Québec’s Independent Investigations Bureau (BEI), the unit that examines police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating the killing of a 25-year old man by an officer of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) around 7 PM on August 10, 2017 in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, southeast of Québec City. According to the BEI, police responded to a call regarding a man experiencing some distress in the center of a street. The BEI states that the responding officer activated the flashing lights of the cruiser which caused the man to panic and run. After a foot chase that ended in a parking lot the officer shot the man. The SQ claim the man had a knife. None of the details have been independently confirmed. Eight BEI investigators have been assigned to the case and will examine the SQ version of events. The BEI is not an independent unit though and Montreal police will assist them in this investigation, which leaves police investigating police.
Tag Archives: Mental Health
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).
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
Police in Saskatchewan investigate police. There is no independent civilian oversight body in the province despite ongoing calls from community advocates.
On July 5, 2017, officers of the Blaine Lake Saskatchewan RCMP allegedly responded to a call about a distraught man with a firearm in a rural area. Two officers encountered a man who they say discharged the weapon, resulting in a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The man was taken to hospital in Saskatoon and pronounced dead there. The Saskatchewan RCMP have requested an investigation into the death, which will be conducted by the Saskatoon Police Service.
Police in Rothesay, New Brunswick have fought to keep body camera footage of the killing of William David McCaffrey by an officer of the Kennebecasis Regional Police Force from the public. On July 27, 2017, the access to information and privacy commissioner for the province called for release of the tape.
The 26-year-old youth was shot and killed by police in his home on February 28, 2014, while experiencing mental health distress. McCaffrey was shot twice while harming himself. The force was not investigated by a civilian oversight unit but only by another police force, the RCMP. The finding for release of the tape comes after a 15-month battle over access to information by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
Commissioner Anne Bertrand in deciding the case determined that public interest in police use of force cases supercedes privacy, including for police. This ruling could have something to say about who is able to see police body camera footage in the future. In an interview Bertrand clarified: “In special circumstances, there may be a public interest in the public knowing about what happened, despite there being personal information involved” (quoted in Donkin 2017).
The Kennebecasis Regional Police Force had denied a request from CBC News of information of footage from a police body camera in 2016. They cited privacy concerns.
CBC News appealed the police decision to Bertrand. The news station argued that body-worn camera footage should be treated the same way as any other record showing how police make a decision (2017). According to the CBC News claim: “Having access to those records is necessary to ensure public safety and accountability” (quoted in Donkin 2017).
In her decision, Bertrand invoked a little used public interest section of the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It says that in cases where there is “a risk of significant harm,” which could include a danger to public safety, that section can override other parts of the law that protect privacy (Donkin 2017).
This would be the first case of release of police body camera footage in the Canadian context, unlike the situation in the United States in which such footage has been released numerous times. As is too often the case in public body decisions involving police conduct, the police force is not required to adhere to Bertrand’s decision and is already pursuing legal advice. Once again the police assume the powers of a law unto themselves.
Donkin, Karissa. 2017. “Video of Fatal Police Shooting Should Be Made Public, Commissioner Says.” CBC News. July 27. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/rothesay-shooting-commissioner-1.4223274
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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
Constable Brian Taylor (46), the Durham police officer who shot and killed Michael MacIsaac took the stand July 20, 2017 for his first day of testimony at the coroner’s inquest into the killing. Taylor shot and killed MacIsaac, who was clearly in distress, on December 2, 2013 in Ajax, Ontario. The officer’s testimony raised many serious questions about his actions and aspects of his account have been contradicted by witnesses who have already testified.
Constable Taylor shot Michael MacIsaac within seconds of encountering the distressed man who was in the street naked. Taylor claims that MacIsaac came at him with a table leg and that he feared for his life. Yet witnesses have testified that MacIsaac was not holding any table leg at the time he was shot. A patio table leg allegedly retrieved at the scene was lightweight and hollow. Taylor testified that it was obvious to him that MacIsaac was in distress as soon as he saw the man. Yet he did nothing to de-escalate the situation. This despite the fact that two other police officers were already at the scene. No warning was issued to MacIsaac by any officer before the shooting.
Serious questions remain about why Constable Taylor fired a second shot at the already stricken man. It is also uncertain why Taylor exited his police car to confront the man if he feared for his life. He would have been entirely safe against the naked man from within his police vehicle. These issues raise troubling questions about the actions taken by Constable Taylor