The parents of James Wood are speaking for the first time since their son, a father of seven children, died following an incident with Winnipeg police on Jan. 27.
“It’s very hard to lose somebody in this way,” said his mother, Carol Wood. “It shouldn’t have happened. There’s no need for what they did to my son.”
Carol and Brian Wood were surrounded by family at a news conference Friday in Winnipeg. All wearing sweaters with James’s photo printed on the front. They say the police overreacted when dealing with their son – and that systemic racism led to his death.
“As parents, we are living through a nightmare that no one should ever have to experience,” said Brian. “Our beloved son, James, was a kind-hearted and loving individual [who] was taken from us in a horrifying and senseless manner.”
A bystander recorded the incident that shows police carrying James to a cruiser. James appears to be unresponsive.
According to police, James’s girlfriend called 911 and said he was intoxicated. Moments later, police said, another caller said he collapsed in a parking lot.
Police arrived and restrained him. Witnesses told reporters it appeared as if police tasered him. James was taken to hospital where he later died. James was 35.
“We continue to experience loss after loss, tragedy after tragedy – our hearts our heavy, our hearts are broken continuously,” said James’s Aunt, Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, who has been advocating for Indigenous rights for over 20 years.
“We’ve been victimized right from birth until we die by these systems of oppression,” she said. “Enough is enough.”
James is from O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation and will be buried in the community.
Chief Shirley Ducharme of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation is calling on all levels of government to address the issue with “robust” civilian oversight and cultural training because “this is not an isolated incident.”