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.
Category Archives: SIU
Coroner’s inquests in the Canadian context never get to the heart of issues like racism and policing let along fundamental structures of policing like policing and white supremacy or policing and colonialism. Such inquests are generally limited to the specific actions of a particular event. The coroner’s inquest into the Toronto police killing of Andrew Loku, a refugee from Sudan who suffered PTSD as a result of being kidnapped and tortured there, will likely be no different. Still community groups like the Black Action Defence Committee, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Empowerment Council, and Across Boundaries, a group that provides mental health support for racialized communities in Toronto, are working to ensure larger issues of racialization, racism, and mental health are at least addressed. They have secured participant status.
On Monday, June 12, 2017, at the beginning of the inquest’s second week, the jury heard testimony from Dr. Nicholas Rule, an associate professor of psychology, and Canada Research Chair in social perception and cognition at the University of Toronto who carries out research on implicit bias. Rule was designated as an expert in social perception and cognition for the inquest. Dr. Rule’s testimony focused on issues related to implicit bias involving race or mental health status, and how this might impact the decisions made by police officers in the course of policing. According to Rule’s research, as given in his testimony to the inquest, implicit bias can make a young Black man appear taller, heavier, and, thus, more dangerous. According to Rule, this distortion of reality can affect both white people and Black people.
Rule presented results of research undertaken with two American academic colleagues examining the impact of race on the often very quick judgments people make in assessing others whom they encounter. That study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology earlier in 2017, examined people’s perceptions of Black men in terms of their size and, presumably relatedly, their threat level. The study, which included Canadian and American participants of a variety of racialized identities presented with a series of tests, concluded that regardless of their own “race,” participants perceived Black men as taller, heavier, more muscular, and more physically threatening than white men.
According to the researchers: “Black men tend to be stereotyped as threatening and, as a result, may be disproportionately targeted by police even when unarmed. Here, we found evidence that biased perceptions of young Black men’s physical size may play a role in this process” (Wilson, Hugenberg, and Rule 2017). Rule noted at the inquest that the participants in the study were not identified as police officers. The researchers did not examine possible intersections of racism and presence of a weapon.
It is likely that the notion of implicit bias is as far as the inquest will get in terms of addressing issues of and related to racism. The ongoing histories of white supremacy and colonialism in Canadian policing will likely not be on the agenda.
During the first week of the inquest, Toronto Constables Andrew Doyle and Haim Queroub were finally identified as the officers involved in killing Andrew Loku, thought which one pulled the trigger has not yet been revealed publicly. Both officers are expected to testify later during this second week of the inquest.
Wilson, John Paul, Kurt Hugenberg, and Nicholas O. Rule. 2017. “Racial Bias in Judgments of Physical Size and Formidability: From Size to Threat.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-pspi0000092.pdf
A 2017 Toronto police report on Taser use in 2016 claims that no one died from Tasers in 2016 despite the fact that the Special Investigations Unit, the agency that examines police harm to civilians, is still investigating the death of 31-year-old Rui Nabico. On November 4, 2016, Nabico went into medical distress after Toronto police fired a stun gun at him. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. The young man only went into medical distress after being Tasered so the Toronto police report is clearly false. A piece of copaganda.
The Toronto police officers who killed Andrew Loku on July 5, 2015, have finally been identified as Constables Andrew Doyle and Haim Queroub. They were named as the officer’s involved on July 9, 2017, during the coroner’s inquest into Loku’s killing when police lawyer Gary Clewley asked the men to rise from their seats to be identified by a witness. Even now, however, it was not said which of the two officers shot Loku. That identification is, after all this time, expected to come during the second week of the inquest when the officers are set to testify.
Video surveillance footage of events prior to the shooting of Loku in the hallway outside his apartment shows that he was not threatening his neighbors as he has been accused of. The neighbors do not appear afraid of him and some speak with him though there is no audio in the footage. Neighbor and witness Robin Hicks claimed on the stand that she was afraid for Loku not of Loku when police arrived. The footage also shows Loku holding a hammer in a manner that does not appear to be threatening (not fully by the handle).
Still, police shot and killed Andrew Loku within 19 seconds of encountering him and within only five minutes of the 911 call that apparently brought them. Because the state protects the state, the killer cops Andrew Doyle and Haim Queroub have already been cleared by the Special Investigations Unit.
The coroner’s inquest into the police killing of Andrew Loku began in Toronto on Monday, June 5, 2017. Loku, a 45-year-old refugee from South Sudan who struggled with mental health issues after having been kidnapped and tortured there, was shot and killed by Toronto police as he stood in his apartment hallway on July 5, 2015. On Thursday, June 8, 2017, the 911 call that preceded his killing was released as part of the inquest.
The call reveals that police waited no more than 19 seconds after encountering Loku before shooting and killing him. He had stood in the hallway without harming anyone for at least four minutes and forty seconds before police arrived. The two officers, one a coach and the other a new recruit with only a few months on the job, are immediately heard on the tape telling Loku to drop his perceived weapon, a hammer he held at his side. Indistinct noises, mostly yelling by police, follow over the 19 seconds. And then. Two very distinct gunshots.
The 911 caller, distraught: “Oh, my god. Oh, my god.”
The 911 operator: “What was that?”
The caller: “That was gunshots. Gunshots from the police officer.”
A male voice then breaks through telling everyone to stay in their apartments. This is repeated by the operator.
Then the caller, in pained recognition: “They killed him?”
The operator: “Oh, my. What?”
Then, sadly, a child, softly: “He’s dead?”
Clearly, violent force was first and foremost on the officers’ minds. There was no, even minimal, attempt to interact humanly with Andrew Loku. Never mind de-escalation, because the police were the only ones to escalate in the first place. Nineteen seconds was all they gave him.
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).
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
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.