentially increasing his risk-taking behaviour.

“It (recommendation) is ultimately the jury’s decision, but we have enough evidence that the shooter’s story will never sit well with me and my family,” Walter Haineault continued. “His story doesn’t match my video.”

The video in question is surveillance footage from Walter Haineault’s property – where his brother’s confrontation with police occurred. It was the introduction of this footage as evidence that prevented the inquest from taking place last March.

“They didn’t let us present things the way we wanted to – this was their game from the beginning,” Haineault said. “They purposely showed the video one frame at a time, only showing certain angles. The only way to show it is all four angles simultaneously.”

As for the jury’s recommendation, Haineault said risk assessment training is something officers should already be knowledgeable of.

“They have that training,” he said. “It’s up to them to decide when to stop chasing someone or if they should continue.”

Meadow Lake RCMP Cpl. Natasha Szpakowski said risk assessment training is something already in place for members.

“The Haineault incident took place more than four years ago, so more things (concerning training) have likely transpired since then,” she said. “When it comes to risk management, that is something that must be determined on an individual basis. The risk factor would be different if a five-foot, four-inch member is dealing with a six-foot, six-inch client than it would be if both were five-foot, four inches.”

Szpakowski went on to describe the jury’s recommendation as valid, even though it’s something she also feels is already in place.

“It’s something we need to continue, however,” she added.

Meanwhile, Walter Haineault wonders if the situation involving his brother needed to escalate to the level it did.

“Even without police training, you should know when to stop,” he said. “My brother had no weapon – not even a lighter. He had to ask me for a lighter to light his smoke. How dangerous was Harry? He was not a dangerous guy. He was a fun-loving guy. If you met him, you would have always remembered him.”


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