Calgary police have extra-judicially executed a man who was only suspected of robbery. The man was shot and killed by police at a condominium parkade in the southeast part of the city, Inglewood. According to police, a resident of the SoBow condominiums called police after believing to have seen four men looking at vehicles. The victim has been identified by friends as Sanjai Prasad (41).
Police blocked off exits of the parkade and entered in search of the men. Police opened fire on a vehicle containing four men. The driver was struck and killed. The other three men were arrested. The vehicle was contained within an empty parking garage and posed no immediate threat to the public. Other details have not been disclosed including why the police believed that vehicle to be stolen or why they thought killing someone was an appropriate response to suspected theft. The condo complex had been the site of a fear and surveillance campaign with notices about a previous theft being circulated and residents being encouraged to call police.
Calgary police immediately began a concerted effort to discredit and smear the victim with public statements about his criminal record (which is irrelevant and does not justify the police execution since they only identified the man after the fact). Yet friends tell a very different, more complete story. According to friend Stacey Halvorsen:
“He was a totally genuine, big hearted person. He always put his friends before himself and he was just… I know what it says about him on his record and stuff, but that’s not how he came across to me, you know? He wasn’t violent. I’ve known him for a really long time and I’ve never seen him angry. He was always happy. Unfortunately, you know, his past is making him look like he’s a bad guy, and he wasn’t.” (quoted in Anderson 2016)
Prasad was helping a farmer girlfriend raise a young boy.
The trial by media and police orchestrated trials by media have been common tactics. Calgary police have recently been criticized by defense lawyers for running trial by media campaigns in another case (see Bell 2016).
The real issue here is that once again the police are ready and willing to kill in service of their role of defenders of property. Suspected theft should in no way be an executable offense. Yet this defense of property, even over and above the lives of the working class and poor, is the original and foundational function of policing.
The Alberta Serious Incident Team (ASIRT), which investigates acts of violence involving police in the province, will look at the case.
Anderson, Drew. 2016. “Sanjai Prasad Identified as Man Shot and Killed by Calgary Police.” CBC News. July 17. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/sanjai-prasad-police-shooting-killed-1.3683130
Bell, David. 2016. “Couple Getting Trial by Media after Calgary Police News Release: Lawyers.” CBC News. July 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/defence-lawyer-police-news-release-1.3682720