Inquest begins into Babak Saidi's shooting death at OPP detachment

·3 min read
Babak Saidi's sister Elly Saidi had called for a coroner's inquest into her brother's shooting death at an OPP detachment. Now, more than four years after the incident, it's finally happening.  (Submitted by Elly Saidi - image credit)
Babak Saidi's sister Elly Saidi had called for a coroner's inquest into her brother's shooting death at an OPP detachment. Now, more than four years after the incident, it's finally happening. (Submitted by Elly Saidi - image credit)

The sister of an eastern Ontario man who was fatally shot at an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment in 2017 says she hopes to learn more about her brother's final minutes during a coroner's inquest that begins this week.

Babak Saidi, 43, died at the OPP detachment in Morrisburg, Ont., on Dec. 23, 2017, after arriving for his mandatory weekly check-in — a condition of a 2014 conviction.

A scuffle ensued, during which an officer fired several shots, killing Saidi.

After investigating the incident, the province's police watchdog concluded there were no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against the officer who shot Saidi.

Saidi's older sister, Elly, said he had schizophrenia and she hopes any recommendations stemming from the inquest can help save lives in the future.

"Perhaps it will help somebody else dealing with mental health illness," she said.

Submitted by Elly Saidi
Submitted by Elly Saidi

'It's been a long time'

About a dozen inquest witnesses, including the constable who fatally shot Saidi, are scheduled to testify over four days, according to a schedule shared by lawyer Christine Johnson, who is representing Saidi's family alongside Paul Champ.

The inquest is also expected to hear from experts on threat and behaviour analysis and use-of-force training, as well as a friend of the Saidi family who witnessed the altercation.

Inquests are not criminal trials and are instead meant to establish the circumstances surrounding a person's death. A civilian jury may also make recommendations on how similar deaths can be prevented in the future.

Elly Saidi, who is also set to testify, said she's both nervous about the process and relieved it's finally happening.

"It's been a long time that this has been hovering over our head," she said.

Elly Saidi has previously viewed video of her brother's encounter with police, but said she was still left with questions.

"It's two minutes, but the whole fighting is less than even 29 seconds. What went wrong? What happened there? My brother had a mental health illness. He was known to them."

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) released its findings into the incident more than three years ago.

According to the SIU, when Saidi entered the detachment, he was informed he was under arrest for new criminal charges. Saidi told officers he was going outside to tell his father he was being arrested, but police grabbed him, believing he was trying to flee.

A struggle broke out between Saidi and two police officers, and the melee spilled out in front of the detachment.

Angelina Ouimet
Angelina Ouimet

Saidi grabbed hold of a Taser, according to the SIU. Fearing that Saidi would overpower him, an officer unholstered his firearm, and when Saidi continued to come toward him, the officer shot Saidi five times. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Elly Saidi said she hopes the inquest results in more officer training on deescalation and dealing with people struggling with mental illness.

Status of internal review unclear

An OPP spokesperson said Tuesday that the force couldn't comment because of the inquest.

When the SIU cleared the officer who shot Saidi, the OPP said it would conduct its own investigation into the conduct of the officers involved.

The OPP spokesperson said the force also couldn't comment on that internal review because of the inquest.

Proceedings start at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Kanata.

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