Winnipeg police officer charged after pedestrian dies in hit-and-run
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WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg police officer is facing criminal charges, including impaired driving, after a fatal hit-and-run accident in the city.
Const. Justin Holz was off-duty Tuesday night when a pedestrian was struck while crossing Main Street near Sutherland Avenue, north of the downtown.
Cody Severight, 23, was taken to hospital in critical condition and later died of his injuries.
"I'm very disappointed. My heart goes out to the family," Police Chief Danny Smyth told reporters Wednesday.
"I want to make it clear — Const. Holz is being investigated criminally for his conduct and he will be treated accordingly, regardless of the fact he was a member of the police service."
Smyth said he believes Severight was not in a crosswalk when he was hit, but that it was a poor decision for the driver of the vehicle to take off without helping.
Severeight's aunt, Nancy Gabriel, said she is angry that her nephew was "left there like a dog or something. He's a human being."
She said she hopes the person responsible "doesn't get away with it," adding her family just wants justice.
Gabriel said her sister, who was Severight's mother, died about six years ago and his father passed away before that.
Severeight, who grew up in Winnipeg, lived with her family for nearly a year at one point but when she ran into him recently at a meeting about the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, he told her he had gotten his own apartment and was going to school to finish his Grade 12 diploma.
"Cody was a really good guy. He loved his sisters and brothers, he loved his nieces and nephews," she said. "At Christmas time, if it went quiet, Cody would be the one to liven it up."
She said it's been very hard for her family to lose the young man with whom they had so many good times.
"He was always full of laughter. Always a smile on his face," she said. "Now he'll be with his mom and dad."
Earlier in the day, another off-duty officer hit a pedestrian on Portage Avenue. Police said that officer stayed at the scene while the woman was taken to hospital, where she is in stable condition. The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba is investigating both cases.
Smyth said Severight was struck at about 8 p.m., and Holz was arrested within an hour in an area of north Main Street.
The officer had worked a day shift, finishing about three hours earlier.
The chief didn't know if Holz went out for drinks after work, but said the investigation will likely look into that possibility, as well as whether he was with other officers who may have watched him get behind the wheel.
The 34-year-old officer, with the force for eight years, faces charges of impaired driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving a death.
Holz was released from custody on a promise to appear in court Nov. 22.
He was also placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the court case and a subsequent internal review.