SIU clears Peel officers of wrongdoing in 2019 death of Mississauga man after Tasering

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Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared two Peel police officers of wrongdoing in the Sept. 10, 2019, death of a 34-year-old Mississauga man who died after he was Tasered at a Malton home. According to a Friday news release, Special Investigations Unit director Joseph Martino determined “there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the man’s death.” The man, who has not been named by police or the SIU, died after he was Tasered during an interaction with police after two officers went to the home following multiple calls from family members inside. “Soon after arriving, officers became involved in an interaction with a 34-year-old and shortly after apprehended him,” the SIU report of the incident said. The man was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead soon after arrival. According to the SIU, two Peel officers were called to the home on Morning Star Drive near Cambrett Drive around 9 p.m after a man complained that his brother was acting erratically. After entering the home, the officers found the man agitated, and one of the officers deployed his Taser twice in succession, the SIU said in its report on the case. The Taser appeared to have no effect, and the man then removed its wires and ran toward the front door “yelling and flailing his arms,” the report said. Near the door, the same officer grabbed the man, and during an attempt to arrest him the other officer also deployed his Taser. According to the SIU, the officers were eventually able to overpower the man on the ground outside and handcuffed him with this hands behind his back. Another officer arrived while the man was restrained and, according to the SIU, he continued to yell, kick and struggle until the officers called for paramedics. They arrived around 9:30 p.m. to find the man prone, held down by one or two officers, the SIU said. According to the report, the man appeared to lose consciousness after he was placed on a stretcher, and he was pronounced dead in hospital. Following an autopsy, a pathologist determined the Tasering likely “did not play a major role, if any,” in the man’s death. The pathologist found his cause of death to be from “excited delirium (cocaine and ethanol toxicity) during restraint,” saying “the cumulative effects of agitation and struggles, position with impaired respiratory movements and cocaine likely all contributed to cause sudden cardiac arrest.” Neighbours told the Star the man lived at the home with his mother, and that his father had died recently. 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. This ruling comes at a time when the SIU is under increasing pressure from advocates and the relatives of several Peel residents shot or killed by police since 2019. Those cases include: The Nov. 20, 2019, death of Clive Mensah, a 30-year-old mentally ill who died after Peel police Tasered him near his home. The Jan. 7, death of Jamal Derek Jr. Francique, a 28-year-old Mississauga man who was shot and killed by a Peel officer. The April 6 death of D’Andre Campbell, 26, who was shot and killed in his home by a Peel officer. The Mother’s Day shooting of Chantelle Krupka, who continues to undergo physiotherapy after she was shot in the abdomen. The June 20 shooting of 62-year-old Ejaz Choudry, who killed inside his Malton apartment, sparking public uproar and a series of protests. The SIU has been criticized for the length of its investigations and perceptions of low transparency and poor communications with victims’ families. Of those outstanding cases, the SIU has completed its investigation into only Krupka’s case — for which a rookie Peel officer was charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and careless use of a firearm. In a rare move, the accused officer, Valerie Briffa, resigned soon after she was charged. According to the SIU’s recent annual report, the watchdog took an average of 136 days to close a case in 2019 — or about four-and-a-half months per case. Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star