SIU clears Peel officer in shooting death of Jamal Francique

·3 min read

The province’s police watchdog has cleared a Peel police officer of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of Jamal Derek Francique Jr. a year ago as his family says they plan to launch an independent investigation. In a Wednesday news release, Special Investigations Unit (SIU) director Joseph Martino said there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the Peel Regional Police officer committed a criminal offence when he shot and killed Francique as he tried to evade police during an attempt to arrest him. The officer fired several shots at the car Francique was driving “to ward off what he believed was an imminent risk to his life,” Martino wrote in his report on the case. “The subject officer had cause to believe that Francique was determined to escape police apprehension regardless of the risk to the health and safety of officers on foot” as he drove his Acura within metres of them, the report said. According to the report, one of several witness officers jumped out of the way of the car, saying she feared for her life. In a news conference responding to the decision, Knia Singh, the family’s lawyer, said he will be launching an independent investigation and analysis of the findings, calling the SIU biased toward police. “The family has been greatly affected by this report confirming the inability to rely on the SIU to hold police accountable,” Singh said, adding that report had inconsistencies that show the “SIU is not conducting thorough, accurate investigations.” Francique’s father Derek Francique, who had been waiting more than a year for answers on his son’s death, said the decision is another example of police and the SIU failing the families of victims. “This report has left my family in further disbelief in the SIU and the police force,” Francique said in a statement. “We will show that the police and the SIU unit have consistently let down communities and families. Our family will get justice for Jamal.” Francique Jr. was shot at around 7:44 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020, after members of the Peel police street crime unit went to the area near Southampton Drive and Aquinas Avenue in Mississauga to arrest him for breach of conditions related to a drug investigation. The SIU said Francique had visited his girlfriend in the days before the shooting, breaching a court order. The officers found him in a blue Acura TSX and, when officers approached the vehicle, he drove at them, the report said. The subject officer fired several shots at the windshield of the vehicle, hitting Francique in the head. He died in hospital three days later. According to the report, the location of the bullet holes in the Acura — three in the driver’s side of the front windshield and one just in front of the sunroof — suggest it was moving in the officers’ direction throughout the gunfire, the report says. In his conclusion, Martino wrote that while he accepted the subject officer had the option to withdraw from the situation, he had only moments to make a decision in a highly fraught situation. “The officer’s decision may not have been the only one available in the moment, but neither was it unreasonable,” Martino wrote. To that, Singh said all other options but lethal force should have been used. In a statement, Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah called Francique’s death a tragedy that all involved wish could have been averted. “Family and loved ones are left behind with questions and the officers involved are forced to deal with the realities of the stress these outcomes cause,” he said.

Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star