Members of the community were hoping to obtain new details in a newly-released report by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) into the Toronto police shooting death of Andrew Loku.
Disappointed residents still welcomed the first-time release of a SIU report into Loku’s death last week even though it was heavily censored, with many of its 34 pages missing or with large sections of information redacted (blacked out).
The release of the March 15 report stemmed from public pressure by politicians and community groups, like Black Lives Matter-Toronto, whose members recently staged a boisterous 15-day protest outside police headquarters.
The SIU cleared Toronto Police of any wrongdoing in the slaying of Loku, who suffered from mental challenges and was allegedly waving a hammer.
The confidential report, which is available online, said police responded to a call around midnight on July 5, 2015 to an apartment on Gilbert Ave., where they encountered Loku in a third-floor hallway. He was armed with a hammer, the SIU said.
Loku, 45, of South Sudan, was approaching police with the hammer and was “within two to three metres of the officer’s position” when he was shot, the report noted. Loku was “eight to nine” metres away when police arrived at the scene.
“Mr. Loku ignored their commands and advanced towards the officers” when he was shot, the document said. “Mr. Loku went to the floor dropping the hammer.”
It said the father and husband, who was waiting for his family to join him in Canada, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The report determined that an officer used “justifiable force” in the shooting and said police were unaware that Loku suffered from mental health issues.
SIU Director Tony Loparco ruled the shooting was “legally justified” and there were no grounds for laying criminal charges against the officer who pulled the trigger.
The SIU report said Loku had been in a dispute with a tenant over noise complaints and had allegedly threatened to kill the person, when someone called 911.
The report also stated that Loku was given ample warnings and time by police to drop the hammer, killing him dead.
Loparco said he was satisfied that the officer had to do what was necessary to protect himself.
“The officer did what was necessaryto thwart the imminent threat by Loku”, Loparco wrote. They were “confronted with a large, armed and violent suspect, who had neared to within three metres or less and was refusing to stop”.
He said police were not told by Canadian Mental Health Association officials that the building housed mentally challenged tenants and officers did not know Loku suffered from an illness. The report stated the association did not want the building identified or it would become a stigma in the community.
“This case is a classic example of how conduct of the type detracts from community confidence,” said Loparco.
The report noted there were gaps missing in the video recording of the shooting, which may have occurred after police tried to improperly download parts of the video. A section of the video where Loku was shot is missing and the SIU believes the camera may not have been operational at the time.
Loparco said police should not be attempting to download or view video without the permission of the SIU and has filed a complaint with Chief Mark Saunders calling for the practice to end.
Members of Black Lives Matter say they are pleased that the report has been released but it doesn’t end the systematic racism that exists.
Kingsley Gilliam, of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), said he welcomed the report being made public.
“We and others have been calling for this all along,” Gilliam told Share. “This has been a great day of vindication for BADC.”
The group had also called for the replacement of Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur for negligence for allegedly bungling the Loku file and for a senior judge to conduct an inquiry into policing and the police oversight bodies, which was done with the naming of Judge Michael Tulloch to lead the review.
“The Black Action Defense Committee firmly believes that only a judicial inquiry can get to the bottom of this crisis of confidence in policing,” said Gilliam.