Indigenous woman killed by Edmundston, N.B., police during wellness check

A 26-year-old Indigenous woman from British Columbia was fatally shot by a police officer she allegedly threatened during a wellness check in a northwestern New Brunswick city early Thursday. 

Family of Chantel Moore say she had recently moved east from British Columbia to live near her mother and daughter.

Her death came at a time of heightened attention on police actions and practices in the United States and Canada following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The Edmundston Police Force says an officer went to a downtown apartment building prompted by a call around 2:30 a.m. AT to perform a wellness check.

Nora Martin, Moore's great-aunt, told CBC News that a former boyfriend of Moore who lives in Toronto had asked police to check on her. Martin said he was concerned because she had been harassed after moving to a new apartment in the city.

Insp. Steve Robinson told reporters Moore received "strange" messages on Facebook.

Radio-Canada

"At first the officer went on scene, and all of a sudden the person just exited the apartment with a knife and was attacking the officer," Robinson told reporters Thursday. 

"He had no choice but to defend himself."

The officer shot the woman.

Police have not said how many shots were fired. 

Gary Moore/CBC

Asked how long it was between when the officer arrived and the shooting, Robinson said, "I don't know, but it was really quick."

The news release states resuscitation was attempted, but the woman died at the scene. 

Robinson said he didn't think the officer attempted to use non-lethal force.

"Not that I know of, but the investigation is going to cover that," he said.

Bernard LeBel/Radio-Canada

Moore was born in Tofino, B.C., in the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation area on Vancouver Island. She had moved to New Brunswick after living in Port Alberni, B.C.

Moore was described as kind, gentle and bubbly by family. 

A statement released by the family Thursday afternoon said they are devastated. 

"We pray and trust that the investigation will be carried out justly and expeditiously and that the truth of what happens comes out," the statement said. "Until then, we ask for privacy as we grieve this tragic, incomprehensible loss."

The Edmundston police have asked an "independent agency" to investigate whether the officer's actions complied with policing standards. New Brunswick doesn't have an agency like Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team or Ontario's Special Investigations Unit that investigate police actions. 

Quebec's independent police watchdog BEI announced on Twitter it would handle the review. 

An autopsy has been scheduled.

Force doesn't use body cameras

Robinson declined to identify the officer involved.

He also said the force in the city of 16,500 along the border with Maine doesn't have body cameras. 

Robinson said the officer is "off work" and the force will wait until an outside investigation is complete before making a decision about suspension. The officer wasn't injured, he said. 

CBC has permission from Chantel Moore's family to use the photos included in this story.