Category Archives: SIU

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.


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


Killer Cop Brian Taylor to Testify at Inquest into Killing of Michael MacIsaac

Constable Brian Taylor has been identified as the Durham police officer who shot and killed 47-year-old Michael MacIsaac on December 2, 2013 in a residential neighborhood in Ajax, Ontario. Constable Taylor shot Mr. MacIsaac twice within 12 seconds of exiting his police cruiser. The coroner’s inquest in to the killing started in July 2017 and Taylor is scheduled to testify during the week of July 17, likely on July 20. As is the case for most killer cops, Officer Taylor was cleared of criminal wrongdoing in two previous reviews, one by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, and the second by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

The MacIsaac family has always maintained that the victim was struggling with an epilepsy-related incident in which he ran into the street naked and engaged with passing drivers. This had followed a  confrontation inside a family house involving MacIsaac, his wife, and her sister.

The inquest and its jury of four men and one woman have already heard from Michael MacIsaac’s sister, Joanne MacIsaac, and his wife, Marianne Madjarian. Marianne Madjarian, testified on July 17, that in her view something was wrong with her husband on the morning of the shooting. She had not witnessed any comparable behavior previously, and was, thus, unsure what she should do. She said that he loved his family very much and had no history of violence. In her testimony, Joanne MacIsaac explained her brother’s history of epileptic seizures and the prolonged states of confusion that followed from them. She related that she had spoken to her brother two days before he was shot and in her view he seemed to be in good spirits.

The family has been insistent that they do not want this inquiry to make a familiar recommendation of increased taser use. This is neither appropriate nor effective for people in health distress. In Joanne MacIsaac’s words:  “In my opinion, the people who are being shot and killed by police are not the people shooting back, they are the vulnerable sector of society. I know additional Taser use comes out in all these inquests. I don’t think that’s the answer” (quoted in Powers 2017). Instead people in distress need to be given more care and time.

As Madjarian said: “He was in a mental health crisis, which is apparent when you’re running around naked on a cold morning. He needed help. He was not a criminal” (quoted in Powers 2017). Regardless, police are killing too many people, for doing little, who pose no real threat to them

 

Further Reading

Powers, Lucas. 2017. “Officer Who Shot and Killed Michael MacIsaac to Testify as Inquest Begins.” CBC News. July 17. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/michael-macisaac-durham-police-shooting-inquest-1.4208828

 

 


The Death of Debra Chrisjohn: Racism and Police Violence Against Indigenous Women

Nearly a year after the death of Debra Chrisjohn in police custody, and even after the filing of charges against police officers responsible, Constable Mark McKillop of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Constable Nicholas Doering of the London Police Service, many issues remain unaddressed and unanswered about police actions in her arrest, detention, and death. Beyond the specific actions undertaken by police, the circumstances of Chrisjohn’s death raise issues of police racism and violence against Indigenous people and communities.

Debra Chrisjohn (39) of the Oneida Nation of the Thames was arrested on September 7, 2016. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, announced on July 13, 2017, that constables McKillop and Doeriing have been charged with one count each of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life. Both had contact with Chrsijohn on the day she died. The family has received few facts about the death of their loved one beyond this.

The family wants to know why the officers did not seek medical attention for their loved one when it became apparent that she needed help. Debra Chrisjohn’s father Robert Chrisjohn, asks: “Why didn’t the police take her to the hospital sooner when they knew she was sick and needed help? The police arrested her and were responsible for making sure she was okay. This happens way too often in our community. This happens all the time. The police just don’t seem to care” (quoted in McQuigge 2017)

Caitlyn Kasper, of Toronto’s Aboriginal Legal Services, claims that police had enough information available to deal with Debra Chrisjohn’s case in a different way. For example, police knew that Chrisjohn had a documented history of both substance abuse and mental illness. At the time of her arrest and detention on September 7, 2017, there were clear indications that Chrisjohn was in need of medical attention, not time in police custody

The family and community advocates insist that any discussion related to the actions of these officers in this case must address the troubling behaviors of police forces across Canada in dealing with Indigenous communities. This is, of course, an ongoing history of colonial violence and brutality. In the words of Caitlyn Kasper: “What happened to Debra is not an isolated incident. It is very obvious that it isn’t these types of issues just in London or the Oneida First Nation. It’s a concern we hear about in Toronto, all across Ontario and all across Canada” (quoted in McQuigge 2017)

.According to Kasper, the case against the officers must focus on what she terms the “foundational relationship” between police and Indigenous people across the Canadian state (McQuigge 2017). Kasper notes the ongoing questions of police responsibility in cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, Many believe that police have been purposefully negligent in investigating those cases. Others suggest that police are themselves involved in the killings and disappearances of Indigenous women. Samantha Doxtator, a friend of the victim, has stitched together traditional moccasin vamps to commemorate Debra Chrisjohn and is sending them to be included in an art installation in memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the United States.

Giselle Dias, an area psychotherapist who has spent 25 years working for prisoners’ rights, insists it be acknowledged that Indigenous and marginalized communities are most impacted by the criminal justice system in Canada. She agrees that Chrisjohn’s death points fundamentally to the a systemic issue of over-policing and mistreatment within racialized communities (Ghonaim 2017). And she is rightly not optimistic about the court process offering any redress. In her words: “Just because these police officers have been charged, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be found guilty. I will not rest assured” (quoted in Ghonaim 2017).

In case after case this truth remains. The system protects itself and that includes protecting killer cops.

 

Further Reading

Ghonaim, Hala. 2017. “Family of Indigenous Woman Who Died in Police Custody Seeks Answers and Justice.” CBC News. July 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/family-of-indigenous-woman-who-died-in-police-custody-wants-justice-1.4204624

McQuigge, Michelle. 2017. “Charges Point to Police-Indigenous Tensions.” Sudbury Star. July 15. http://www.thesudburystar.com/2017/07/15/charges-point-to-police-indigenous-tensions

 


Charges Against Killer Cops Mark McKillop and Nicholas Doering in Death of Debra Chrisjohn

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians has announced that two police officers have been charged in the 2016 death of Debra Chrisjohn, of Oneida Nation of the Thames. The officers charged are Ontario Provincial Police Constable Mark McKillop and London Police Service Constable Nicholas Doering. The killer cops face charges of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life, respectively. Chrisjohn, died while in police custody, only an hour after she was taken to hospital.

Details surrounding the death have not been made available and many questions remain to be answered. What has been said, though there has been no independent confirmation, is that London police were called to Trafalgar Street and Highbury Avenue North, a neighborhood in that city’s east end on September 7, 2016 for someone supposedly obstructing traffic. Chrisjohn was arrested by London police for the obstruction and then transferred to the Elgin County OPP detachment supposedly on an outstanding warrant from 2013.

The rest remains obscure, with the SIU refusing even to name a cause of death publicly. So far they have only been willing to offer that at some point on the afternoon of September 7, 2016, Chrisjohn was moved to a jail operated by the OPP. Chrisjohn was taken by paramedics from the jail to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital at 7:52 PM. She was pronounced dead there at 8:43 PM.

Even family members have not been given toxicology results or been told details of their loved one’s death in custody. This is a stark situation given repeated calls for transparency in the SIU and its reporting system.

Constable Doering could face up to five years in jail, while Constable McKillop faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. It virtually never happens that a killer cop is convicted for their actions let alone receiving a maximum sentence. Both officers are still on duty. McKillop is on active duty with the OPP, while Doering is doing administrative duties

Members of the Oneida Nation of the Thames hope that these charges will bring some attention to the mistreatment of Indigenous women by police. Complaints have long been raised against various police services for inflicting extreme violence, including sexual violence, against Indigenous women.