By Neil Armstrong
PRIDE Contributing Writer
TORONTO, Ontario — BlackLivesMatter-Toronto has condemned the decision of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to clear police officers in the shooting homicide of Jermaine Carby.
On Monday evening, the group organized a protest that saw hundreds shut down a section of Allen Road for nearly two hours, to call for justice in the cases of two local black men killed by police in the past year.
It is supporting a call from the Justice for Jermaine Committee for justice and action. In a press release, the group said the SIU decision means that the officers will not even face a trial for their actions.
A press release from the SIU on July 21 noted that the director of the SIU, Tony Loparco, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge a Peel Regional Police (PRP) officer with a criminal offence in relation to the death of 33-year-old Jermaine Carby in September of 2014.
Carby was a passenger in a vehicle operated by a friend which was pulled over by a police officer near Kennedy Road in Brampton, Ontario.
The report said the officer checked Carby’s name on his in-car computer and learned that he had outstanding warrants from British Columbia and a criminal record.
“When Mr. Carby was asked about the warrants from British Columbia, the encounter quickly degenerated into a shouting match which was overheard by numerous civilians in the area. Mr. Carby, his anger rising at being asked to step out of the vehicle and questioned about outstanding warrants, pulled a knife in his possession and held it in his right hand. The officers, their guns drawn and pointed at Mr. Carby, started walking backwards as Mr. Carby, knife in hand, walked west in their direction,” the report said, in part.
The shots that entered Mr. Carby’s chest and back were described by the pathologist as fatal.
Loparco said he was satisfied that the subject officer’s conduct was authorized pursuant to section 34 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which deals with force used in the defence of oneself or others.
He noted, however, that there were two issues in this case that bear noting which might have cast uncertainty as to whether the shooting in this case was justified had there not been a substantial amount of other evidence to alleviate his concerns.
The first issue involves the continuity of the knife reported to have been wielded by Mr. Carby at the time he was shot. In fact, no knife was found at the scene by the SIU. A knife was collected by an SIU forensic investigator several hours after the incident from a PRP acting sergeant, who indicated that another officer who had arrived at the scene just as the shooting ended had collected the knife and given it to him.
The second issue involves the fact that the subject officer chose not to provide the SIU with any first-hand evidence regarding his conduct and state of mind at the time of the shooting. While the officer was within his legal rights to choose to remain silent, the SIU is without any direct evidence regarding what is essentially a subjective element of the defence, namely, whether the subject officer believed he was acting to defend himself or his colleagues when he shot Mr. Carby.
Loparco concluded that, “It is highly regrettable that one officer removed the knife from the scene. His ill-advised conduct has cast a pall over the integrity of the SIU’s investigation. While the overriding weight of the evidence – including the eyewitness evidence of the civilians and police witnesses present at the time of the shooting – establishes that Mr. Carby was armed with a knife as he approached the officers, the removal of the knife ensures that some members of the community will harbour concerns, legitimate concerns in my view, regarding the very existence of the knife. In this most serious of cases, where an agent of the state has taken the life of a citizen, the community was minimally entitled to expect that an independent investigation would be left to pursue its work on the basis of a secure scene and uncompromised physical evidence. They were denied that investigation.”
The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.
“The decision of the SIU to shield the officers who murdered Jermaine Carby from a trial reeks just like the Mike Brown decision in the United States,” said Sandy Hudson, an organizer with BlackLivesMatter-Toronto. “It is clear from all reports that there is something shady about this case. No one should have faith in the SIU after a ruling like this.”
L. Newbold, another organizer said, “Jermaine Carby was shot in the back at what was apparently a routine traffic stop. This would not have happened if he was not black. And now, police officers in Ontario have once again been affirmed that the SIU will protect them if they take a life.”
Meanwhile, on July 16, the group took its demands in the death of another black man, Andrew Loku, who had mental health issues, to the meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board.
Loku, a 45-year-old father of five from Sudan, was shot dead inside his apartment complex near Eglinton Ave. W. and Caledonia Ave where police found him wielding a hammer.
“Andrew Loku, a refugee from South Sudan, was murdered by Toronto police officers on June 5. Mayor John Tory and Police Chief Mark Saunders have ignored our demands for answers and support for the family of Mr Loku. We must take action,” it said.
BlackLivesMatter-Toronto said Mayor Tory and Chief Saunders don’t seem to understand that the lives of black people in this city are constantly interrupted by policies like carding, police violence, surveillance, and profiling.
The group took its nine demands to the TPSB directly at a meeting at Police Headquarters.
Among the demands are: “the immediate release of the name(s) of the officers that killed Andrew Loku, charges to be laid against the officers who killed Mr. Loku, and the immediate and public release of any video footage from the apartment complex where he was murdered.”
It is also calling for, “the adoption of all recommendations made by the African Canadian Legal Clinic: a systemic inquiry by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to gauge whether there has been adequate disciplinary action taken against officers who use force against black people living with mental health issues, body cameras to be worn by all police officers, the release of data on number of SIU cases involving racialized people, and racialized people living with mental health issues, an inquiry by the Ontario Human Rights Commission into the disproportionate use of force used against black people with mental health challenges.”
BlackLivesMatter-Toronto also wants the adoption of the 84 recommendations in the 2014 report by Justice Frank Iacobucci, aimed at reducing fatal encounters with people in emotional distress.
BlackLivesMatter-Toronto is the Toronto chapter of #BlackLivesMatter, an international organization and movement fighting anti-black racism all over the world.