The coroner’s inquest into the fatal police shooting of Andrew Loku began on Monday. Mr. Loku was fatally shot by police in July of 2015.
A Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation cleared the two officers responsible in March of 2016. According to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the coroner’s inquest will examine the events surrounding Mr. Loku’s death and the jury will make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths. The coroner’s inquest is not designed to reverse or overturn the SIU investigation.
A father of five, Mr. Loku came to Canada as a refugee in 2004. He experienced post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from his kidnapping and torture in Sudan. He was shot and killed in the apartment building where he lived, in a subsidized apartment arranged by the Canadian Mental Health Association. Mr. Loku was 45 at the time of his death.
Because he was a racialized man who was an immigrant and had mental health issues, Mr. Loku’s death raises several issues about police conduct in similar situations. These include how police interact with individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis or have mental health issues, are racialized, or are immigrants.
According to the Office of the Chief Coroner & Ontario Forensic Pathology Service, the focus of the inquest will include police training and de-escalation techniques, the interaction of race, mental illness and unconscious bias, and the relationship between police and mental health agencies concerning the sharing of information and cooperation.
As part of the coroner’s inquest, the 911 call that preceded the shooting was released. In the recording, the caller tells the operator that Mr. Loku was in the hallway outside of their apartment with a hammer, and alleges that he was threatening to kill her friend. The police arrived and can be heard ordering Mr. Loku to “drop the hammer”. 19 seconds later, the sound of gunshots is audible.
The coroner’s inquest is expected to take three weeks and will hear from 12 parties, including Mr. Loku’s family, four individual Toronto Police officers, the Toronto Chief of Police, and the Canadian Mental Health Association.
CCLA’s submission to the presiding coroner is available here.
This blog post was written by a CCLA RightsWatch Summer Student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA.