Inquest into death of Gjoa Haven man begins

Family of Charles Qirngnirq delivers emotional testimony on day one

Charles Qirngnirq, 21, died at the Gjoa Haven airport in December 2016 after being shot by two RCMP officers who were called to the scene. A coroner’s inquest into his death began Monday in Gjoa Haven. (File photo)

By Madalyn Howitt

A coroner’s inquest into the 2016 death of a Gjoa Haven man began on Monday with emotional testimonies from the man’s family and friends.

Charles Qirngnirq was 21 years old when died on Dec. 19, 2016 after being shot by two RCMP officers at the Gjoa Haven airport. The inquest, being held in the community hall, is reviewing the circumstances of the death and may consider recommendations to prevent other deaths in similar situations. The inquest is not to determine guilt of anyone involved in the case.

George Sallerina, Qirngnirq’s cousin, was working as an operator at the Gjoa Haven airport the morning that Qirngnirq died. At the inquest, Sallerina described hearing Qirngnirq argue with his girlfriend, Rosemary, outside of his office at the airport. The couple were parents to a son.

After closing the door, Sallerina testified he heard screaming between the couple, but couldn’t make out what they were arguing about.

He said Qirngnirq left the airport, but eventually returned and appeared to have been drinking.

“His speech was slurred, and he was staggering,” he said. Qirngnirq continued to yell after his girlfriend in an “aggressive” tone and telling her to “go home.” He was eventually asked to leave the premises after hitting a window.

Sallerina next saw Qirngnirq from the window of his office, walking towards the airport with a hunting rifle pointed towards the ground.

“I was scared,” he said. “I thought he was going to shoot us.” Sallerina said he was told to call the police.

Sallerina said he turned away from the window after he saw the two officers arrive and begin talking to Qirngnirq. He said the scene outside was quiet, but when he looked out again, he saw the officers had their guns raised and Qirngnirq was on the ground.

Near the end of questioning, Sallerina broke down crying when he recalled seeing his cousin “curled in the fetal position” after initially thinking the situation was calming down.

“I thought he was OK. I thought he had surrendered,” he said through tears.

Other witnesses on the first day of the inquest included the Qirngirq’s mother, Leona, who spoke quietly about how her son seemed normal the night before his death, and neighbour Teddy Carter, who described finding him asleep on his front porch the morning of the incident.

Coroner’s counsel, Sheldon Toner, described the circumstances that an official investigation by the Ottawa Police Service says led to the shooting.

“At one point, Charles began advancing away from the officers. There were some directions given to him, and at one point, an officer felt threatened for their safety,” he said.

Qirngnirq died from his injuries after being medevaced to hospital.

The inquest is being led by Toner and is being presided over by Nunavut chief coroner Khen Sagadraca.

Proceedings are expected to last until Friday when the eight-person jury will deliver a final verdict. Witnesses are expected to give testimonies until Thursday.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by 🙄 on

    How did the cops feel threatened for their safety when they stated he was on the ground, ?????? A lot of cops don’t do justice for what they’ve done,

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    • Posted by Southerner in the North on

      He was on the ground after having been shot.

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  2. Posted by Hmmm on

    Either of the officers have a habit of drawing their firearm, have either shot another person before?

    What is there work history etc… those are my questions.

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  3. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    There may be lessons to be learned but when you walk around with a gun threatening people this outcome will always be a possibility.

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  4. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    I feel so sad for the family, tragic incident. But this should not have happened, why was he there with a rifle? What outcome could have transpired?

    Needless death but no reason to bring a firearm, the RCMP are trained to deal with situations like this and hope it was followed through.

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    • Posted by Ashley on

      He threw the gun away and went down to the grown, after that one of those police shot him while he was down on the ground, what person would feel unsafe while he was told what to do? Just racist white people I guess.

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  5. Posted by yup on

    When you’re pointing a gun at people, especially the cops. the outcome will never be good, plain and simple.

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  6. Posted by Anonymous on

    “Magnolia Unka-Wool, the RCMP’s lawyer, said she will ask jurors to declare the death a suicide.”
    How can a suicide happen by RCMP? They shot Charles while he was on the ground. They said on another article.
    “At one point, Charles began advancing away from the officers. There were some directions given to him, and at one point, an officer felt threatened for their safety,” And my question is…. HOW DID THEY FEEL THREATENED IF HE ADVANCED FROM THEM

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