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Stoney Nakoda family recounts fond memories of brother shot by RCMP

Struggling with the death of his father who died in 2015 and the death of his mother, who passed away in 2016, the family said that Cavin Poucette might have been in a dark place in the months leading up to his fatal shooting in October 2017, but they do not believe he wanted to end his life

STONEY NAKODA – Cavin Poucette was a good brother.

A good father.

A good uncle.

A good friend.

He was shot dead by RCMP six days before his 27th birthday.

"He wasn't bad like they portrayed him on the news – he wasn't like that at all," Kaylynne Poucette, Cavin's sister explained emotionally over the phone.

"He was fun to be around, he was nice, he was respectful for whoever comes his way – he loved hunting, he liked to go fishing, he liked to go camping, he just liked the outdoors and doing things outside ... he was not bad."

Cavin was in a blue Ford Explorer parked northbound in a southbound lane on Haskayne Avenue in Gleichen, Alta. in October 2017 when he was shot by police.

According to a Jan. 14 Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) press release, RCMP members noticed Cavin was the lone driver in a parked vehicle when they decided to investigate.

Upon walking up to the vehicle, the two officers noticed Cavin with his head was cocked back "awkwardly" and his mouth open, not appearing to be conscious or moving. The officers approached the vehicle and after knocking on the window, not waking Cavin, they noticed there was a gun between his legs.

According to ASIRT, RCMP considered opening the driver side door, but it was locked, so they attempted to break the window. The window did not break, but the noise did wake Cavin up.

"The officers shouted verbal commands identifying themselves as police and informing the occupant of the vehicle that he was under arrest. The man looked directly at the officer on the driver’s side of the vehicle and swore at the officer. As the man’s hands went towards the firearm, both officers again shouted commands to show his hands," the press release stated.

"The man failed to respond and continued to reach for the firearm, prompting the officer on the driver’s side of the vehicle to fire his service pistol, wounding the man, while the officer repositioned himself towards the front of the Explorer."

Cavin, who was 26 years old, was pronounced dead on the scene. 

"The cops really did handle this wrong," Kaylynne said through tears.

"They could've handled it differently without using a gun. 

"Sometimes I wish I could rewind it."

Struggling with the death of his father who died in 2015 and the death of his mother, who passed away in 2016 because of health conditions, the family said that Cavin might have been in a dark place in the months leading up to the fatal shooting, but they do not believe he wanted to end his life. 

"My brother texted my husband and said Cavin's gone and I didn't understand. I thought he was lost, but then my husband told me my brother got killed by the cops, and that is when everything changed," Kaylynne said through tears on the phone.

Weeks before Cavin was killed, he asked his sister to craft some regalia for him as he wanted to start dancing in powwows again.

"He liked to sing at the powwows and round dances. When he was younger, he did dance and he said he wanted to get back into it. He really wanted to get back into the circle and asked me to make it for him," she said.

But Cavin never got the chance to dance again.

"The last time I talked to him, he made it seem like he wanted to go home – he kept saying he wanted to go home and it felt like he knew it was the last time like he was going to go ... the last thing we said to each other was 'I love you, I'll talk to you later,' " Kaylynne said.

An autopsy by the Chief Medical Examiner determined Cavin died due to multiple gunshot wounds. The news shocked the family and community.

"My daughter was five years old at the time, but she understood what was going on. He used to video call just to say 'hi' and talk to my kids, I think it really hurt her ... the younger one didn't know what was going on," Kaylynne said.

The Poucette family said the funeral felt all too familiar as it was only a year since their mother had given each of her children a hug before she died.

"There were a lot of people at Cavin's funeral and the people in the reserve were shocked to hear [he died] and of him getting portrayed badly on the news because everyone who knew him knew who he really was," Kaylynne said.

In the press release from ASIRT, it noted the drugs and drug paraphernalia found in the vehicle that October 2017 night, along with Cavin's toxicology and prior criminal history but stated the RCMP officers were unaware of it at the time of the incident.

ASIRT also said, after interviewing several witnesses who were with Cavin earlier in the night, the 26-year-old had made troubling comments and indicated he wanted a "shootout with police."

Interviews that Cavin's brother-in-law, Jesse Thomson, does not give full credit to.

"He was a fun guy who liked to have fun but the way they portrayed him like he was a drug addict and wanted to have a shoot out with the cops ... I don't like the way they described him – only Cavin and those cops know what happened," Jesse Thomson said.

"I don't believe Cavin would be reaching for a gun, he has never driven around with a gun like that before."

It was later revealed through the investigation, the homemade gun Cavin had that night was inoperable. 

"He was just caring, fun-loving and liked to joke. He was a good father, and good friend, and good brother," Thomson said.

"I just wish it didn't happen. You know, he was going through a really hard time."

ASIRT's independent investigation cleared the RCMP officers of any wrongdoing, stating a police officer is authorized to use as much force as is reasonably necessary in administration or enforcement of the law. 

"In this case, having observed the firearm within the vehicle, the officers were lawfully entitled to investigate and seize the weapon and take the man into custody and, in doing so, to use as much force as was reasonably necessary ... Accordingly, following a full investigation and assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds, or even reasonable suspicion, to believe that the officers committed any Criminal Code offence(s)," ASIRT wrote.

Kaylynne said she wishes the RCMP had handled the night differently.

"I miss him a lot," she said through tears. 

"He would always call me and always call to check and see how my kids are doing, how his daughter is – he was really a good person, he wasn't a bad person, he was so nice. I just wish they would've handled it differently instead of shooting him." 

"I would just say the way he was portrayed on the news is just wrong.

"He really wasn't as bad as they say he was."