The family of Eishia Hudson has filed a civil claim for damages, 20 months after the 16-year-old was fatally shot by a Winnipeg police officer following a robbery and subsequent chase.
Cochrane Saxberg Barristers & Solicitors filed the statement of claim Wednesday with the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench on behalf of the family.
Two unnamed Winnipeg police officers are named in the claim for “acts of recklessness, carelessness, and negligence that resulted in the death of Eishia,” a news release from Cochrane Saxberg said.
Also named as defendants are Chief Danny Smyth, “for failing to adequately address the problem of systemic racism in the Winnipeg Police Service toward Indigenous people,” and the City of Winnipeg.
“Eishia’s death brought us closer to families across the country who suffered the same loss of loved ones at the hands of police misuse of force,” William Hudson, Eishia’s father, said in the release.
Hudson and four others fled the Sage Creek neighbourhood in a stolen vehicle, suspected of robbing a liquor store, on April 8, 2020.
They were chased northbound on Lagimodiere Boulevard by two Winnipeg police vehicles until the vehicle crossed the median in the intersection with Fermor Avenue, colliding with a truck.
It was at that time, the claim alleges, that the two unnamed police officers, who were not dispatched to the call but sought to provide assistance, approached the vehicle with Hudson.
Both officers drew their weapons, with one firing two shots at Hudson from close range.
She was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after arriving, the result of “a gunshot wound of the torso,” a forensic pathologist later determined.
According to the statement of claim, the officer who discharged the weapon said in a written statement after the incident that he thought Hudson was “an Indigenous male.”
“The problem of police killing Indigenous people has only escalated since the release of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry’s final report,” said Danielle Morrison, co-counsel for the family.
“This claim cannot ignore the alarming numbers that threaten the lives of Indigenous people.”
She pointed to 17 Indigenous people of the 28 killed in incidents with police in Manitoba from 2000 to 2020.
One-third of those deaths of Indigenous people happened in 2019 and 2020 alone, including the death of Hudson.
William Hudson, who hosted a national gathering in November in honour of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour families against police violence, says he simply wants justice.
“The police must be held accountable. If Eishia wasn’t recognized as being Indigenous by the police officer, she might still be alive today,” he said in the release.
The Hudson family’s claim relies on The Fatal Accidents Act, which allows families of a deceased person to file a claim and recover damages where the death was caused by a wrongful act or neglect.
Manitoba’s police watchdog investigated the incident and recommended no charges be laid against the officer who shot Eishia Hudson.
An inquest into her death was called last March and is still pending.
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