SIU clears two Toronto police officers in death of Danforth gunman, release more details on what happened on night of mass shooting

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The Special Investigations Unit has ruled that there are no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against two Toronto police officers in connection to the death of the Danforth gunman in July, 2018.

The police watchdog found that Faisal Hussain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 22, after he opened fire on a busy stretch of Danforth Ave., killing two people and leaving 13 others injured.

The rear window of a police cruiser was shattered when it was struck by a bullet during an exchange of gunfire between the police and Faisal Hussain after the Danforth shooting in 2018.
The rear window of a police cruiser was shattered when it was struck by a bullet during an exchange of gunfire between the police and Faisal Hussain after the Danforth shooting in 2018.  (Special Investigations Unit)

The report, released Wednesday, not only cleared the officers but gave graphic new details on what happened that night, as well as providing evidence photos.

A person first called 911 at 10 p.m. to report that “someone had been shot on the Danforth” at Pappas Grill.

Read more:

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“The 911 communications centre was immediately flooded with other callers reporting a shooting on Danforth Ave. and that people were running or injured,” the report found. “One caller indicated that the shooter, Mr. Hussain, had stood on top of a woman and shot her multiple times in the back. At 10:05 p.m., another caller reported that Mr. Hussain was heading westbound on Danforth Ave. and was in possession of a black handgun.”

Two officers in a cruiser encountered Hussain on the west sidewalk of Bowden St. and approached him. Hussain fired at them multiple times and “fearing for their lives,” the two officers fired back, the report found.

One officer “moved to take cover behind the police vehicle and discharged his firearm, hitting the police cruiser’s rear passenger window, causing the glass to shatter and a projectile to become lodged in the window’s frame,” the report found.

“Mr. Hussain fled northbound on Bowden St. and then westbound on Danforth Ave.”

A few minutes later, Toronto police officers found Hussain’s body on Danforth Ave., in front of the Danforth Church, at 60 Bowden St. A black Smith and Wesson .40 calibre handgun and two fully loaded handgun magazines were found near his body.

An autopsy later confirmed the cause of death, the SIU said.

“I believe that (the officers) are credible and their accounts of the incident quite reliable because their statements were overwhelmingly consistent with the remainder of the evidence, including the statements of multiple civilian witnesses who witnessed or heard the exchange of gunfire,” SIU Director Tony Loparco wrote.

The SIU is an agency that investigates incidents involving police in which someone is killed, injured or accused of sexual assault.

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Rhianna Jackson-Kelso is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @RhiannaJK

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This man says Toronto police left him with a broken nose and a serious eye injury. His lawyer wants to know why they didn’t tell the SIU

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Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson, speaking generally on Toronto Police Service policy, said police are expected to notify the SIU as soon as they’re aware that an injury might be serious or when they’re uncertain of an injury’s severity but recognize there’s a possibility it could fall under the SIU’s mandate.

On the SIU’s website, it states they are also to be notified if “a prolonged delay is likely before the seriousness of the injury can be assessed,” so that they can monitor the situation.

SIU investigators interviewed Clarke on Dec. 17. He also filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Review Director on Dec. 20.

Clarke said police charged him at the Scarborough hospital and released him from custody on a promise to appear in court,

This story is based on police and medical documents provided to the Star by Clarke, from an interview with him in his lawyer’s office and his written account given to the OIPRD.

“Given this case is now under investigation by the SIU and by Professional Standards I am unable to offer any comment on the allegations that have been brought forward,” Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said.

Once the SIU becomes involved, police typically do not release information on a case. None of Clarke’s allegations have been proven in court.

The knocking began after 8 p.m.

“Somebody was calling, ‘Joe, hey Joe,’” Clarke told the OIPRD. Through the apartment door’s peephole, he said he saw a woman, whom he later learned was a plainclothes police officer. She had a pony tail, and was not wearing identification, he said.

“I thought maybe this was a crazy person,” Clarke, who lives with a cousin in a 10th-floor apartment unit, told the Star. He said he hoped the woman would leave, but the knocking continued, along with more calls for a “Joe.”

Clarke said he went back to the door and heard it being unlocked from the outside. He tried to lock the door, but it was unlocked again.

“And then, she just come in and I see all the police officers pointing a gun at me,” Clarke said.

Clarke said several officers in plainclothes — at least two women and three men — entered the apartment, when one male officer then put his gun in his holster and “just starts swinging,” said Clarke.

In his complaint, Clarke estimates being punched 20 times, including to his head and face, by a number of officers. He said he was down on the floor and recalls being kicked and held in a headlock.

It felt, he told the Star, “like my eye was coming out of my head.”

In his complaint, Clarke said it was while they were punching that the officers identified themselves as police.

He said he recalls an officer yelling, “Toronto police, stop resisting arrest.” To which he said he responded: “I’m not fighting, I’m not fighting,” and said, “I can’t breathe. You’re choking me.”

Clarke said he put his hands behind his back, was handcuffed and seated in a chair. He said “there was another police officer standing up and he had his gun on me, the whole time.” The female officer from the peephole, he said, looked at his facial injuries and said: “Whoa, which one of us did that?”

Clarke said the police — he said he doesn’t know the identities of any of the plainclothes officers — were looking for drugs and the brother of his roommate, who was on probation but had never lived there.

Clarke presented the Star with a copy of the search warrant, which does not list a name.

A police photographer arrived and documented the search while Clarke sat with his injuries.

“After they finished the searching, they say, ‘Oh, we don’t have him in custody no more. Take the handcuffs off and just wait. The paramedics are coming.’ And I was sitting there waiting on the paramedics,” Clarke said.

Clarke said he was seen by medical staff at The Scarborough Hospital who determined the eye damage required reconstructive work that would have to wait for morning, when a plastic surgeon would be on shift.

After about two hours at the hospital, Clarke said two plainclothes officers whom he did not recognize from the apartment search told him he was being charged with obstructing and resisting a police officer. He said the officers then asked him to sign a release form that meant he would not immediately have to go to the station to be booked or held for bail.

In his complaint, Clarke said police told him if he didn’t sign, they would take him to the station and his eye damage could become worse. Clarke said he signed after more than an hour.

Clarke was due to appear again at a police station to be fingerprinted and booked on the obstruct and resist charge, and has a first court appearance on Jan. 11.

Clarke said he had a first surgery in the morning after the incident and may require a second. He said he was also treated for a “nasal fracture.” According to a doctor’s report, he reported no change in vision in his left eye at the time, but he said that has since changed.

“I can’t see things closely, so it’s, like, foggy, and there’s a lot of pain,” Clarke said, adding he is suffering from headaches and doesn’t think he can see well enough to drive a car. Followup appointments with his doctor and an ophthalmologist are coming, he said.

Clarke said he has not returned to his apartment, fearing someone might let themselves in. “It’s kind of scary,” he said. He doesn’t think he can return to any kind of work for now and is now looking at going on social assistance.

In a recent report into Toronto police use of force, the Ontario Human Rights Commission — part of its ongoing inquiry into racial discrimination and racial profiling by the service — found “themes” in a review of SIU director’s reports related to police and Black citizens. In a number of cases, the SIU stated there was a “lack of legal basis” for police stopping and detaining a civilian at the beginning of an encounter, and “laying charges against the civilian that are without merit.”

Singh, Clarke’s lawyer, said he’s concerned he was the one who notified the SIU of the incident — as in the case of an off-duty Toronto police officer charged with beating Dafonte Miller, a Black teen, in Durham. Miller lost an eye in that incident, but it was his lawyer who contacted SIU.

“I had to take the initiative, and I have to thank the SIU for being very open and transparent and moving quick on this,” Singh told the Star. “But how often does this happen, and if I wasn’t offering my services to Mr. Clarke, would he get justice? It’s a huge concern that incidents like this go unreported, and even if they get reported, they go unassisted.”

SIU investigations can takes several months to complete. The SIU director then decides if any criminal charges are warranted.

“These allegations really bother me due to the nature of them, whereby (police are) attending an address for someone who is not wanted by police, they don’t identify themselves as police at the door, and then once they enter the apartment, there’s no attempt to ascertain his identity, ensure safety,” said Singh. “It’s just straight violence, as alleged by Mr. Clarke.”

With files from Alexandra Jones

Jim Rankin is a reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @Jleerankin

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Video shows Toronto police altercation that left mentally ill man with serious shoulder injury. SIU investigating

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The province’s police watchdog is appealing for witnesses into an altercation between Toronto police and a 35-year-old man with schizophrenia who suffered a serious shoulder injury his mother said will require surgery on Christmas Day.

“He’s not a criminal,” she said at her home in Toronto’s Weston neighbourhood on Sunday. “He’s just a guy with a sickness.”

A series of stills from a pair of cellphone videos show a police interaction with a mentally ill man at a Toronto apartment building on Dec. 12. The videos show two Toronto police officers talking to the distraught man on the floor of an elevator, left. Two more officers then enter the elevator, centre, before another officer tells the bystander to “get out of the way.”
A series of stills from a pair of cellphone videos show a police interaction with a mentally ill man at a Toronto apartment building on Dec. 12. The videos show two Toronto police officers talking to the distraught man on the floor of an elevator, left. Two more officers then enter the elevator, centre, before another officer tells the bystander to “get out of the way.”

The Star as not talked to the man and is not identifying him or his mother because he suffers from a serious mental illness.

The Star obtained a pair of videos showing some of the altercation, which took place at an apartment building at 300 Dufferin St., near Dufferin and King St. W., at approximately 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The cellphone videos, taken by a bystander, show more than a half-dozen police officers in the lobby of the apartment building, outside an elevator. A man can be heard loudly and repeatedly shouting from inside the elevator: “Mom! Mom!”

The video shows two police officers kneeling inside the elevator. The injured man cannot be seen, nor does the video appear to show the interaction that caused his injuries. The start of the incident also is not shown.

Toronto police spokesperson Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook on Sunday said the force has no comment on the matter while it is under investigation by the Special Investigations Unit, the police watchdog organization which probes police-involved deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault.

The man has been charged with assaulting police and is scheduled to appear in a Toronto court in January.

Police were called to the building for a report of a domestic disturbance that is unrelated to the man who was injured, according to a statement from the SIU.

“Get off my back,” the man says at one point in the video.

Cellphone video taken by a bystander and obtained by the Star shows a police interaction with a mentally ill man at a Toronto apartment building on Dec. 12. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating after the man suffered a serious shoulder injury in the incident.

Later, one of the officers inside the elevator says: “Give me your hand … co-operate, just give me your hand.”

At another point, the other officer says: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

Two officers can later be seen rushing into the elevator.

In the video, the man is told he will be charged with assaulting police by pushing an officer.

“How could I push you against the elevator?” the man asks.

At the end of the first video, a visibly upset officer gestures toward the bystander who’s filming the incident. “Get out of the way,” he says.

In the second video, which appears to have been taken immediately after the first, a number of officers talk to the man, who continues to repeatedly shout, “Mom!”

The mother of the injured man told the Star he doesn’t have a criminal record. She said his right shoulder was perfectly healthy before the incident, and he now requires surgery at Toronto Western Hospital on Christmas Day.

“It was a perfectly good shoulder,” she said. “Now it’s mess up. The nerve is damaged … The doctor said that it’s going to take long to heal.”

“It’s very bad,” she said. “He has numbness in a few of his fingers”

She described her son as “skinny,” standing well under six-foot and weighing less than 180 pounds.

Cellphone video taken by a bystander and obtained by the Star shows a police interaction with a mentally ill man at a Toronto apartment building on Dec. 12. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating after the man suffered a serious shoulder injury in the incident.

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia after high school and is on disability for his mental illness, she said.

“He on medication,” she said. “When he’s not on the medication, he gets hostile.”

She said that her son told her he was on the elevator when several police officers arrived.

“He said, ‘Hurry up and come on the elevator.’ That’s when the argument started,” she said, relaying her son’s account.

She said police should be trained to calm things down when dealing with mentally ill people like her son.

“They must know how to take care of sick people,” she said. “Don’t do it in an angry fashion.”

She said she plans to be with her son on Christmas Eve, when he’s admitted to hospital, and Christmas Day, when he undergoes his surgery.

“I’m just going to give him a hug and tell him that I love him,” she said.

An SIU statement released Wednesday said police were leaving the scene of their domestic call when the incident occurred.

“The man was arrested in the lobby and then transported to hospital for treatment of a serious injury,” the SIU statement said.

Two SIU investigators have been assigned to the case.

The SIU asks witnesses to call 1-800-787-8529 and upload video via the SIU website.

Peter Edwards is a Toronto-based reporter primarily covering crime. Reach him by email at pedwards@thestar.ca

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Lawyer calls for expanded SIU mandate after video shows Toronto officer firing at man who was walking away

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A lawyer is calling for the province’s Special Investigations Unit to look into incidents where police fire at — but don’t injure — individuals after his client’s impaired driving charges were dismissed in part because a Toronto police officer fired a shot in the direction of the unarmed man as he was walking away.

Const. Anita Watton is facing disciplinary charges under the Police Services Act for excessive use of force and failing to comply with police training standards for firearm use, following an investigation by the Toronto police Professional Standards Unit. According to the disciplinary tribunal documents, it is alleged that she fired in the direction of Sanchayan Rajasingam, though he posed no imminent threat to her or the public. A tribunal hearing is scheduled for next year. No criminal charges were laid.

When reached by the Star, Watton’s lawyer, Gary Clewley, refused to comment.

Surveillance video obtained by the Star shows the shooting, which took place shortly before 11 a.m. on March 29, 2017. In it, Watton can be seen to fire in the direction of Rajasingam as he had his back to her.

Before Watton could testify at Rajasingam’s trial, which began Monday at the Scarborough courthouse, the impaired driving charges were dismissed by Ontario Court Justice Frank Crewe at the request of the Crown.

Rajasingam’s defence lawyer, Aghi Balachandran, told the court that there should be an external investigation into the case and measures taken to prevent such a thing from happening again. He added that while Watton received medical attention following the shooting — a police witness testified she was “rattled, shaken up from the whole incident” — his client did not.

“The psychological effect of this whole experience has been great on him,” Balachandran told the court.

The SIU is an independent body which investigates incidents involving police where there is serious injury or death — a near miss from a gunshot does not qualify. However, an extensive review of policing oversight conducted by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch recommended that the SIU mandate be expanded to include all firearm discharges at a person by police.

Tulloch specifically noted discharging a firearm is the most serious use of force an officer can use and the “unjustified discharge of a firearm, regardless of the severity of any resulting injury, could constitute a serious criminal offence. For instance, even if a police officer shoots at a person and misses, it could constitute attempted murder.”

The recommendation was included in Liberal legislation that would have overhauled and strengthened police oversight mechanisms in the province. The portion of the legislation that would have expanded the SIU’s mandate was put on hold by Premier Doug Ford in July, the day before it would have gone into effect.

“If the reason the individual was not hit is a matter of (the officer’s) arm moving to the right or to the left one or two inches, then that’s a matter of luck,” Balachandran said in an interview. “Luck should not be the factor that stops an (SIU) investigation from occurring.”

Balachandran said trust between the public and the police remains a problem, but independent, thorough investigations that are “not limited to only the most serious transgressions against the public would do a lot to mend those fences.”

Rajasingam allegedly fled on foot from a “party bus” after a traffic stop conducted by Watton in Scarborough near Markham Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E.

The video obtained by the Star, which does not include audio, shows what happens immediately before and after the shooting.

It shows Rajasingam enter into the frame, running into a parking lot at 140 Adanac Dr. Watton chases him holding her gun in her left hand. He stops, she catches up to him and they stand a few metres apart. He takes five steps toward her and she takes two steps back.

Rajasingam then turns away from her and begins to walk away. She walks after him and fires the gun as he takes his fourth step, still holding it in her left hand with her right hand near her left shoulder, appearing to operate a radio.

It is impossible to tell from the video where the shot goes or how close it came to Rajasingam.

After Watton fires, she takes another step toward Rajasingam. He turns to face her, takes a step forward then stops and turns around to lie on the ground. About forty seconds later, another police car arrives and a different officer appears to handcuff Rajasingam.

“There are a lot of issues in this case,” said Crown James Dunda in court, requesting the charges be dismissed. “It is a unique case, one I’ve never seen in my years here … It is my evaluation that this case is bound not to succeed.” He cited “too many gaps in evidence because of the nature of the way events unfolded.”

Retired Toronto Police officer and use of force expert Mark Valois viewed the video at the request of the Star. His first thought was “wow, what the hell are you doing,” he said.

“I don’t understand why she did what she did,” he said. However, he stressed that there may be many variables that are not evident in the video and that he does not know what was going on in her mind. He said it is unclear what information the officer had about the suspect at the time, what happened before the video starts, and whether it could have justified her actions. It is also not possible to know what they are saying to each other from this video.

It is also unclear whether Watton had a Taser with her.

Officers are trained to fire their guns one-handed and to fire at “centre mass” — the largest area of the body the officer can see, Valois said.

Retired Moose Jaw police chief and long-time Calgary police officer Terry Coleman, who is now a public safety consultant, would not comment on the specific case. However, he noted that in general officers tend to pull out their guns far too soon. “I understand officer safety but once a gun is drawn it tends to be fired even inadvertently,” he said.

Police officers are not trained to fire warning shots or shots to wound a suspect, he said.

Watton was previously investigated by the SIU for the fatal 2013 shooting of Malcolm Jackman outside the same building at 140 Adanac Dr. Then SIU-director Ian Scott found that Watton’s use of lethal force was justified in that case because Jackman was using a knife to hold a person hostage and had refused to drop the knife despite multiple commands.

Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati

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SIU investigates after police ‘interaction’ leaves woman dead in Hamilton

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Police shot and killed a 30-year-old woman after going to a knife call on King Street East early Saturday morning.

The province’s Special Investigation Unit has invoked its mandate and is currently at the scene at 320 King. St. E., just west of Wellington Street.

At about 1 a.m., police received a 911 call about a woman with a knife at a home, which appears to be above a vape shop. Officers who entered became involved in “an interaction” with the woman and one officer used a Taser. It is unclear if the Taser actually connected with the woman.

A second officer shot the woman. She was pronounced dead at hospital at 2:04 a.m.

Six SIU investigators and three forensics investigators have been assigned to this case.

The word “DIE” has been graffitied on the sidewalk in front of the gold-coloured heritage building which was once a butcher shop.

One officer is the subject of the SIU investigation and there are two witness officers.

The SIU says no police officers were injured during the confrontation.

A post-mortem is scheduled for Sunday morning.

As SIU investigators worked the scene, Robert Chinnery walked up to a group of journalists gathered nearby and said police had also killed his son.

His son, Andreas Chinnery, was fatally shot by Hamilton police in 2011 in his own apartment on Barton Street East.

The officer who fired told an inquest that Andreas had charged at him with a baseball bat and refused to drop it. The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Robert has been very vocal since then in his criticism of Hamilton police and what he believes was the unnecessary shooting of his son, who was just 19.

The SIU still hasn’t completed its investigation into the last fatal shooting by Hamilton police in April.

Quinn MacDougall, also 19, was killed outside his Mountain townhouse complex. The teen had called police several times that day, believing his life was in danger based on a social media threat.

The SIU has said officers responded to a call of a threat in progress involving a weapon. However, it has never been made public if any kind of weapon was actually found.

Last year, legislative changes based on a long-awaited review of the SIU made it mandatory for the unit to release its full reports on officer-involved deaths. Before that, the SIU would only tell the public if subject officers were being cleared or charged, with few other details about the incident made public.

The review also recommended the SIU adopt timelines for its investigations: 120 days, and should the probe need to go longer, the family would get an update then and every 60 days thereafter. The MacDougall case has exceeded the 120 days.

The SIU’s website says the investigation is ongoing and the file is under the director’s review.

Anyone with information about Saturday’s homicide can contact the SIU at 1-800-787-8529. Anyone with video of the incident is asked to upload it to the SIU website.

The Hamilton Police Service cannot comment on the shooting now that the SIU is involved. The SIU investigates all serious injuries, deaths and allegations of sexual assault related to police officers.

Susan Clairmont is a crime and social justice columnist at The Hamilton Spectator. Follow her on Twitter: @susanclairmont

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SIU ends probe of Parry Sound man’s death – Barrie

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Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), has terminated its investigation into the death of a 61-year-old man in Parry Sound.

According to the SIU, on Sept. 22 at around 11:45 a.m., an officer was flagged down by two citizens after a man went into medical distress in front of a business on James Street and Seguin Street in Parry Sound.

According to the SIU, one of the citizens told officers the man had just exited a nearby treatment centre.

The SIU says the officer began delivering CPR to the man and administered Narcan nasal spray to him.

The SIU says paramedics arrived and took over first aid and took the man to hospital where he was pronounced dead.


READ MORE:
SIU probing death of Parry Sound man

The SIU had been conducting an investigation into the incident, which has now been terminated.

“Based on the medical evidence, the man appears to have suffered a major cardiac event which led to his death,” SIU director Tony Loparco said in a statement. “While the officer appropriately assessed the situation and administered naloxone in an effort to resuscitate the man, the administration of naloxone was ultimately harmless to the man. As such, I have terminated the investigation into this incident.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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