Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Family of murdered 18-year-old express anger at police investigation, ‘racial profiling’

By Annalise Klingbeil, Calgary Herald

The family of an 18-year-old Calgary man who was found murdered nearly three weeks after his family reported him missing are alleging police mishandled the case and racially profiled the teen.

Colton James Crowshoe’s father and aunt say as family and friends searched “non-stop” for the missing man throughout July, police dismissed the family’s pleas, downplayed their version of events and lacked empathy and action.

“Emotions are running high right now. A lot of people are angry and outraged about the murder and the lack of help we received from the system,” said Danielle Crowshoe, Colton’s aunt.

“Our system is broken when it comes to First Nations people ... this is a perfect example of the negative stereotypes and racial profiling of native youth.”

As loved ones remembers Crowshoe — a kind and caring teen, described as the peacemaker of the family — they’re vowing to push for change and prevent another aboriginal family from having to go through what they’ve been through.

“Enough is enough,” said Colton’s father Jimmy Crowshoe, who raised Colton and his older sister and brother as a single father.

In a written statement, Crowshoe’s family allege police ignored and downplayed their requests for help because Crowshoe is First Nations.

“Police often see First Nations as less worthy victims and as a result, requests for assistance are often ignored and downplayed as in this case ...(This) is proof of how the system that is supposed to help us, ultimately fails us, because of racist views and negative stereotypes,” reads the statement.

But police say the case was handled in the same way all missing persons cases are treated.

When questioned on the families allegations that police were reluctant to thoroughly investigate the case from the start, Staff Sgt. Doug Andrus of the CPS Homicide Unit said police investigations are reassessed as time goes on.

“We take all complaints seriously and we dedicate resources to ensure we conduct a thorough, complete investigation,” he said.

“During the course of this investigation we continued to reassess our response. In regards to missing persons investigations, we have to assess our response and also look at the right of an individual to be away from family and friends.”

Crowshoe is being remembered by his family as a good kid, who graduated Jack James High School in 2013 and had aspirations to get his driver’s licence and pursue a career in welding or mechanics.

“He would always brighten up any situation by making a joke and making us laugh, he was very considerate of others,” said his aunt.

“He kept to himself. He wasn’t the type to get into any altercations with anybody, he always remained neutral. He wasn’t involved in any of the stereotypes ... He respected our traditional ways.”

Danielle Crowshoe said family and friends are struggling to understand why Crowshoe was murdered.

“We want answers. Colton was so kind. We can’t imagine who would want to hurt him because he was such a good kid,” she said.

Crowshoe was last seen leaving a party with friends in the Abbeydale area between 2:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. on July 4. His family said his disappearance was out of character and they reported Crowshoe missing to police on July 7.

“He made sure his dad knew where he was at all times ... Colton would never just walk out and not tell his father where he was. That’s when we knew right away that something wasn’t right,” said his aunt.

Danielle Crowshoe said police showed a lack of empathy to the family and appeared reluctant to thoroughly investigate Crowshoe’s disappearance, telling family he was 18 and probably didn’t want to be found.

“Right away, off the bat, they started making all these assumptions. (Police) didn’t know Colton ... right away they stereotyped him,” she said.

On July 22, nearly three weeks after he was last seen, police issued a media release asking for the public’s help in locating Crowshoe. The media release stated there was no evidence to indicate foul play.

On Thursday, authorities recovered Crowshoe’s body from a water retention pond near Stoney Trail and 16th Avenue N.E. in the Abbeydale neighbourhood after a witness walking in the area noticed a body and contact police.

An autopsy was preformed and late Friday, police said Crowshoe was murdered. The cause of death is not being released and police don’t know when he was killed.

On Saturday, Andrus said police have no suspects at this time but “a number of theories” have been developed based on witness interviews.

“We’re keeping an open mind at this point and we’re looking at all possibilities,” he said.

Andrus said he could not comment on if there was a conflict at the party, or if the victim was known to police. Officials want to speak to anyone who attended the Abbeydale party that Crowshoe was at before he disappeared.

Sgt. John Hebert of the Missing Persons Team told media on Saturday that the Calgary Police Service receives about 3,300 missing persons complaints per year and roughly two-thirds of those are for youth.

While Hebert wouldn’t speak specifically about the Crowshoe case, he said when a person goes missing a process is followed and the risk for the individual is assessed.

“Those things that might elevate the risk for us are things like mental and physical health issues, the very old the very young, those who can’t care for themselves. Those are the ones we really have a strong focus on,” Hebert said.

“Those folks who have the ability to care for themselves, they get reduced in priority.”

Meanwhile, Crowshoe’s family hosted a candlelight vigil on Sunday night for anyone who knew the teen and who supported the family as they searched for him.

“He’s my angel. He was my baby. I miss him so much,” said his father, Jimmy.

His aunt Danielle Crowshoe said she’ll miss her nephew’s smile the most.

“That’s the one thing I’ll never forget. His smile of assurance in hard times. He just had this light ... I don’t know how anybody could take him,” she said.

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