Nunavut man sentenced two years for assaulting cops with gun
Tiivi Qiatsuk, 32, reads lengthy apology in court
Tiivi Qiatsuk, 32, will spend the next two years in jail for an assault on two Iqaluit RCMP officers and for possession of a weapon dangerous to the public.
Judge Earl Johnson read the sentence to Qiatsuk at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit Oct. 18, as many of Qiatsuk’s friends and family members listened.
Johnson sentenced Qiatsuk to two years for the assault, and eleven-and-a-half months for the weapon possession charge.
But Johnson also granted Qiatsuk eleven-and-a-half months for time served awaiting trial, although he’s only been in jail for seven-and-a-half months since March 1.
Qiatsuk appeared to be near tears as he hugged family members after Johnson read the sentence.
Johnson recounted the sequence of events that led up to Qiatsuk’s armed confrontation with police.
On the night before his March 1 arrest, Qiatsuk, and his wife Caroline, went to Iqaluit’s Storehouse Bar for “wing night,” leaving their three young sons in the care of his wife’s teenage daughter, Lina.
When they got home later that night, the couple got into an argument, which escalated. Qiatsuk, who was intoxicated, reached for his rifle.
Qiatsuk unlocked the trigger lock on his rifle and armed it with several rounds of ammunition.
That’s when the RCMP received a call from inside Qiatsuk’s home, located at the Q block student housing area near Nunavut Arctic College’s main building.
When Cst. Jacob MacKenzie and Cpl. Yvonne Niego arrived, they knocked at the door, which stood open, and called out “hello, RCMP” a couple of times before Qiatsuk came into their sight.
Qiatsuk, seeing the officers, pointed the rifle straight at them and yelled, “get out.”
The officers dove to the floor and crawled away from the house. The two ran from the doorstep to hide behind their RCMP truck, parked about 10 metres away.
The officers yelled at Qiatsuk, asking him to drop his weapon. Then, they heard a single gunshot.
But when police inspected the area, Qiatsuk was nowhere to be seen.
Cst. MacKenzie described this moment as “terrifying” in his victim impact statement. Johnson also said that MacKenzie thought, “this is the moment when he felt his life was over.”
Although the two police officers thought Qiatsuk shot at them, the judge accepted that Qiatsuk actually tripped over the mess that lay at the foot of his doorway and accidently discharged the rifle.
No bullet hole could been found at the crime scene.
The officers ran to the side of the house and called for backup. They also established that Qiatsuk had gone back into his housing unit
After more police arrived on scene, Qiatsuk’s wife ran outside dressed only in a t-shirt and pants, with no shoes, holding her youngest son in one hand and the rifle that Qiatsuk had just discharged in the other.
Police learned that Qiatsuk had more firearms in the house.
Qiatsuk then sent his two other sons out of the house.
After the RCMP made contact with Qiatsuk at around 4:45 a.m., he said he was ready to surrender.
But first Qiatsuk made some tea and ate some cereal, thinking about what he had just done, Johnson said, and gave himself up at 5:20 a.m.
Johnson told the court that this wasn’t the first time that Qiatsuk has been charged with assault. He had been charged in 2003 with assaulting his wife Caroline, and charged on two other occasions in 2004 and 2008.
Crown prosecutor Amy Porteous asked the judge to sentence Qiatsuk to three-and-half years in jail, whereas his defense lawyer Scott Wheildon asked for two-and-a-half years.
Johnson took into account that Qiatsuk is a “good man” who has contributed to the community often as a hamlet councillor in Cape Dorset, where he also coached minor hockey before moving to Iqaluit in 2011.
In Cape Dorset, Qiatsuk worked as a conservation officer who often conducted investigations and arrested people.
But Qiatsuk fell on hard times when his uncle died by suicide. That’s when Qiatsuk turned to alcohol, Johnson recounted.
Qiatsuk also recently lost his grandfather, who had a great influence on his life.
He moved to Iqaluit in 2011 because his wife wanted to enroll in Nunavut Arctic College’s nursing program.
Johnson said Qiatsuk demonstrated remorse at a sentencing submission Oct. 17, where Qiatsuk read a long apology, describing how he had lost his family along with his job at the Nunavut Housing Corp..
Johnson also described this incident as the result of mixing alcohol and firearms.
On top of the prison sentence, Johnson imposed a 10-year mandatory minimum prohibition on possessing weapons, although Qiatsuk is allowed to use a firearm for hunting purposes outside city limits.