ASUBPEESCHOSEEWAGONG: Death of Geronimo Fobister

CPTnet
December 5, 2003
ASUBPEESCHOSEEWAGONG: Death of Geronimo Fobister

by Matt Schaaf and Lisa Martens

On Nov. 19, 2003, Christian Peacemaker Teams members Matt Schaaf and Lisa
Martens spoke to a relative of Geronimo Fobister, a 17-year-old man killed
at Grassy Narrows on August 26 by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP.)

Early that morning, Geronimo and another man, John, threatened other Grassy
Narrows people and Geronimo fired a shotgun. A community member
called the OPP. Officers arrived at around 10:30 and the Chief of Grassy
Narrows approached the police at around 1:30 pm.

At 2:30 in the afternoon, officers found Geronimo and took cover a few
metres away. Geronimo was lying on his back with a half-empty bottle of
whiskey in one hand and a shotgun in the other. A trained OPP negotiator
tried to convince Geronimo to slide the gun to one side with no success. At
one point, Geronimo asked if anyone spoke Ojibway, but none of the police
did. Finally, the young man said he needed to relieve himself. The
officers instructed him to sit up without the gun, but Geronimo sat up
holding the gun. A police officer fired three rubber projectiles at
Geronimo to stun him, but they were ineffective. The officers rushed him
and he raised the shotgun toward them. Two officers fired their service
rifles at Geronimo. One bullet struck him in the head, killing him
instantly.

The OPP's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) concluded that the police
officers could not be held criminally responsible for killing Geronimo.

Police often have to deal with intense and potentially deadly situations
that they did not initiate. Inspired by comments made by Grassy Narrows
community members, CPT makes the following observations:

1. Police can consult community members, including relatives, about how to
best deal with other community members.

2. Police can consult the Grassy Narrows Crisis Team of local, trained
volunteers regarding tense situations.

3. Police can ask community members who speak Ojibway to help them in
potentially violent situations with Ojibway-speaking community members.

4. Police can discuss nonlethal alternatives with community members.

5. Police can admit that they did not use all the nonlethal options
available to them, and try to make amends to Geronimo's family. (At a Nov. 5
meeting between Grassy Narrows community members and the SIU, a relative
of Geronimo told the police that in his culture, when someone kills a family
member accidentally, the person who did the killing is responsible for
supporting the victim's family.)

6.The community of Asubpeeschoseewagong has suffered violence from the
European-Canadians since the early 1900s, both overtly and systemically.
Police can acknowledge that the dominant culture has done violence to Grassy
Narrows for decades, and can work to become agents of freedom from that
violence.

We ask CPT's constituency to pray for healing for Geronimo's family, for
the police officers involved in Geronimo's killing, and for their families.