Wagner, SD — A family is grieving and an elder Native American man is heartbroken and injured after he was unable to be by his mother’s side as she passed on. The family of Raymond Cournoyer, a 64-year-old Yankton Sioux Tribal Elder, says their father was beaten by police to the point of hospitalization while on his way to see his dying mother and therefore never got to see her. They have the bloody photos to back up their claims.
On Sunday, Philly Cournoyer, the daughter of Raymond was heading to see her dying grandmother with her father when she says they were stopped by police after arriving at the hospital.
“This is what happened to a man that just wanted to say his final goodbyes to his mother,” Philly said.
My father is 64 years old, he has NOT touched alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes in 30+ years. He is an elder and he is respected by so many people in our community. But this was the respect he was shown last night by Wagner Officer Eli Kuhlman.
Philly says her father was rushing to the hospital to see his mother when two officers began following him.
“As he got out of the vehicle he told the officer he was going in to see his mother,” explained Philly. “The officer told him to stop and he said ‘no’.”
Saying ‘no’, according to Philly, led to all hell breaking loose.
Before people condemn the man for saying no to a police officer, put yourself in his shoes for just a moment. Anyone who’s ever had a relative on their deathbed can likely empathize that when you receive that call that he or she is slipping away, your only thought is ‘get there as soon as possible.’
Knowing you haven’t hurt anyone and haven’t committed a crime — when two cops try to stop you as you are rushing to see your mom before she stops breathing forever — it is quite easy to let ‘no’ slip out.
So, while saying no was not the best answer to police, their response was far worse, according to the family.
Philly describes what happened next:
The officer pushed him against the car while trying to restrain his arms. The officers proceeded to throw him onto the concrete hitting his face while one officer put his knee in the back of his neck the other officer pulled out his taser and TASED him while he was already being restrained. After handcuffing him they had him sitting on the ground and he couldn’t breath. My father is 64 years old. He was not trying to run, he was simply trying to walk into the hospital and see his mother.
However, Raymond would never see his mother in the hospital before she passed away. To add insult to injury, after they beat him to a pulp, Philly says the officers made them sit there in the parking lot to wait for a chief so they could figure out what they were going charge Raymond with.
After he was handcuffed they made us stand outside for about 45 minutes so they could figure out what to charge him with and even made us wait for the police chief to get there just so he could ask us if we had any questions. They could have at least let him inside to say goodbye and deal with the paperwork afterwards. But they did not.
While they were detained outside, Raymond’s mother, Philly’s grandmother would pass on — never getting that final touch from her son.
The Cournoyer family is now seeking legal representation. Also, the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation has confirmed the incident is now under investigation.
What do you think? Were the police justified in their use of force against this 64-year-old man? Sound off in the comments below and let us know.
Commentary by Jon Masters,