The sketch of the police officer that Darlene Katcheech claims she saw putting Lawrence Wegner into a police cruiser shortly before he was found dead on the outskirts of Saskatoon is not the one she signed off on, the Native witness said.
Lawrence Wegner, 30, a friend of Katcheech's, was found frozen to death in a field on the southwestern edge of Saskatoon in January 2000. An inquiry into his death failed to solve the mystery of how he ended up in a field without a jacket or shoes and wearing socks that showed no wear. Observers say he couldn't have walked from the last place he was seen on 20th Street-more than a mile away-in his stocking feet without shredding those socks and doing serious damage to his feet.
Katcheech believes she saw Wegner sitting in the back of a police car the night before he died. She provided the description that a RCMP sketch artist relied on to create a drawing of the Saskatoon Police Service officer she believes she saw in that car. She said she printed her name on the top of the finished product and signed the bottom. When the sketch was released to the media, it was not quite right, she claimed. Bags under the officer's eyes had not been included and the face in the sketch released to the public was not quite the right shape.
Katcheech spent hours drawing a sketch herself that more resembles the police officer she remembers seeing.
"You know when I did this sketch, I thought, 'It's got a line there and how come it looks like it's got a line here? It's like they folded it up.' It's like those MAD books, you know, on the back?" she said.
Windspeaker visited three soup kitchens along 20th Street in Saskatoon, the area known as "the 'hood." People lined up to tell us their stories about the way the police deal with the people in the poor part of the city. The vast majority of those people are Aboriginal. The anger and fear was evident in all of the people who wanted to be heard by a reporter from an out-of-town Aboriginal publication.
Relatives of several Native men who also died in questionable circumstances in and around the Saskatchewan city are saying they can't get anyone to listen to them. Lawyers who represent the Aboriginal people in town said more complaints will soon be made public.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has hired retired Native RCMP investigator Oliver Williams to look into the many complaints against police it has received. There's a map in his FSIN office that has a pin signifying the location of each complaint received. There are many, many pins stuck in that map.
Katcheech had her lawyer, Doug Racine, negotiate protection for her and her children when she was scheduled to be a witness during the Wegner inquiry. She was moved to an undisclosed location and her children were taken to school each day in an RCMP cruiser. She said a lot of strange things were happening at that time. Her car was stolen. She was followed by a white van with tinted windows. Other witnesses in other inquiries in Saskatoon have told stories of similar troubling incidents. She was very nervous about talking to the media and had refused to speak to CBC reporters who had heard that she was questioning the accuracy of the sketch. But she decided to speak out to the Aboriginal press.
As she told her story, she held tobacco in her hand.
"I can't lie if I'm holding tobacco in my hand," she said.
Greg Curtis, a lawyer in the Neil Stonechild inquiry, another investigation into the unexplained death of a Native man, is looking into her concerns about the sketch.
"It's curious because I have been trying now to get the RCMP to follow up on this sketch, writing them letters and asking them for some kind of response."
Curtis has written several letters to the RCMP. He wants to see the original sketch and perhaps arrange for a new sketch to be produced.
He said he expects a response soon from the RCMP.