Family of Justin Brooks, the 21-year-old discovered in Prince Rupert’s harbour in March, believes the answers they’ve been looking for are close.
In September, the family hired two private investigators to gather information on the case. The investigators are now reviewing their findings and are continuing to collect documentation related to the death. Those private investigators may have already been in the community talking with people involved with the case.
“I wasn’t going to wait for the RCMP to get off their [expletive deleted]. We started fundraising a month later … the RCMP came to the conclusion it was a slip and fall or suicide the very next day [after he was found]. That is what I didn’t like,” Brooks’ mother Cheryl Ryan said.
“It feels like we’ve accomplished something. We stepped on a lot of toes to get where we’re at,” added aunt Sheri Latimer.
Brooks’ family wasn’t convinced when Prince Rupert RCMP told them there were no serious injuries that would have contributed to Brooks’ drowning death. The family said they were told a group of individuals assaulted Brooks prior to his passing.
“We know he was bullied, pushed around and beaten,” Ryan said.
“He was very sensitive. He took everything to heart. When people were mean to him it broke his heart. No one should ever die like that.”
For its part, Const. Matt Ericson said the RCMP see their investigation into the case as being concluded.
But both Ryan and Latimer said their efforts are far from done.
“We’re going to keep raising money to pay investigators until we get answers,” Ryan said, noting $8,000 has been raised to date.
Anyone interested in donating to the Justice for Justin campaign is encouraged to contact Sheri Latimer at 250-622-2989.
Meanwhile, a group will be looking at how indigenous communities interact with the justice system and how indigenous people can be better informed of the procedure for these kind of investigations.
Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology and the Department of First Nations Studies sent out proposals for partnership to the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Society to compile data about the frequency and location of questionable deaths in indigenous communities. Then the group will look at case studies of how indigenous communities are interacting with the justice system in a very broad sense.
“We want the kind of research that indicates a map or picture of an issue, as opposed to individual stories, which of course are incredibly compelling but don’t tell us enough about whether something has happened in one instance or area or whether we have a systemic problem,” Micheal Vonn, policy director of the BCCLA, said.