Derek Francique gripped a lit candle and, while standing in front of an illuminated memorial, recounted an agonizing year of waiting for Ontario’s police watchdog to decide whether Peel police acted legally when they killed his 28-year-old son.
Francique spoke on the anniversary of his son’s death Saturday, flanked by family, his lawyer and the relatives of other families touched by police violence in 2020: “SIU, I want to let you know that this family is not going anywhere,” he said at the scene where Jamal Derek Jr. Francique was shot.
“This family is going to make sure you know that my son was important to our family and we will do anything to get justice.”
In the year since he lost his son, not only has Derek Francique gradually lost what little trust he had in Peel police and Special Investigations Unit, the Ontario oversight body charged with investigating police shootings, he’s also now ensnared in a legal battle on another front — he’s one of several people Peel police charged following a Dec. 11 rally outside 11 Division in Mississauga. Police say he and others damaged police property; he vehemently denies this.
Francique accuses the police of being heavy-handed in their handling of the families of people who’ve been killed or seriously injured by Peel police, and who continue to protest.
“The aggression that police are coming with is not needed,” Francique said. “The police have to make changes across their entire system.”
The day after the Dec. 11 rally, officers attended his home leaving a note informing him that he was under investigation. Francique went to the station with his lawyer, Knia Singh, where he was charged with mischief over $5,000.
“I would like to have that trust, but right now I’m discouraged,” Francique said. “They’re failing to serve and protect.”
Chantelle Krupka, a Mississauga mother who was shot and severely injured by a Peel officer on Mother’s Day, also faces a similar charge.
Francique said he relived the horror of his son’s death while returning to the scene on Thursday, the anniversary of his shooting on Jan. 7, 2020. The family returned to the scene again for the candlelit vigil Saturday, a year to the day after Jamal later died in hospital.
“I’m still traumatized and found it very difficult to be in the area,” Francique told the Star, adding that his son’s mother was too distressed to revisit the scene on Jan. 7. “I was so broken that my children had to walk me back to the car.”
He says he finds it troubling he still doesn’t know the names of the officer under investigation for shooting his son, nor those involved in several other still-ongoing investigations.
“It feels like you’re fighting a losing battle,” Francique said. “The police are holding all the information so quiet, of who did this, we have a lot of anxiety.”
Speaking to the Star, Singh has called the charges against Francique and Krupka a missed opportunity to bridge the growing divide between affected Peel residents and the police. He said police had the discretion to not lay charges and avoid re-victimizing people who had already been traumatized.
“The process is flawed,” Singh said. “It’s not working.”
The SIU’s description of what happened when Jamal Derek Jr. Francique was shot is sparse. Around 7:45 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020, Peel officers were in the area of Southampton Drive and Aquinas Avenue to make an arrest when they “located the person of interest” in a vehicle. There was an “interaction” and one officer fired at the vehicle multiple times, shooting Francique, the SIU said
Agency spokesperson Monica Hudon said the file is now under the director’s review, the final stage of the process before the findings are released.
“While the SIU recognizes it is important to resolve cases in a timely manner, the thoroughness of the investigation must take precedence over the length of time it takes to finish an investigation,” she said.
Francique’s death is one among a series of injuries and deaths which have sparked anger and protest in recent months.
On Dec. 14, the Special Investigation Unit’s decision to clear the Peel officer who shot and killed mentally ill 26-year-old D’Andre Campbell sparked a new round of protests.
The SIU has also completed its investigation into Krupka’s case and has laid charges against the rookie officer who allegedly shot her.
The watchdog has been widely criticized by several impacted families for the length of its investigations and perceptions of low transparency and poor communications with victims’ families.
According to the SIU’s recent annual report, the watchdog took an average of 136 days to close a case in 2019 — 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: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic
Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star