As documented through this project, police in Canada have a brutal tendency to deploy quick, lethal force against people dealing with mental health issues. Too often police rather than health care providers are dispatched to encounter people in distress. And routinely they show up ready, even predisposed, to kill. And there is no consequence for their doing so.
Devon LaFleur, a 30-year-old man struggling with mental health issues was shot multiple time by Toronto police on March 4, 2016 outside a house on Bayview Avenue near Steeles Avenue East. More than a year later, on June 6, 2017 the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) let off the cops who killed him. A press release from SIU director Tony Loparco states the agency’s conclusion that the killing was justified. Such is becoming standard practice for Loparco and the SIU.
Toronto police had been tipped off to look for LaFleur by Ottawa police who informed Toronto police that he may be holding a weapon, which they knew to be a pellet gun. Four officers confronted the victim as he exited a cab with a friend. Three of the officers started shooting at him, hitting him eight times. He was taken to Sunnybrook Hospital where he was declared dead. The item he held turned out to be a CO2 pellet gun, as Ottawa police had suggested.
This project has recently documented the fact that Toronto police are developing a habit of shooting and killing people said to be holding pellet guns. No explanation is given by the SIU how it is justifiable for police to shoot someone multiple times, killing them, when it is known ahead of time they are only holding an air gun. And none is really required. The state protects the state in cases of police killings of civilians.
Incredibly SIU director Loparco makes a claim that, echoing police propaganda, suggests that being someone experiencing mental health issues itself made LaFleur a threat. In Loparco’s stunning words: “As soon as the man exited the vehicle, he posed a threat to the officers present.” This reflects the police view of people struggling with mental health issues. That the SIU director would take such a position is telling.