Provincial Police to investigate death that triggered police probe

Ontario Provincial Police have begun an investigation into the 2015 death of Stacy DeBungee, whose death led to a provincial investigation of the Thunder Bay Police Service.

The OPP announced the beginning of its investigation into DeBungee’s death on Tuesday, the six-year anniversary of his body being found in the McIntyre River. DeBungee was an Anishinaabe member of the Rainy River First Nation.

"Our intention is to thoroughly investigate the circumstances leading to the death of Stacy DeBungee. Mr. DeBungee’s family, his friends, his community and the public deserve to know what happened," Detective Inspector Shawn Glassford of the OPP’s Criminal Investigation Branch said in a news release.

A 2018 report by Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director questioned police efforts to investigate DeBungee’s death. The report said detectives prematurely concluded that DeBungee had passed out and rolled into the river on his own, and said that they may have drawn that conclusion because DeBungee was Indigenous.

The report said investigators didn’t take formal statements from any of the people who were with DeBungee before his death and weren’t aware that a witness had told an officer about a physical altercation at the scene the night before his body was found. Police issued a news release before an autopsy had been completed calling DeBungee’s death "non-criminal."

Later in 2018, the same office issued a report concluding that systematic racism had hampered the Thunder Bay Police Service’s death investigations and recommending new investigations in nine other deaths.

Investigators have now set up a dedicated tip line for the DeBungee case at 1-833-533-8477. People can also make anonymous reports by calling Thunder Bay District Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.