Police have arrested an undisclosed number of correctional officers in connection to the death of Jonathan Henoche, an Indigenous man who was housed at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s while awaiting trial on murder charges.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary issued a statement on Monday afternoon confirming several arrests, but would not say who exactly was charged, how many correctional officers were included or what charges they are facing.
Const. James Cadigan said that information is not being made public right now because the charges have not been sworn at provincial court. A person’s name does not appear on a court docket until the charge has been made official at the courthouse.
Each person was arrested and released on conditions to appear in court at a later date.
Bob Buckingham, who was representing Henoche on his charges, said the lack of information undercuts his confidence in the investigation.
He was also upset to see the accused were arrested and released without having to appear in court.
“This is extremely unfair favouritism. I’m having trouble grasping it at the moment,” Buckingham said moments after a reporter read the release to him.
“We have issues here with respect to homicide and maybe obstruction [of justice]. Who knows what’s there? I think they should at least be giving the public and Mr. Henoche’s family that information.”
Cadigan said more information could come Tuesday.
Henoche, 33, was on remand in St. John’s while awaiting a murder trial in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. He was accused of killing Labrador community leader Regula Schule, who was found unresponsive in her Happy Valley-Goose Bay home during a fire in 2016.
He was transferred to St. John’s for his own safety.
Henoche was in Unit 2B at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Nov. 6, 2019, when two correctional officers approached him, according to information provided to CBC News from sources. A physical altercation ensued.
Henoche was eventually taken to segregation and reportedly suffered a medical emergency following the incident.
A month after his death, the coroner ruled it a homicide.
CBC News previously reported that an incident preceding Henoche’s death was caught on camera.
The Department of Justice deferred inquiries on details to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary on Monday afternoon.
“This is a highly sensitive and serious situation,” wrote Justice Minister Steve Crocker. “We respect the work of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and thank them. We have and will continue to review policies and procedures in adult corrections to ensure we meet best practices from across the country.”
Crocker called it a human resources matter, and said that prohibits him from revealing any more information.
Family relieved, still mourning
Buckingham said Henoche suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and was looking forward to getting the trial over with and moving on with his life.
The RNC contacted his family on Monday morning to let them know several arrests had been made. They didn’t tell them how many or what they were charged with.
Buckingham said the family was happy to hear something had been done, even if the details were sparse.
“That’s been a relief to them,” he said. “There’s tears of relief with respect to this. It’s been a great pressure and stress on them for the last year. They’ve gotten together. They’ve been crying since they heard the news and this afternoon they’re on the way to Johnny’s grave to place some flowers on his grave.”
Buckingham said he knew of at least six correctional officers who were involved in the investigation, but suspects more were questioned.
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