Tag Archives: inquest

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

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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.


Inquest Called Into Quebec Police Killing of 17-Year-Old Brandon Maurice

Brandon Maurice was shot and killed by a Sûreté du Québec officer on November 16, 2015 in Messine (near Maniwaki) following a vehicular pursuit. On May 19, 2017, the province’s chief coroner,  Catherine Rudel-Tessier, ordered an inquest into the teenager’s killing by police. The inquest will be overseen by deputy chief coroner Luc Malouin. It cannot assign blame but can only make recommendations to address future such incidents. These are typically ignored or not implemented by police agencies under review.

Montreal police investigated their provincial colleagues, completing their examination in June 2016. Quite predictably they found for their colleague and concluded that no charges would be brought against their fellow officer. Yet the officer had fired wildly in the general direction of the driver, said to have been Maurice, and only luckily avoided hitting a passenger in the vehicle.

Maurice’s family was not satisfied with that investigation and found it illegitimate for police to be investigating police. In the words of Brandon Maurice’s mother, Dominique Bernier in 2016: “Police officers protect each other.” Indeed they do. The family’s view, quite reasonable, is that  investigations cannot be impartial when police investigate their colleagues. The family believes the officer used force that was excessive for a stopped car starting to drive away from an officer.


Inquest into Vancouver Transit Police Killing of Naverone Woods (23) Begins: March 20, 2017

An inquest into the killing of Naverone Woods has begun in Burnaby, British Columbia on March 20, 2017. Woods, a 23-year-old Gitxsan man, was shot and killed by a Metro Vancouver Transit Police officer in Surrey, British Columbia in December 2014. This case has generated much concern and organized protest but few answers for grieving family members. The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province, earlier reported that Woods was shirtless and suffering from self-inflicted knife wounds when police, including the transit police officer, encountered him inside a Safeway grocery store in the Whalley neighborhood in Surrey. The transit officer then fired her gun striking and killing Woods. She was cleared by the IIO in may 2016. The Metro Vancouver Transit Police are the first armed transit force in Canada.

The inquest, heard by presiding coroner Brynne Redford and a jury, has no power to attribute wrongdoing or recommend charges. They will examine evidence around the killing of Woods and make recommendations that they have no mechanism to enforce on police.

Family and friends have consistently referred to Naverone Woods as gentle, caring, and helpful.