First Nations man found dead just hours after release from Williams Lake RCMP custody

Dead hours after release

The family of a 26-year-old First Nations man who died by suicide in Williams Lake just hours after being released from RCMP custody is going public in the hopes it never happens to anyone else.

Kenneth Seymour Michell of the Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nation in Pavilion was found dead behind a Williams Lake business on Jan. 14, after having strangled himself with his shoelace.

His family and friends remain devastated and continue to grieve one month after burying him at Xaxli’p First Nation’s cemetery near Lillooet.

The Independent Investigations Office of BC, which investigated the RCMP’s involvement into Mitchell’s sudden death, confirmed police were concerned for Michell’s welfare after he was arrested on outstanding warrants.

The investigation found Crown Counsel also raised concerns during Michell’s Jan. 13 bail hearing and opposed his release.

The court, however, chose not to detain Michell, who told police and others he was experiencing suicidal thoughts.

According to the First Nations Leadership Council, who are assisting the family in bringing forward their concerns, Michell was released on conditions and dropped off in Williams Lake in the middle of winter wearing only a sweater. A friend had attempted to pick him up from the courthouse but was told he would be transported to Kamloops, where he called home.

Michell was found dead early the next morning.

Less than two weeks after his death, the IIO concluded police actions/inactions “did not play any role” in Michell’s death, and that both police and Crown Counsel took positions that attempted to prevent it.

FNLC is calling for further investigation including reprimands to the RCMP and judge involved in the case.

Secretary-treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Kukpi7 Judy Wilson said Michell should be alive today.

“Our people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and not brushed aside like Kenneth was,” Wilson said.

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