Six years after his death the OPP are opening an investigation into the death of Stacy DeBungee. At the time, Thunder Bay Police Services declared the death to be ‘unremarkable’ but complaints from Debungee’s family to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) has seen the case reopened to be investigated by the OPP after a decision from the Attorney General’s office.
According to a release from the OPP, DeBungee’s body was found on Oct. 19, 2015 in the McIntyre River neear the intersection of Waterford St. and Carrick St. in Thunder Bay. DeBungee was Anishinaabe and a member of the Rainy River First Nations. At the time his body was found Thunder Bay Police Services declared the circumstances not suspicious.
However, according to an article on the website of Falconers LLP, lawyers for DeBungee’s family, the family believed the circumstances surrounding his death were suspicious “from the get-go.”
Falconers LLP say that they believe systemic racism was a factor in the investigation, or lack thereof, into DeBungee’s death.
“The Thunder Bay Police Service treated Stacy’s death as unremarkable, pushing the racist theory that Stacy got drunk and rolled down the riverbank into the water, with “no foul play” suspected,” reads an article on the law office website. “Thunder Bay police officers reached this conclusion before receiving Stacy’s autopsy results, and they did not revisit the theory of the case when presented with information that should have raised alarm and suspicion about how Stacy died.”
In February, OIPRD adjudicator Lee Ferrier determined that the officers involved should face disciplinary hearings after allegations of neglect of duty and discreditable conduct were found to be substantiated.
Falconers LLP writes: “While the reinvestigation was initially assigned to a body over which the chief of the Thunder Bay Police Service exercised oversight authority, the investigation is now finally being investigated independent of the Thunder Bay Police Service thanks to a decision of the Ministry of the Attorney General.”
The Attorney General’s office has assigned the OPP to investigate the case.
Detective Inspector Shawn Glassford of the OPP’s Criminal Investigation Bureau says the OPP intends to give the matter the thorough investigation it deserves.
“Our intention is to thoroughly investigate the circumstances leading to the death of Stacy DeBungee,” Glassford said. “Mr. DeBungee’s family, his friends, his community and the public deserve to know what happened.”
A tip line has been created to help the public provide tips on the case. The number is 1-833-533-8447. To remain anonymous people can call Thunder Bay District Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.