Calgary Herald: Lethbridge Shooting

Calgary Herald, Calgary, AB (July 17,2012)
The Bhutanese man who was killed in a shooting with Lethbridge police during a disturbance call had arrived in southern Alberta less than a year ago from a refugee camp in Nepal, said the head of the Canadian Bhutanese Society.

Hemlal Timsina, president of the group, identified the man as Raj Puri, 26.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is investigating after two officers fired their service weapons and killed a man following reports of a disturbance involving a weapon at a home on Columbia Bay W.

A knife was retrieved from the scene, investigators have said.

According to Timsina, who spoke with Puri’s family, the victim spoke little English and he wonders if that played a role leading up to the shooting.

“These people do not understand the language. I think there was a communication gap between them,” said Timsina.

“He barely understood English.”

Timsina said, from what he knows of the case, Puri had been drinking and created a disturbance.

He would, at times, cut himself with a knife.

Timsina said Puri and his family — brothers, sister and parents — were refugees from Bhutan who fled from its violence.

“They were there for two decades at the camp under the supervision of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in Nepal. There were 100,000 people in that camp in total in seven different camps in eastern Nepal,” said Timsina.

Peter Portlock, CEO of Lethbridge Family Services, said there are about 500 Bhutanese people living in his city.

His staff is working with the family to provide temporary housing and translation services.

“It’s certainly been difficult (for the family). There’s good support for them from the Bhutanese community,” he said.

Timsina said the community is awaiting the results of the investigation into the officer-involved shooting. And with many people fleeing violence at home — Timsina said he often dreams of being chased by police in his birth country — the incident hits a nerve for the Lethbridge Bhutanese community.

“They want some kind of justice.”

The Lethbridge Regional Police Service said it will not comment further about the shooting until the investigation by ASIRT is complete.

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