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Teen beaten in Fort Liard

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Fort Liard (Dec 08/06) - Questions about RCMP response are being raised in Fort Liard after an 18-year-old was medevaced to Edmonton because of injuries caused by a beating.

Richard Henson realized something was wrong on Dec. 1 when he heard screaming outside of his Fort Liard house around 12 a.m.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Leroy Sassie was medevaced to Edmonton after attack by group of teens.

Henson jumped off his couch and ran outside where he saw his step-son Leroy Sassie surrounded by a group of about 10 people in their late teens.

One of Sassie's friends had already separated him from the angry group and helped carry him into the house. Inside the extent of Sassie's injuries became evident.

"He was messed up," said Henson.

Sassie was choking and coughing blood, said Henson. His eyes were swelled shut and his tears were made of blood.

Henson immediately took Sassie to the health centre to be checked by a nurse. Henson also wanted an RCMP officer to see Sassie before he was medevaced.

Despite making a call to the RCMP from his house and watching the nurse make three, Henson said no RCMP member came.

Speaking to Const. Jeremy White over the phone, Henson said he was told someone would talk to him at 3 p.m. the next day when they were on duty. White called police on Saturday.

That kind of response, however, isn't good enough, said Henson.

"I think it's ridiculous," he said.

Henson said Sassie was barely conscious so he wouldn't have been able to say much, but he at least wanted the RCMP to note the extent of his injuries.

"That could have been a life threatening injury," he said.

Henson said he's heard of a number of cases where the RCMP haven't responded.

"It's common," he said.

With the RCMP not responding, Henson, who's lived in the community for eight years, said vigilante justice is going to become more common.

"Things are going to start to go bad in this town," he said.

Henson said the family plans to file a complaint against the RCMP concerning their response.

The RCMP did respond to the call although no one went to see Sassie, according to Cpl. Shane Christmas.

The investigation was started when the calls came in, Christmas said.

"We figured he was in medical care so he was in good hands," said Christmas.

"We were just worried about the investigation we had to do."

Christmas said he talked to the nurse personally that night and heard a report on what was happening and asked to be updated if the RCMP were required at the health centre.

On any call, officers assess the situation and decide if they need to go out, he said. Christmas said it would have been different if they'd needed to pick up Sassie and help bring him to the health centre.

It wasn't necessary to see Sassie because the nurse made detailed notes that the RCMP have access to, he said.

Dale Loutit, who has lived in the community for three years, said this isn't the first time the RCMP has seemingly failed to act.

Loutit, the hamlet's recreation coordinator, said she has called the RCMP four or five times in the past when adults who are intoxicated disrupt the youth dances. The RCMP didn't come on any of the occasions. Loutit said she has also heard of other examples where the RCMP haven't responded.

"What has to happen for them to say 'Okay, I'm coming?'" Loutit asked.

When the RCMP don't act, Loutit said the wrong message is sent out to youth.

"It's just saying that violence is okay to kids because there's no outcome," she said.

There seems to be no police presence in the community after a certain time of the night, said Loutit.

"I feel the safety in the community is gone, by them not stepping up to the plate," she said.

Christmas said he thinks the detachment has been doing a good job of policing the community but community help is required.

"Without the assistance of the community itself there's not much we can do," he said.

Christmas said the RCMP often don't witness acts in progress and if people don't give statements the RCMP can't do much.

The RCMP can't show concern unless someone tells us something is going on, said Christmas. Although there are only three people in the four person detachment someone is always on duty 24 hours a day.

"When it comes to any calls we will respond. If it's an emergency we will respond without question," he said.

Sassie was sent to the University of Alberta hospital where he had a CAT scan and x-rays taken. He didn't have any fractures but had bad bruising and swelling on his face and a minor concussion, Henson said.

After a day in the hospital Sassie was moved to a boarding house and was expected to fly back on Dec. 5.

"He's still pretty sore," said Henson.

Henson said he's 90 per cent certain Sassie will press charges against his assailants.

No charges have been laid yet but the identities of the suspects are known, said Christmas.