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Police Service Act hearing against two officers in DeBungee case adjourned to Monday

The hearing will resume with testimony from the private investigator hired by the DeBungee family to look into the circumstances surrounding Stacy DeBungee’s death in October 2015
Shawn Harrison and Shawn Whipple
Det. Shawn Whipple and Staff Sgt. Shawn Harrison have been charged with neglect of duty and discreditable conduct in the 2015 sudden death investigation of Stacy DeBungee.

THUNDER BAY - The Police Service Act hearing for two Thunder Bay Police Service officers involved in the 2015 sudden death investigation of Stacy DeBungee has been adjourned until next week when the private investigator hired by the DeBungee family will testify.

The hearing opened on Monday for Staff Sgt. Shawn Harrison and Det. Shawn Whipple who are facing Police Service Act charges of neglect of duty and discreditable conduct.

Harrison has pleaded guilty to neglect of duty and not guilty to discreditable conduct, while Whipple pleaded not guilty to both charges.

The charges stem from the investigation into the death of Stacy DeBungee, whose body was found in the McIntyre River on Oct. 19, 2015. Hours later, the Thunder Bay Police Service issued a public statement saying the death was non-suspicious.

Throughout the first three days of the hearing, service prosecutor Joel Dubois called seven witnesses to testify. The tribunal met Thursday morning to discuss calling additional witnesses, including the private investigator hired by the DeBungee family and former Office of the Independent Police Review Director Gerry McNeilly.

Adjudicator Greg Walton questioned the relevance of calling the two witnesses given that their evidence is already included in an agreed statement of facts.

Asha James, counsel for the public complainants including the DeBungee family, attempted to contact the private investigator who is currently out of the country to see if he had any additional information to testify to outside of the agreed statement of facts.

Because the private investigator could not be contacted, Walton agreed to permit the private investigator to testify on Monday.

The private investigator was hired by the DeBungee family shortly after Stacy’s body was found to look into the circumstances surrounding his death. Some of the details the investigator uncovered include the fact that DeBungee’s bank card was used the night after his body was found.

With respect to calling McNeilly to testify, James said he should be called if anything in his 2018 report, Broken Trust, which found systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service at an institutional level, is called into question.

The report also found deficiencies in the investigation into DeBungee’s death and grounds for allegations of neglect of duty on the part of investigators.

“It’s either in for the truth of its content, that no one is taking issue with facts and findings of the report,” James argued. “if they are taking issue with the facts and findings of the report, then Mr. McNeilly should be called as a witness.”

Defense counsel David Butt said he takes no issue with the conclusions McNeilly reached in his report and will have no questions to put to him.

“Of course, you can expect, I will be making submissions on how those conclusions cannot and ought not drive your decision making in this case,” he submitted to Walton.

Walton ruled that because the Broken Trust report has been submitted with the agreed statement of facts and because the conclusions in the report are not being questioned, there is no need for McNeilly to testify.

The hearing will resume on Monday with testimony from the private investigator. Harrison and Whipple are expected to testify following the prosecution’s evidence.

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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