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'I've been robbed of my brother'

Dale Culver spoke to his sister on July 17. It was the first time they'd spoken in years, and it would be the last. Culver was involved in a police incident about 24 hours later and did not survive.

Dale Culver spoke to his sister on July 17. It was the first time they'd spoken in years, and it would be the last. Culver was involved in a police incident about 24 hours later and did not survive.

The matter is now under scrutiny by the province's Independent Investigations Office (IIO) to see if the RCMP members involved were in any way culpable in Culver's death, but for his family left behind it is numb comfort.

"It hasn't really sunk in with me yet," said Culver's grieving mother. She and Culver's shocked sister Raven Culver were in Prince George to take temporary care of the man's body so they could take it to their First Nation at Moricetown (between Smithers and Hazelton) for a formal grief ceremony.

"I've been robbed of my brother. He was my best friend, my protector, my everything," said Raven.

"My brother Dale was a good kindhearted man that loved his children and his family. He was a father, a husband, a son and my brother."

Raven said that the timing of this incident was especially painful. She and their mother now live in Edmonton, and the fateful last phone call will always be a haunting memory, she said.

"Before that we weren't able to connect for four years. It was so good to finally reconnect with my brother the night before this happened. We talked about everything: how he was looking for a job and looking to get custody of his son and because of this his children are fatherless. These people (RCMP), our so called protectors, who are supposed to be there for protection and justice - where is the justice in this?"

According to Raven, her brother was on his way by bicycle to his wife and youngest child. The police statement following the incident described Culver as a suspect spotted by witnesses "casing" parked cars as if to steal from them. Raven said it was a case of Culver being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Adding to Raven's anguish are the photos and video clips of the incident shot by passersby. It appears to show a group of RCMP members engaged in a struggle with a downed Culver.

Raven isn't dismissing the possibility that the use of force was appropriate, but she is highly concerned that perhaps this was a case of excessive force.

"I'm really upset about how the RCMP in Prince George are disclosing their side of the story to date," she said.

According to police, a lone member responded to a call of someone suspiciously examining vehicles in a parking lot in the 1000 block of Central Street West. When someone on a bicycle was seen by the member, and that rider attempted to flee, the member intervened in the suspect's exit. A struggle ensued and several other members came to help in what was now an arrest. The police disclosed that standard-issue pepper spray was used in the apprehension.

"The man was then placed into a police car," said Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau, the RCMP's senior media relations officer for B.C.

"Police requested immediate medical assistance for the man when he appeared to have trouble breathing. Once an ambulance arrived the man was taken out of a police car and collapsed. The 35-year-old man was pronounced deceased in hospital shortly after midnight."

As per provincial protocols, the IIO was alerted to investigate the matter as Culver's death occurred whilst police were involved.

Once Culver's loved ones have completed their mourning ceremony, Culver will be returned to the provincial coroner's service for an autopsy in aid of the IIO's investigation.

"It feels good that they are really trying to find out what went on," said Raven. "It doesn't seem right. This wasn't proper, the way I see it. When you see the pictures and the video, it looks like abuse of power."

"The initial focus of the IIO investigation will be to determine if there is a connection between the death of the male and the actions or inactions of police," the watchdog agency said.

"If there is no connection then the IIO will release jurisdiction, if there is a connection the IIO will continue investigating."

Anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to call the IIO at 1-855-446-8477.