In a case that has drawn attention to racial tensions in Saskatchewan, an all-white jury found two police officers guilty of abandoning a Native man on the outskirts of town in freezing conditions.
Saskatoon officers Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson had been charged with assault and unlawful confinement by the Canadian government. Both men were found guilty of unlawful confinement, but were acquitted on the assault charges.
One night last January, the officers had detained 35-year-old Darrell Night. According to the officers, Night, of Salteaux First Nation, was intoxicated and abusive. Instead of driving Night to the police station, Hatchen and Munson chose to leave him on the outskirts of town in minus 22-degree weather.
Defense lawyer Bill Roe maintained in court that the officers, who admitted that they abandoned Night, had committed “an error of judgment,” but that it “does not constitute a criminal offense.” In their defense, the officers had stated that they dropped Darrell Night by the side of the road without a jacket because he had asked them to. Night claimed that he tried to resist being thrown out of the car and said that he had warned the officers that he had their car number and would report them.
Night was lucky to live to tell his tale. A number of Native men and boys have been found frozen to death in the Saskatoon area over the past ten years. The Native community has long been suspicious of police involvement in the mysterious deaths, but there had never been any solid evidence until Night came forward after surviving his icy ordeal.
Sentencing is expected to come down October 30th. Hatchen and Munson face a maximum sentence of ten years in jail. An appeal is expected to be filed.