Category Archives: Ottawa

High Speed OPP Police Chase Results in Death of Sheila Walsh (Sept. 25, 2017, Arnprior)

A high speed police chase by members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) ended in the death of Sheila Walsh (65), who was not the target of the chase. The driver of the pursued vehicle, a pickup truck, crashed into the vehicle being driven by Walsh with the truck bursting into flames. Walsh was declared dead at the scene. After the crash police told neighbors to evacuate their homes because of gasoline spilling out at the scene.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which examines harm to civilians by police in Ontario, is investigating the high-speed pursuit and how OPP officers responded to the situation. According to the SIU, police claim that at about 3:20 PM on September 25, 2017, the OPP responded to a call about a reportedly stolen vehicle in Eganville, around 130 kilometers west of Ottawa. The 20-year-old driver of the vehicle in question headed toward Arnprior on Highway 60, then to Highway 17, where the OPP began their pursuit. The truck collided with Welsh’s car a bit after 4 PM as she was pulling from her driveway on Daniel Street.

The SIU has assigned five investigators, two forensic investigators, and one collision reconstructionist to investigate the crash and the circumstances leading to it. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed. It is known that the risky and careless police decision to pursue enforcement of property rights has led to the death of a civilian.

One witness put it in clearly sensible term, In the words of Eric Bayley, a Bell Canada worker who observed the chase and crash while working:

 

“The chase should never have happened. If the guy robbed a bank they would have got him sooner or later. It was a stolen vehicle. Big freakin’ deal. Now a poor grandmother, mother, sister is dead. There’s no … way in hell those cops should have been chasing them down that … road.” (quoted in Crawford and Gillis 2017)

 

Continued Bayley:

“There had to have been eight cop cars and three Suburbans wide open going down Daniel Street. It could have been a lot worse. I was talking to my buddy on the phone and I was like, ‘Holy s—t. This is not going to go well.’ He said, ‘What’s going on?’ and I said, ‘There’s a high-speed chase. There’s cruiser after cruiser after cruiser.’” (quoted in Crawford and Gillis 2017)

 

Indeed, a  flag worker on construction site the chase plowed through had to leap to safety.

Ontario’s Police Services Act sets out the rules governing police pursuits. According to the Act, police can pursue or continue pursuit “if the police officer has reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed or is about to be committed; or for the purposes of motor vehicle identification or the identification of an individual in the vehicle.” The Act also further states police must continually weigh whether “the immediate need to apprehend an individual in the fleeing motor vehicle or the need to identify the fleeing motor vehicle or an individual in the fleeing motor vehicle outweighs the risk to public safety that may result from the pursuit.” Dispatch must be notified of the pursuit and the (Crawford and Gillis 2017).

 

Further Reading

Crawford, Blair and Megan Gillis. 2017. “Eganville Man Faces  Charges After Woman Killed in Crash During Police Chase.” Ottawa Citizen September 27.  http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/witness-describes-devastating-and-deadly-arnprior-crash

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SIU Investigates Death of Man Following Call from Police

The Special Investigations Unit, the institution that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is examining the death of a Smiths Falls, Ontario man who apparently shot himself after receiving a phone call from a police officer threatening arrest for undisclosed reasons. On June 3, 2017, an officer of the Ontario Provincial Police phoned the man and spoke to him of a pending arrest, according to the SIU media release. At about 3:20 PM that same day, the man called 911, reporting that he had suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Paramedics and police responded and the man was airlifted to the Civic Hospital in Ottawa. He would die there of his injuries on June 9, pronounced dead at 7:47 PM. The SIU has assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to examine the circumstances of the man’s death. Nothing has been released publicly about the nature of the police call to the man or the reasons such a call might have been made or such an approach taken by police.


Toronto Police Knew Devon LaFleur Suffered Mental Illness, Had Only Broken Air Gun When They Fired 21+ Shots, Killing Him

Devon LaFleur, a young man struggling with mental health issues, was killed by Toronto police who had been informed of his mental illness and of the fact that the “weapon” he held was a broken pellet gun that did not work. His family had shared that information with Ottawa police who contacted Toronto police about the young man. Still police rained down at least 21 bullets on him striking him eight times. On June 6, 2017 the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) ruled, incredibly, that despite this Toronto police were “more than justified” in killing LaFleur. More than justified.

Rena LaFleur, Devon LaFleur’s mother, attributes the killing of her son to a failure of communication by police and inadequate, improper, or insufficient training of police in interacting with people experiencing mental health issues. LaFleur had schizophrenia and was apparently not on his medication the night police killed him.

According to Rena LaFleur, police disregarded the information they had, instead choosing to take a typically aggressive and confrontational approach with the young man. In her words:

“They created a situation in which they were confronting [him]. I can’t see how they can possibly justify that that is a viable mental health protocol. It’s shameful. I find it’s just a shame and many more people are going to die, especially the most vulnerable people in our communities” (quoted in 2017).

Rena LaFleur reveals that she had spoken with police about her son’s situation and there was a plan to have plainclothes Toronto officers attend the home of a friend with whom Devon LaFleur was meeting. She suggests: “They had a lot of time. They had what seemed to be a good plan in place and they changed it at the last minute” (quoted in 2017). She does not know why.

What did happen is that four uniformed police officers arrived at the friend’s house in marked cruisers. Officers yelled at the distressed man throughout the encounter and drew their guns on him. According to the SIU one officer fired 12 to 13 shots, the second fired eight to nine shots, while the third fired one bullet.

Sascha LaFleur, Devon LaFleur’s sister suggests: “So how do you say [we’ll shoot] to somebody who’s in psychosis, that believes that the angels will protect him from the bullets. You’re provoking him. There needs to be other methods of de-escalation, not lethal force, because you can’t come back from that” (quoted in 2017).

As Rena LaFleur puts it, painfully directly: “He didn’t have to die” (quoted in 2017).

 

Further Reading

Fagan, Laurie and Joe Lofaro. 2017. “It’s Shameful’: Family of Mentally Ill Man Killed by Police Baffled by Lack of Charges.” CBC News. June 7. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/family-disappointed-no-charges-devon-lafleur-1.4148792


Ottawa Police Kill 31-Year-Old Man in Byward Market (June 3, 2017)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating after an Ottawa police officer was involved in an exchange in which two people were killed and one left injured. The details of the killings have not been released publicly but it has been reported by the SIU that a 31-year-old man was killed during an exchange of gunfire with police and another man, 43 years old, was killed during the police pursuit. None of these reports have been independently confirmed. The incident is said to have taken place around 2 AM on the morning of Saturday, June 3 in Ottawa’s popular downtown Byward Market area, a tourist destination not far from the Parliament buildings. The 31-year-old victim was chased by the police officer into a parking garage before he was killed. The injured man was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Incredibly, Mathieu Fleury, the city councillor for the market area, wasted no time in playing up the drugs and gangs panics that are often trotted out to justify police violence. In a written statement provided to CBC News, Fleury said the incident “is reflective of the drug and gang activity across our city” (quoted in 2017). This is nothing more than crass fear politics and there is so far nothing to suggest it has any relation to the present case. Neither the SIU nor the Ottawa police have claimed that the Saturday shootings are in any way drug or gang related. The claim is not new though and has been used by the Calgary police chief to justify multiple police killings of civilians in that city (even where they have nothing to do with drugs or gangs).

The SIU has assigned 10 officers to the investigation: three investigators and seven forensics investigators. In addition to the subject officer, two witness officers from the Ottawa police have been identified.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “2 Dead, 1 Injured after Shootout in Byward Market.” CBC News. June 3. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/2-dead-byward-market-shooting-1.4144867


20-Year-Old Man Shot and Killed in Encounter with Nunavut RCMP (March 18, 2017)

A 20-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound and died during an encounter with Nunavut RCMP in Pond Inlet. RCMP claim they responded to a report of a man in a cemetery with a firearm. At some point during the encounter the man was shot. He was taken to the local health care facility where he died. Police claim the youth was suicidal but this has not been independently verified. As in other instances of police killings of civilians in Nunavut, the case is being investigated by Ottawa Police Department officers. It is in no way an independent and transparent investigation.


Nunavut RCMP Kill Man who Livestreamed Mental Distress and was Alone in House (May 1-2, 2017)

Suicide by cop is a dubious designation, one of those excuses police apply to justify publicly their actions when they kill civilians. The notion is dubious for a number of reasons. First, it is applied after the fact in a range of diverse circumstances including those where the victim has not expressed suicidal wishes (or on the contrary is even happy in life) or is not posing a threat to anyone. Do not forget that the police attempted to use this defense to protect killer cop James Forcillo who shot Sammy Yatim multiple times while the youth was alone in an empty street car. Second, even if someone wishes to “die by cop” does not mean that the police are justified in killing them or should be expected to kill them. It speaks volumes that anyone could expect with probability that an encounter with police would end with the police taking their life. Third, if someone is experiencing mental health issues, the police are not the appropriate response and if they are called for such issues health care providers should be involved rather than police ready to shoot to kill. Fourth, in suicide the person takes the decision and acts. In “suicide by cop” the cops can choose not to shoot and kill the person. Someone is taking the active decision to kill you in a case where they could choose not to. Finally, “suicide by cop” should never be applied as a justification for police killing civilians as it is now. The facts of each encounter matter.

These are all issues to keep in mind when details emerge of the killing by Nunavut RCMP of a 39-year-old man in Hall Beach, in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut, a town with a population of about 750. RCMP encountered the man over the evening of Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Police claim they were alerted to the man around 11:30 PM after receiving a call about an online Facebook live video in which the man ranted about “suicide by cops.” The man is alone and crying in the video. Police promptly attended the house where the man was present, by himself, and shot and  killed him.

This is the third killing of a civilian by police since December 2016 in the small northern territory. As in other recent cases in which Nunavut RCMP have killed a civilian, the Ottawa Police Service will carry out the investigation into their fellow police officers. This is in no way an independent investigation and as in all cases of police “investigating” police lacks all credibility.


Ottawa Police Sell “United We Stand” Bracelets Supporting Cop Daniel Montsion who Killed Abdirahman Abdi

Observant commentators have suggested that police actually operate like a gang, closing ranks unquestioningly to support their own no matter how egregious the member’s actions may have been. While there is some truth in this, police are not quite like gangs in that they lack the honor of gangs who at least have some limits, some acts they will not tolerate among members. If anyone needs a case in point they need only look at the dubious activities of the Ottawa Police Association and Ottawa police officers in response to the killing of Abdirahman Abdi, a Somalian-Canadian man suffering mental distress who was beaten to death by Constable Daniel Montsion in July of 2016. Montsion had previously expressed a problem with a suspect who was Somalian.

On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the first day of preliminary court procedures leading to Montsion’s trial for manslaughter, several Ottawa police officers wore blue and black rubber wristbands stating “United We Stand #1998.” The number printed on the band is actually Montsion’s badge number. The rubber band bracelets are being sold for $2 apiece with the money going to the Ottawa Police Association.

This open show of support for a killer cop whose brutal beating of the defenseless man was partly caught on video is a tasteless and provocative move in a context that is already heated and where community members have mobilized against racist policing. It is an arrogant move that is clearly an attempt to put pressure on the court even as police say they do not comment on cases before the courts.

Incredibly the cops are using the excuse that it is a measure to address the trauma officers face on the job. This is part of a growing campaign to pose police crimes as primarily being about traumas for officers who then need more public money and resources for support. Some paid “criminologists” are being mustered to lend a veneer of credibility to the trauma money appeals led by police associations. Those same bought “criminologists” show little to no regard for the victims of police violence.

A spokesperson for the Justice for Abdirahman Abdi campaign, William Felepchuk, calls the bracelets an “outrage.” He notes that the nature of the crime Monsion is accused of is severe and suggest the move is an interference in the criminal justice process. Felepchuk further notes that police would not be so welcoming of civilians wearing such arm bands in cases of someone accused of killing a police officer.

Police always have pressures, both overt like the arm bands and covert like implied non-cooperation with prosecution, to apply on broader criminal justice processes. One should not expect anything resembling justice from the state in its dealings with killer cops.