Police in Canada have an alarming and dubious record of killing people who are apparently struggling with mental health issues. Late in the evening of Friday, March 4, 2016 the Toronto police, among the forces most notorious for executing people with mental illness, killed again. The victim, not identified by police, has been identified by family as Devon LaFleur, an Ottawa resident said to be struggling with mental health issues. According to family, who reported LaFleur missing on Friday, he had been suffering with bipolar disorder. The young man was shot multiple times and killed in front of a women’s shelter where he had gone to visit a friend after travelling to Toronto.
According to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario’s police watchdog, officers shot the 30-year-old man in front of a building on Bayview Avenue, south of Steeles Avenue East, in North York around 10 PM Friday evening. The victim was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
According to SIU spokesman Jason Gennaro a dozen officers were on the scene at the time LaFleur was shot and killed. According to the SIU three officers fired shots at the victim resulting in his death.
LaFleur’s aunt, Janet Page Andersen described her nephew as having a “lifetime of trouble” and said he did not like taking his medication because it left him feeling “dumbed down” (a rather common concern people experience) (quoted in Doucette 2016). Andersen also described LaFleur as a “sensitive, joyful person” who was loved by many people, despite the struggles he endured (quoted in Doucette, 2016). She reflected on her nephew in these terms: “He’s a sensitive, joyful person and who loved nature and trusted people” (quoted in Laucius 2016).
Sadly emblematic of his caring nature, LaFleur may have been killed while trying to help a friend. According to Andersen, the family believes Devon LaFleur travelled to Toronto in the first place because he wanted to comfort a female friend who was staying in a women’s shelter (Laucius 2016).
Malcolm LaFleur, traveled to Toronto and spent Saturday scouring the area where police killed his son in a desperate effort to find out information about the lethal confrontation that left his son dead. According to Andersen: “My brother is devastated. Police aren’t telling him anything” (quoted in Doucette 2016).
Unconfirmed reports by police suggested that LaFleur had earlier robbed a bank in Ottawa. His father had told police that he had no weapon but an air gun and made clear it was not a real firearm. According to Andersen: “He has had a hard time of it. But he had an air gun. He was not a dangerous man” (quoted in Doucette 2016).
A lover of nature and the outdoors, LaFleur had recently visited the West Coast and was looking to move to Vancouver Island with his father. Images he posted online showed photos of seals, seabirds, and himself hugging a massive tree. On his Facebook page he described himself as a “lost boy” (Doucette 2016).
Doucette, Chris. 2016. “SIU Investigating after Man Shot by Cops.” Toronto Sun. March 5. http://www.torontosun.com/2016/03/05/siu-investigating-after-man-shot-by-cops
Laucius, Joanne E. 2016. “Ottawa Man Reported Missing Friday Was Shot Dead by Toronto Police.” Toronto Sun. March 5. http://www.ottawasun.com/2016/03/05/ottawa-man-reported-missing-friday-was-shot-dead-by-toronto-police