'How did someone end up dying?': Family of black Toronto woman allege officers 'threw' her off balcony

Yahoo News Canada

The family of 29-year-old, Regis Korchinski-Paquet sounded the alarm after Toronto Police Service classified the death of their loved one as a suicide. Korchiniski-Paquet died after falling from the 24th floor of her apartment in High Park on Wednesday, but the family insists the young woman was killed and did not commit suicide.  

“The police killed my daughter, came in my apartment and shoved her off the building,” alleged Claudette Korchinski-Beals, mother of the victim in a video making the rounds on social media.

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Korchinski-Paquet’s cousin Roc’a Veli also recorded an Instagram video which has amassed over 180,000 thousands views at the time of writing.

On the day, only three people were inside the apartment, Regis, her mother, Claudette and her brother Reece. According to Reece, his mother had originally called the police due to a family dispute, but things went sideways after the fateful call.

“The cops were supposed to come and de-escalate the situation, but how did some one end up dying in their care of the situation? It just doesn’t add up,” he said.

Reece says the police came up and the three family members were outside in the hallway, when his sister said she had to go use the bathroom. He said two officers followed her inside the apartment, and they said she was already on the balcony trying to hop over to her neighbour’s balcony. However, Reece said the next door neighbour is like “family” and that there was mesh between the balconies, so it wouldn’t make any sense for his sister to think she could get over.

“There’s no way you could let a girl who’s a 100 lbs get away from you when you followed her into the unit, and they all moved aggressively, I know the feeling when they do to you and how scared you can be,” he said.

On top of the movements being heard inside, Reece said his sister had called out for their mother a handful of times, before everything went quiet, and officers hurriedly came out the door.

“Regis said ‘Mom help, Mom help, Mom help’ and then you didn’t hear a word, they were in there for a couple minutes then came out,” he said.

After police came out, the family said they were never allowed back into the apartment, and have been locked out of their home since the incident.

“We’re not allowed back in the unit, they’ve locked the doors and they’re not speaking to us about it either,” Reece alleges. After police initially told the family Regis had jumped to her death, Reece admits he just believed it, but then felt they were trying to cover something up.

“They made me feel like she killed herself...like she could have done it, but after they came out the way they acted, I was like ‘no way’,” he said.

According to Reece his sister did suffer from epilepsy and would have seizures, but never displayed any signs of poor mental health.

“They trigger mood swings, sometimes she would come out of them and be mad, but it’s never anything that couldn’t be controlled especially by the so-called people to protect,” he said.

The case has since been handed over to the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), who have conducted a post-mortem, and will be interviewing witnesses in the coming days. SIU’s news release indicated that police officers were in the building. 

“The SIU is aware of allegations made by certain family members of the deceased and will be looking to speak to anyone with information about these allegations.  As the investigation is in the early stages, it would be inappropriate for the SIU to make any further comment at this time with respect to what transpired,” they wrote in their news release.

The original Instagram video, created by Korchinski-Paquet’s cousin, Roc’a Veli alleged that his cousin didn’t jump, but was rather thrown off the building.

“The police threw my cousin off the building...we’re done protesting, they threw my cousin off the building,” he repeated in an Instagram video. “A female, the police can’t arrest a female properly, they threw her off the building...it’s what they’re doing.”

The death comes on the heels of a slew of large incidents involving black victims, from the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, who died after a police officer pressed his knee while being held down, to a woman in New York’s Central Park calling the police falsely claiming a black man was threatening to kill her, to the Toronto shooting of 21-year-old rapper, Houdini who was shot and killed in broad daylight in the city’s downtown core.

“We’re done playing, this is what the police are doing — worldwide,” said Roc’a Veli, Korchinski-Paquet’s cousin.

Korchinski-Paquet’s mother said the police told news agencies to avoid the scene, as they said it was a suicide. During an event where someone has committed a suicide, news cameras typically avoid showing suicides to limit suicide contagion. The victim’s brother, Reece Korchinski said that if his cousin had not made the Instagram video, he doesn’t think it would have been picked up by mainstream media.

“I’m so happy my cousin made that video yesterday, because they would’ve just said it was a suicide,” he said.

29-year-old, Regis Korchinski-Paquet died after falling from her apartment building. The Special Investigations Unit is investigating the involvement of the Toronto Police Services' involvement in the woman's death.
29-year-old, Regis Korchinski-Paquet died after falling from her apartment building. The Special Investigations Unit is investigating the involvement of the Toronto Police Services' involvement in the woman's death.

Veli said he was next to the family when they were called by different news agencies and told that they wouldn’t be covering the story, due to the police classifying it as a suicide.

Given the circumstances, Korchinski thinks the viral nature of the video has allowed people to know there is a different side, which has put pressure on police to provide answers.

“We feel like at least people can see a story they wouldn’t want heard, no one was with her, but the police,” said Reece.

‘I urge the public to please wait’

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said officers were called to the apartment complex at 5:15 p.m. and were responding to a call for a domestic incident.

“I listened to the call [and] it sounded rather frantic and there was a need for police to be there,” he said, adding officers arrived four minutes after they were dispatched.

Saunders admitted his reason to address the media was in part to protect his officers, who cannot speak to the investigation at the time.

“My fear is that misinformation, when we don’t have an opportunity to speak, can lead to negative comments. I urge the public to please wait for the facts to come out,” he said.

As the SIU continues their investigation which will likely last a couple weeks, the family, the police and the city await the results. Toronto Mayor John Tory said he understands the frustration of the waiting game, but told Torontonians to be patient.

“We all want answers when a tragic death happens in our community...I know that any delay in getting answers is incredibly frustrating for people, myself included, who want to know what happened but this independent investigation is necessary to provide our community with all the facts and to ensure full accountability and transparency,” he wrote in a statement.

Anyone with information or with video evidence related to the incident is urged to contact the  SIU at 1-800-787-852. 

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