Category Archives: Ontario

SIU Denies Justice for Tony Divers: Killer Hamilton Cop Cleared Despite Serious Questions

Family and loved ones of Tony Divers have been kept in the dark about the SIU investigation into the police killing of the 36-year-old Hamilton man. On Thursday, August 10, 2017, they received the awful news that the Special Investigations Unit  has cleared the Hamilton officer who shot Tony Divers will not be charged. The decision comes 10 months after the killing on September 30, 2017, a too long period of time in which questions from the family have not been properly addressed.

The officer responsible fired two shots at the unarmed Divers, with one bullet hitting the victim in the chest. Despite the fact that Divers was unarmed, SIU Director Tony Loparco concluded the officer was justified in believing his own life was at risk and in fearing that Divers was armed. Under Loparco the already questionable SIU has become something of a legitimation mechanism for cops who kill civilians.

Yvonne Alexander, Tony Divers’ sister, and a tireless advocate for information and justice, responded with the pained honesty of someone whose loved one has been killed by police: “I’m shocked but I’m not at all surprised. Because it seems to be the norm these days for officers to shoot and kill someone in mental crisis” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

Of particular concern for observers is the report that the call to police included a claim that Divers was  “anti-police.” Did this play into the quick resort to lethal force by Hamilton police?

This is reinforced by Loparco’s  conclusion in the case: “On all of the information that the [officer] had in his possession at the time he shot and killed Mr. Divers, I find that the [officer], subjectively, had reasonable grounds to believe that his life was at risk from Mr. Divers” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Because he was said to be “anti-police?”

Loparco continues: “I find in all the circumstances, that despite the after the fact knowledge that Mr. Divers was not armed, the [officer] reasonably believed that his life was in danger from Mr. Divers and his actions in firing upon Mr. Divers were justified” (quoted in Bennett 2017). This is in keeping with other SIU findings under Loparco.

Loparco further notes in his report that the officer who shot Tony Divers had had previous contact with the victim and considered him “anti-police and very violent” (quoted in Bennett 2017). The officer actually appears to have held several prejudices against Tony Divers, including the assumptions that he was involved in organized crime and a drug user. The SIU report does not delve into these issues in probing detail.

The family says that Tony Divers was struggling with mental health issues when the officer shot him. For the family, this did not matter to police who responded to their loved one through the prejudging lens that held him as simply a thug.

Edward Divers, the victim’s brother, said the decision and explanation for why the shooting is justified felt to him like “an eye for an eye,” that his brother was treated as a “violent thug” with no regard for his mental illness.

One eyewitness, who says he did not see Divers holding any weapon, also said the victim appeared to pose no threat to anyone. Yet he did note that Divers did not seem subservient to the officer, a situation that seems to provoke police violence (respect their authority or die). According to witness Joe Towers: “He didn’t look very afraid of the cop; he wasn’t being cooperative, but he didn’t look like he was any particular threat. It just didn’t seem like he wanted to be arrested” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

Further Reading

Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “SIU Clears Hamilton Officer in Death of Man Shot Near GO Station.” CBC News August 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/divers-siu-decision-released-1.4204146

 


Coroner’s Inquest Called into Toronto Police Killing of Kwasi Skene-Peters in 2015

A coroner’s inquest into the police shooting and killing of 21-year-old Kwasi Skene-Peters on July 25, 2015 has been announced. On August 2, 2017, Dr. James Edwards, the regional supervising coroner for Central Region (Toronto Easy office) gave notice of the inquest.

An SIU (Special Investigations Unit) investigation of the killing concluded that Toronto police had been instructed to set up surveillance at the Tryst nightclub on reports that Skene-Peters would be present. The Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) (ironically) was also on hand to provide “additional officer support” and were parked in a nearby alley. Skene-Peters was in his car around 3 AM when a civilian vehicle boxed him in and police decided to make a charge on the vehicle.

Notably, a witness who spoke with CBC Toronto at the time reported that between 20 to 30 shots were fired and he did not hear police make any demands toward Skene-Peters before opening fire on him (CBC News 2017). Upon hearing the shots the witness fled in fear. Could a less dramatic approach by police avoided taking of a life in this case? Particularly given that Skene-Peters was in a vehicle and boxed in and police had positioning.

The SIU report noted that both of the officers who shot Skene-Peters declined to participate in the SIU investigation. There is currently no mechanism used to make killer cops comply with SIU investigations.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “Coroner Calls Inquest into Death of Man Shot by Police in Entertainment District in 2015.” CBC News. August 2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/kwasi-skene-peters-inquest-1.4232591


SIU Investigates What Cops Claim as “Sudden Death” of Shawn Davis in Chatham

Killer cops, their forces, and their police associations are regularly coming up with euphemisms and bogus “conditions” to excuse or legitimize their killings. The litany includes “excited delirium,” “suicide by cop,” and the mystical “sudden death.” The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians is investigating a case that police are calling “sudden death” in Chatham, Ontario on July 26, 2017.

Sometime on the night of July 25, Chatham-Kent police responded to a 911 call allegedly involving a domestic dispute. According to the SIU police remained outside the house on Greenfield Lane for quite some time.

Then the storyline jumps dramatically with no explanation. The SIU reports police entered the house at around 7:00 AM and—huge jump here—a 52-year old man, since identified as Shawn Davis, was pronounced dead at the scene (killed?, found dead?, etc.?). No one is saying. But sudden death does not cut it.

CKPS Constable Kelly Helbin said police would not release any other information. This only adds to the sense of police acting suspiciously in this case.


Durham Officer Mark Brown Blames Michael MacIsaac for Dying by Resisting Help after Cop Shot Him

The 2017 coroner’s inquest into the police killing of Michael MacIsaac has already heard dubious testimony from the officer who shot him, Brian Taylor. As the inquest continues, on July 26, another police officer, Durham Regional Police Constable Mark Brown, has added to the questionable police testimony by suggesting that the dying victim played a part in his own death by actively resisting help.  Brown was the first to respond to a 911 call involving Michael MacIsaac on that morning on December 2, 2013. MacIsaac was shot by Taylor while he was experiencing effects of an epileptic seizure and was naked in the street near his home.

In Brown’s own testimony: “I remember him saying stuff, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. The only thing I understood when performing first aid, was MacIsaac said ‘pain’ (quoted in McLaughlin 2017). That seems clear enough. But the cop wants the jury to believe the dying man did not want the pain to stop.

The MacIsaac family lawyer, Roy Wellington questioned Constable Brown about his claim that MacIsaac resisted help. Asked Wellington: “Does it strike you as odd that someone would not want to be touched after being shot by the same people” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017)? Brown could not offer such empathetic insight.

Family members in attendance at the inquest were dumbfounded at the officer’s testimony. Said Brian MacIsaac’s sister, Joanne:  “I can’t imagine what was going through Michael’s head, and know the pain must have been horrible. But to tell him after the fact, we are here to help you? It’s ridiculous, ridiculous to me. Why didn’t you help him before?” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017).  Joanne MacIsaac suggested that the officer’s testimony was not close to believable. She continued in frustration:

 

“His narrative of what happened has got to be, in my opinion, fabricated. To say Michael was actively resisting when he’s naked, cold on the ground and you’re pushing in on his abdomen after he has been shot, to use the phrase ‘he’s actively resisting,’ my god what is the matter with these people?” (quoted in McLaughlin 2017)

 

Under cross examination by Anita Szigeti, a lawyer with Toronto’s Empowerment Council for people with mental health issues, Constable Brown, an officer with 14 years of experience on the force had undertaken only one week of mental health training ever and that had occurred a decade before the killing of Michael MacIsaac. Brown had to admit on the stand that his training was not adequate.

 

 

Further Reading

McLaughlin, Amara. 2017. “Michael MacIsaac was ‘Actively Resisting’ Help after Police Shooting, Says Officer at Scene.” CBC News. July 26. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/michael-macisaac-inquest-mental-health-1.4223451


Romeo Wesley Pepper Sprayed, Beaten Stepped On, Handcuffed by Cops: Death Ruled…Accidental

Romeo Wesley (34), of Cat Lake First Nation, died after being pepper sprayed, beaten, handcuffed, and stepped on by two police officers in his community’s nursing station in 2010. On July 20, 2017 the coroner’s inquest into his killing by police was released and concluded incredibly that his death was accidental. Now for most reasonable people if a civilian pepper sprayed, beat, restrained, and stepped on someone and they died it would not be viewed as an accident. Death would be recognized as a probability outcome of those actions being inflicted on someone.

Wesley had gone to the nursing station, in the community 400 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, concerned about shortness of breath and looking for help. A nurse there viewed his behavior as erratic (one would think acting erratically is not atypical for someone in medical distress) and called Nishawbe-Aski police.

The two officers who arrived pepper sprayed Wesley, tackled him onto the floor, beat him with a baton, and handcuffed his hands behind him. With police forcing him face down on the floor and with their boots on his head, neck, and back, Wesley stopped breathing. The inquest determined this to be an accident but we might reasonable ask if he would have died in the absence of this police assault.

None of the medical staff at the nursing station, including the doctor and nurses, did anything to help Wesley, perhaps fearful of police response if they tried. They only checked on him after he stopped breathing.

The coroner’s inquest, in a manner not unique in cases of police killing civilians, decided to blame the victim in their ruling. They found the cause of Wesley’s death to be “struggle and restraint (chest compression, prone positioning, handcuffing) as well as agitation and trauma (pain)….with acute alcohol withdrawal/delirium tremens.” Restraint, agitation, and trauma are all directly attributable to actions taken by the police officers. These were not accidents.

The jury made 53 recommendations. Some of them highlight systemic racism within government services in Indigenous communities (without actually naming racism). They include:

Cultural training courses for nurses before being placed in an Indigenous community.

Hiring medical staff and police officers who speak the language of the communities they serve.

Developing a protocol for police interventions in medical facilities within Indigenous communities.

Designating Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services as a police force under the Police Services Act in Ontario and thus providing for some civilian oversight.

 

By all accounts Romeo Wesley was a beloved member of the community and is missed by many. The community was hoping for much more from this inquiry.


Killer Cop Brian Taylor Gives Questionable Testimony at Inquest into Michael MacIsaac Shooting

Killer cop Brian Taylor provided two days of questionable, even outright unbelievable, testimony during the coroner’s inquest into his 2013 killing of 47-year-old Michael MacIsaac. As witnesses and 911 call evidence contradicted much of his depiction of events, Constable Taylor turned to the bogus and obnoxious “excited delirium” excuse to blame the victim. Notably the inquest testimony was the first time he raised this baseless suggestion, a last refuge of killer cops.

 

Contradicted Testimony

Taylor claims he feared for his life when seeing MacIsaac, yet he was safely inside his police vehicle and decided to exit only after seeing the man he was supposedly threatened by near him. Taylor claimed in his testimony that he heard MacIsaac say “Come on, come on,” and claims that he issued the police challenge, “Police. Don’t move,” to MacIsaac and remembers hearing it.

Taykor testified at length:

“Somebody said ‘Drop it, get down on the ground.’ I thought that if I have to take a shot, don’t miss. There are a lot of people around. Then he moved off the curb. I fired the first round. I didn’t hear the gun go off. I felt it . . . . I didn’t know if I had hit him, because there was no effect. And he continued to move and I fired a second round and I know that one struck him.” (quoted in Gallant 2017a)

 

Roy Wellington, the MacIsaac family’s lawyer, used cross-examination to note that most of Constable Taylor’s claims about what was said are not captured on a 911 call made by Ron Nino the witness who stopped the arriving Taylor and told him MacIsaac was in the area. On that call a voice is heard telling Nino “get back, get back” (Gallant 2017a). Only seconds later shots are fired. No one is heard at any point either issuing commands to MacIsaac or saying “Come on, come on.” Nino said that Taylor fired almost immediately. The MacIsaac family had that call analyzed by a forensic scientist to see if there were cuts or absences. That report concluded that “there are no definite signs of alterations or breaks found on this recording” (quoted in Gallant 2017b).

Queried Wellington: “I’m having a hard time understanding how we can hear someone further away from Mr. Nino, but we don’t actually hear you issuing any commands at all” (quoted in Gallant 2017a).

Wellington continued: ““Regardless of who shouted commands, there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Mr. MacIsaac to respond. Would you agree with that?” (quoted in Gallant 2017a).

Constable Taylor offered the rather desperate response that perhaps the cell phone malfunctioned. This despite the forensic tests. Taylor’s lawyer, Bill MacKenzie tried to suggest that 911 called Nino back and thus interfered with the call, which, frankly, makes no sense.

Questions are also being asked why Taylor shot MacIsaac twice and how he could not see if the first shot hit the man, since he was naked and there were no clothes to obscure a bullet strike and wound. Incredibly, Taylor believed the victim was “still a threat” even after he saw black-red blood streaming out of the stricken man’s abdomen. Two other officers took time to handcuff the dying man rather than giving him any medical attention.

 

Constable Taylor Proposes Phoney “Excited Delirium”

Taylor, desperately and pathetically, tried to introduce the phony notion of “excited delirium” to describe MacIsaac and justify the killing. Excited delirium is a bogus claim produced by police and police associations after the fact when they kill someone. Incredibly Taylor suggested this was his first thought when hearing over police that the person he was seeking might be suffering mental health issues. The family suggests that MacIsaac was in crisis as a result of an epileptic seizure but did not have mental health issues.

Anita Szigeti, a lawyer for the Empowerment Council, an advocacy group for people with lived experiences of mental health and addiction issues noted that organizations including the World Health Organization and American Medical Association do not recognize it as an actual condition (Gallant 2017b). Szigeti rightly pointed out that the only ones who maintain that it is a condition are the “maker of Tasers” and law enforcement members (Gallant 2017b). We might add pro-police criminologists or copagandists.

Szigeti posed this to Constable Taylor. In her words: “But, do you know ‘excited delirium’ is extremely controversial, over whether it’s even a condition at all?” (quoted in Gallant 2017b). Taylor answered simply, “Yes.”

Szigeti said that she was puzzled because Taylor promoted the notion of excited delirium at the inquest but the term does not appear anywhere in his notes on the shooting. Neither does it appear in his interviews with the Special Investigations Unit or the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (Gallant 2017b).

This led Szigeti to conclude: “I’m going to suggest to you that you never thought about ‘excited delirium’ at all until long after the events when you shot Mr. MacIsaac” (quoted in Gallant 2017b). This at base the nature of this phony claim. It is an after the fact justification for killer cops desperate for an answer when all reasonable explanations are absent.

 

Conclusion

Joanne MacIsaac, Michael MacIsaac’s sister, is also asking if the SIU bothered to listen to the Nino 911 call in its investigation into the killing which resulted in a decision not to bring criminal charges against Constable Taylor.

Taylor ended his testimony, on its second day, with the admission, in response to a question from a juror: “With hindsight being 20/20, yes, there probably could have been a better way to resolve it” (quoted in Gallant 2017b).

 

Further Reading

Gallant, Jacques. 2017a. “Durham Cop Who Shot and Killed Michael MacIsaac, Testifies at Inquest into MacIsaac’s Death.” Toronto Star. July 20. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/07/20/durham-cop-who-shot-and-killed-michael-macisaac-testifies-at-inquest-into-macisaacs-death.html

 

Gallant, Jacques. 2017b. “At Inquest into Death of Michael MacIsaac, Cop Concedes there was a Better Way to Resolve Issue.” The Toronto Star. July 21. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/07/21/at-inquest-into-death-of-michael-macisaac-cop-concedes-there-was-a-better-way-to-resolve-incident.html


Victim of Thunder Bay Police Identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay, 50-Year-Old Indigenous Man

The Thunder Bay police have garnered much notoriety recently over concerns of widespread racism on the force against Indigenous people in the area. Now the 50-year-old man who died in his cell while in custody of Thunder Bay police has been identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay. He died on July 19, 2017, after being arrested and detained for as yet unstated reasons. The victim’s family has confirmed that McKay, of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation 600 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, was in the city for medical reasons. Paramedics supposedly cleared him on health grounds before he was taken by police. The family has apparently been told by the coroner that McKay did not die of a heart attack. The Special Investigations Unit is examining the case.