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.
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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.
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.
Toronto area police have killed several people in the past few years for holding or being near BB guns. Over the past year alone, two Ontario coroner’s inquests and one SIU investigation have involved people killed by police under such circumstances.
In November of 2013, Ian Pryce was killed by Toronto police while apparently holding what turned out to be a pellet gun. Only months later, John Caleb Ross of Aurora was killed by a York Regional police officer while apparently carrying a pellet gun. On March 13, 2016, Alex Wettlaufer was shot three times and killed by Toronto police. He was said to have held a pellet gun but by the SIU’s own account had repeatedly set down during a lengthy standoff.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is examining the death of a 26-year-old man following an interaction with police in Cambridge, Ontario. Paramedics were apparently called to a home near Cedar Street and Southgate Road on the evening of Monday, May 22, 2017. At around 8:20 PM police attended the scene and sometime after their arrival the man was unresponsive. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. Details of the man’s death have not been released publicly, including the reason why police were called to the site.
Based on the outcomes of several recent coroners’ inquests and investigations by oversight agencies it appears that the “suicide by cop” excuse is being used to let killer cops off the hook in various jurisdictions in Canada. It is becoming a “go to” justification for killer cops. The numerous problems with this bogus conclusion have been outlined in several reports for this project.
On May 16, 2017 the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Ontario added to the suicide by cop chorus legitimizing police killings of civilians in the case of the killing of 21-year-old Alex Wettlaufer by Toronto Police on March 13, 2016. Wettlaufer was shot three times while isolated in the Villaways Park in North York after a lengthy standoff in which it seems clear police had multiple opportunities to use non-lethal means and/or have a health care provider attend.
Two 911 calls apparently made by Wettlaufer suggested he needed health care assistance. Yet no health care personnel were dispatched to the scene. Only police. And they waited for the Toronto Police Emergency Task Force (ETF) to arrive. Wettlaufer was said to be holding a cell phone and a BB gun.
The claim of suicide by cop is especially dubious in this case given that on at least one occasion during the interaction with police Wettlaufer tried to get away by fleeing into the woods at Villaways Park. Police pursued him seemingly cornering him. By the SIU’s own account Wettlauufer even put down his BB gun several times. During the standoff the young man was alone on a bridge in the park. It is not clear that he posed any threat to the public at that time. By the SIU account, ETF had taken cover in the woods, being able to see Wettlaufer isolated and alone on the bridge. He was also apparently on his cellphone with 911 and expressing his distress during the standoff. And still no health care providers were deployed. So police, in positions of cover, shoot a distressed youth, on the phone with 911, who is alone on a bridge, and who has repeatedly set his BB gun down. And this is “suicide by cop.” The leap of logic by SIU director Tony Loparco is perplexing. In his conclusion: “ “Given that Mr. Wettlaufer was no doubt aware that he had a mere BB gun in hand, his actions lead me to the conclusion that he was attempting to bait the police into fatally shooting him by creating a perilous situation.” Quite a claim.
The three officers who killed Wettlaufer did not participate in the investigation as is their right under the limited and insufficient oversight rules. The investigation took fourteen months despite the SIU goalpost of 120 days.
As a result of the SIU report no charges will be laid against the three officers who opened fire on Wettlaufer.
Former Oversight Director Says Police are “Ungovernable”: Hamilton Cops Do Not Report Killing of Chokha Bayez (20)
As this project has detailed repeatedly police across Canada act largely as they wish in investigations into the harms they inflict on civilians. This includes not even reporting those harms.
In September of 2016 a Hamilton police officer was involved in a vehicular pursuit that killed 20-year-old motorcyclist Chokha Bayez. Yet the Hamilton police broke the law and never reported the killing by the officer to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) as they are required to do. Every police service in Ontario is legally mandated to notify the SIU immediately of any incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death involving their officers (Carter 2017).
An SIU investigation into the Hamilton police killing of Bayez was only initiated when the victim’s family contacted the unit a month after the crash. This is an unacceptable delay that further serves to interfere with any proper investigation. As judge Michael Tulloch put it is his report on oversight in Ontario: ”In most cases, the SIU depends on the police notifying it of incidents within its mandate. Prompt, thorough police notification is the starting point for effective, efficient SIU investigations. If the police take too long to notify the SIU of an incident, or fail to do so at all, any investigation may be compromised and justice may not ever be done” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Furthermore, the investigation is not even listed on a Hamilton police report of SIU investigations presented to the police board earlier in April 2017 (Carter 2017). Constable Steve Welton told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that the incident was included (despite saying he could not comment on the case and failure to report to the SIU). Oddly, according to the CBC, no vehicular death can be found in the police board report (Carter 2017). CBC News only became aware of the SIU investigation as a result of a freedom of information request listing all of the SIU’s investigations into Hamilton police officers from 2016 (Carter 2017).
As we have documented consistently in this project there is no proper independent oversight of police and no mechanism is used, legal or otherwise, to ensure there are any negative consequences for officers and police forces who fail to comply with investigative policy and requirements. Even where they violate or flaunt the law.
SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon told CBC News: “If the SIU Director is of the view that there may have been a breach of the regulation, and no charges are laid, it has been the Director’s practice to notify the Chief/Commissioner of his concerns in order that they may be reviewed” (quoted in Carter 2017). Of course the chief is under no obligation to act and it is unsure if such notice has even been given in this case.
André Marin, a former Ontario ombudsman and past SIU director, is clear in stating that under current conditions there is nothing to stop police from acting like this whenever they so choose. In his words: “Because there are no consequences, police can be extremely lax. They have proven themselves to be ungovernable” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Marin has a stark assessment of police services boards as well. In his view, while they could push for oversight: “Police services boards should be vigilant and hold their feet to the fire — but they don’t care either. There is absolutely no excuse for this” (quoted in Carter 2017).
Again, the police are a law unto themselves. And the state always protects the state.
Carter, Adam. 2017. “Hamilton Police Broke the Law and there were No Consequences.” CBC News. April 25. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/hamilton-police-siu-1.4083410