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.
Tag Archives: Ontario
Haim Queroub, the second cop in the Toronto police killing of Andrew Loku, finally spoke publicly during the coroner’s inquest into Loku’s death. Queroub, had been on the force only 11 weeks when he and shooter Andrew Doyle encountered and killed Andrew Loku in the hallway outside his apartment on July 5, 2015. Queroub used his time on the stand to hint that Loku’s death was a “suicide by cop.”
Queroub testified that when he and officer Doyle shouted at Andrew Loku, the distressed man said, “What ya gonna do … Come on … Shoot me.” Here Queroub is trying to plant the notion of suicide by cop, a bogus excuse that killer cops and their police associations routinely use to be let off for killing civilians under a range of situations which are not suicides. Yet, as lawyers at the inquest pointed out these words could well have been spoken as questions (asking if the cops were seriously going to kill him for standing outside his apartment with a hammer). Queroub said he could not clarify whether the words he believes he heard were actually a question. Clearly in raising this, though, he is attempting to present the possibility of “suicide by cop.”
Queroub’s testimony did confirm that the two officers had no discussion about nor plan to pursue de-escalation or to address someone potentially in distress. Incredibly both officers testified that they talked about how to get to the scene but not what they would do once they got there. There was no dialogue with Loku. Instead he was shot and killed within 21 seconds of police encountering him.
Clearly, as critics have suggested, police training is not the issue. Queroub testified he had received training both on interacting with people with mental health issues and on implicit bias when dealing with racialized people and communities. He even testified he had received de-escalation training. Yet none of these came into use when officers Queroub and Doyle encountered Andrew Loku and chose to shoot him within a mere 21 seconds. Queroub testified he did not even consider the man’s distress or how to deal with it appropriately.
And he concluded that if he had to do it over again, he would not change anything. Police do not need to because they will not be held to account for killing civilians. And they know it. Instead phony “suicide by cop” claims, or other measures, will be used to get them off or help them to sleep at night.
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 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
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.
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