'I'm sorry': Constable involved in fatal arrest addresses Babak Saidi's family at inquest

·3 min read
Babak Saidi, 43, was shot to death at the Morrisburg, Ont., OPP detachment on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, which investigates death and injury involving police, cleared the officers involved. (Supplied Elly Saidi/Angelina Ouimet - image credit)
Babak Saidi, 43, was shot to death at the Morrisburg, Ont., OPP detachment on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, which investigates death and injury involving police, cleared the officers involved. (Supplied Elly Saidi/Angelina Ouimet - image credit)

One of the constables involved in the fatal arrest of Babak Saidi started her testimony at the coroner's inquest into his death with an apology to his family.

The inquest is examining the circumstances that led an officer to shoot the eastern Ontario man at an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment in 2017.

OPP Const. Meghan Shay turned to the Saidi family — his mother and sister have been watching the proceedings, and made a brief, emotional statement.

"I'd just like to say that I'm sorry," she said Tuesday. "I can't imagine how hard it would be to lose a loved one in that manner and I'm very sorry."

Saidi, 43, died at the OPP detachment in Morrisburg, Ont., on Dec. 23, 2017, after an attempted arrest during his mandatory weekly sign-in — a condition of a 2014 conviction.

Ontario's police watchdog investigated and found there were no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against Const. Luc Sarao, the officer who shot Saidi, who is still expected to testify at the inquest.

Shay said she was off work for 14 months because of that investigation and she no longer works on the frontline, instead she works in identification and forensics, gathering evidence at crime scenes.

She said the long wait for the investigation and delays to the coroner's inquest because of COVID-19 have not helped with healing.

"There hasn't been a lot of closure," she said.

Inquest counsel Uko Abara said the purpose of the inquest is not finding fault, but finding recommendations to avoid similar situations for both civilians and the police.

1st arrest plan had roles for all involved, constable says

Shay told the inquest she had signed Saidi into the Morrisburg detachment prior to the arrest attempt a handful of times.

She said there was "unwritten" guidance that two officers should be present because he'd been antagonistic with police in the past, though she didn't recall having issues with him, even when she signed him in alone.

Angelina Ouimet
Angelina Ouimet

Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry OPP were seeking to arrest Saidi after receiving a complaint he'd threatened a woman with a knife after she left a flyer in the mailbox of his rural home on Dec. 20, 2017.

Shay was involved in the first arrest attempt, which saw four officers sent to a different Alcoholics Anonymous meeting than the one Saidi attended — AA meetings were another of Saidi's release conditions.

That arrest plan included assigned roles for each of the constables, with Shay having the responsibility of handcuffing him and her regular shift partner assigned to communicating with Saidi.

She told the inquest that level of planning was normal for the people she worked with regularly in her platoon, but agreed that didn't happen three days later — when the Christmas schedule meant she wasn't working with her usual platoon or sergeant.

Tom Sharkey, a use of force expert and former staff sergeant with Toronto police, told the inquest that the Alcoholics Anonymous arrest plan was a "sensible" way to deal with a subject who was known to have a pattern of violence and hostility toward police.

He also said he would've stuck to using four officers and possibly called for a specialized team, such as the Tactical Response Unit, for an arrest of a person such as Saidi, even at the detachment, because of his history and that he was known to have a knife.

Sharkey said he felt the way the struggle ensued during the arrest, where Saidi presented a threat, justified the use of lethal force by Sarao.

Both Shay and Sharkey are expected to continue their testimony at the inquest Wednesday.

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