Groups call for coroner's inquest in to death of man fatally shot by Toronto police
A number of Toronto groups are calling for a coroner’s inquest into the death of 45-year-old Andrew Loku after the Toronto police officer who fatally shot the man last summer was cleared of any wrongdoing by the SIU last week.
During a news conference on Monday morning, representatives from Loku’s family, the African Canadian Legal Clinic, the Anti-Black Racism Network, the Canadian Mental Health Association-Toronto and Across Boundaries condemned the SIU’s decision not to lay charges against the officer responsible for Loku’s death.
“After the decision of the SIU… Andrew Loku has once again become one more statistic in a long line of black men living with mental health issues killed at the hands of the Toronto police,” said Aseefa Sarang, the executive director of Across Boundaries, a Toronto community mental health centre.
“On this day today, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, it is ironic that we stand here seeking justice for a black man fatally shot by the Toronto police.”
Loku was killed on July 5, 2015 following a late-night interaction with Toronto police at an apartment building in the area of Caledonia and Rogers roads.
In a news release sent out Friday, the SIU said two officers were called to the building after receiving reports that Loku, armed with a hammer, was threatening to kill a woman.
According to the SIU, the officers confronted Loku in a third-floor hallway and ordered him to stop and drop the hammer.
The SIU report states that Loku was shot twice after he refused to drop the weapon and moved within two to three metres of the officer who pulled the trigger.
SIU director Tony Loparco said in Friday’s release that the officer who killed Loku “feared for his life and that of his partner” and concluded that the officer’s use of force was justifiable.
But Sarang said the incident highlights the systemic problems with discrimination in both the Toronto Police Service and its overseeing body.
“When we stood here eight months ago, the loss of Andrew Loku sent shockwaves through many communities,” Sarang said.
“We had cried at the killing of an innocent man when it was understood that police did not attempt to rely on non-lethal alternatives and elected to shoot Mr. Loku in circumstances where such a use of force was arguably avoidable.”
She said the groups and the man’s family are demanding a “transparent, fair and honest inquest.”
“Andrew Loku was a husband, a father, a friend and a recent graduate from college. Even if he wasn’t all of that, he was a black man. He was a human being,” she said.
Anthony Morgan, a lawyer with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, said major changes are needed with policing in Toronto.
“We cannot continue to allow the SIU to permit police to prescribe triggers over treatment,” he said.
“Triggers over treatment is all they offered Mr. Loku. Two shots in the chest of a black man in mental distress… We have to decide whether that is an acceptable standard of policing within our Ontario communities.”
The SIU’s decision has also sparked protests organized by members of Toronto’s Black Lives Matter group.
On Sunday night and Monday morning, demonstrators gathered in Nathan Phillips Square and Toronto police headquarters to protest the SIU report.