The driver of a pickup truck that allegedly struck several people at a residential school memorial march in Mission, B.C. has turned himself in to police and had his vehicle seized for examination.
Mission RCMP provided the update on Monday, two days after the incident at the event, which was called the March for Recognition for Residential Schools. The detachment said the driver is not currently in custody.
In interviews, victims and witnesses said the driver had spewed threats and racial epithets before striking five people, sending two to hospital. A Mission RCMP statement posted on Saturday said the truck made contact with “approximately four” people, injuring two.
The Saturday statement added that the driver was upset that his commute had been slightly delayed by the march. But some marchers said this version of events minimizes the gravity of the situation.
The incident occurred as the demonstration, organized by the Crazy Indians Brotherhood, an Indigenous men’s group, was heading east along Lougheed Highway toward the former St. Mary’s Residential School around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Troy Ingraldi said he was directing traffic near the back of the march when the driver of the pickup truck became irate. The truck pulled into a turnoff and spun its tires before returning to the road. Mr. Ingraldi said there were children and elders present. He recalled approaching the vehicle to ask the driver to be patient.
“He started yelling and being belligerent, cussing at me, asking where my permits were,” Mr. Ingraldi said. “He was like, ‘I’ll run over whoever I want to run over. Film me, I’ll get famous.’ ” Mr. Ingraldi added that the driver said he was “sick and tired” of marches.
Mr. Ingraldi said the driver accelerated, hitting him with the front right side of the truck and leaving him with a cut lip, a cut on his left hand, soft tissue damage in his right hand and a minor concussion. He said the only thing that crossed his mind in that moment was that he would miss his daughter’s seventh birthday that day, and her dance recital the following evening.
Mission RCMP Constable Harrison Mohr said in the Saturday police statement that there was no indication the incident was targeted, or that the driver’s actions had anything specifically to do with the people marching or their cause.
“While our investigation has only just begun, at this point this appears to be a case of someone being unhappy that their trip was slightly delayed, and took it upon themselves to endanger the lives of others to try to save a few minutes,” Constable Mohr said.
That statement, which was issued before police had spoken with the driver, has since been deleted from Mission RCMP’s website and Facebook page. Constable Mohr said Monday that he was unavailable for an interview, but wrote in an e-mail that the statement was based on information initially received from people at the scene.
Kailey Ashley, who had manoeuvred her vehicle to block the pickup truck before the incident, said she saw Mr. Ingraldi approach the truck and the driver swearing at him.
“Troy got in front of the car and [the driver] smoked Troy with the front of his car,” she said. “Troy went down and this guy proceeded to run Troy over.”
Ms. Ashley, who is Métis, Cree and Ojibwe, said she got Mr. Ingraldi into her vehicle, where he awaited medical attention while she continued to try to block the pickup truck. She alleges the driver hurled racial epithets at her, threatened to run over her children and continued driving, hitting four others.
Ashton Edwards, who was farther ahead in the march, said he heard on a hand-held radio that Mr. Ingraldi had been hit and then saw the truck aggressively weaving. As it approached, another man jumped onto the hood, Mr. Edwards said. The vehicle struck Mr. Edwards while he was trying to pull the man off the truck, spinning him around before driving away, he said.
“This was an aggressive and dangerous driver and I really hope he gets charged,” Mr. Edwards said, adding that he was bruised and sore.
Christopher Robertson, of the Sq’ewlets First Nation, was near the front of the march when he learned Mr. Ingraldi and possibly others had been struck by a vehicle.
“Our brother Ashton, he said, ‘That’s the truck right there,’ ” Mr. Robertson said. “So I pointed at that truck and I put my hand up and said, ‘You’re stopping, you’re pulling over.’ I stepped out into the lane and I seen another brother come up beside me. I turned and looked, and when I looked back at the truck the guy pinned it toward us. I got the right side of the front bumper to my right knee, spun me around, and my brother beside me jumped up and kind of rolled off the hood.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court. Police said the driver, who turned himself in on Sunday, is co-operating with the investigation. They are asking witnesses with mobile-phone or dash-cam footage to come forward.
Garett Dan, who is from the Chehalis and Skatin First Nations, said he saw the pickup truck hit Mr. Ingraldi, and Ms. Ashley attempting to stop the truck. He said he was angered to read the initial RCMP statement.
“I was actually really choked, because why would you downplay something like that?” he said.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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