Toronto police are wielding virtually absolute power to perpetrate all kinds of abuses such as arbitrary detentions, unmercifully beatings on detainees, to cripple people under custody or innocent bystanders, extrajudicial killings… all under the watchful eyes of the repressive regimes. These cherubs of death were given by the federal, provincial government and the mayors of Toronto a free hand to do whatever they pleased. The public is a witness about the kind of criminal minds that were allowed to perpetrate gross inhumane crimes against humanity.
‘He’s not a fighting person,’ says family of man killed by police
Worried about independent witnesses to the shooting, the family of Alex Wettlaufer is hoping to obtain surveillance video that may have captured parts of the fatal shooting
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It could be months or longer before officials reveal whether the North York man fatally shot by Toronto police Sunday night was carrying a weapon the night he died.
The family of Alex Wettlaufer, the 21-year-old man shot by police in a dark ravine in Villaways Park, claim he was unarmed at the time of his death, and that he was holding a phone, not a weapon.
“He’s not a fighting person, he’s not a bad person . . . doesn’t carry any weapons, doesn’t do drugs,” Timothy Wettlaufer, one of Alex’s older brothers, said in an interview Wednesday.
The issue is at the heart of the investigation into Wettlaufer’s death, a probe currently being conducted by the Special Investigations Unit, the civilian agency that probes police-involved deaths.
The civilian agency released new information Wednesday, confirming that three officers discharged their firearms during the incident, though it’s not clear how many times Wettlaufer was shot or which of the officers’ bullets hit him.
But the civilian watchdog says it cannot reveal whether Wettlaufer was armed because the investigation is ongoing. The vital piece of information may not be provided until the probe is completed, a process that typically takes several months, or up to a year.
The Wettlaufer family maintains that Alex was on the phone with his mother, Wendy, as police approached. Seconds after hanging up, Wendy — who had left the family home on Adra Villaway, and had gone walking to the park area where Wettlaufer was killed — says she could hear the shots ring out.
They are now hoping to find a lawyer to help obtain any surveillance video that may have captured parts of the incident, Timothy said. They want to obtain as much information as possible that could help explain how his “soft-hearted” brother wound up fatally shot by police.
The family is hopeful TTC cameras may have captured some of the initial altercation, which began near Leslie station. However, Timothy said he is concerned there may be little independent evidence — such as witness accounts or video evidence — from the dark ravine where the shooting occurred.
The incident began late March 13, when officers were called to the Leslie subway station to investigate reports of a fight between two men, one of them allegedly carrying a gun.
One of the men fled to the nearby park, where there was a confrontation with Toronto police, including members of a highly trained tactical unit, the Emergency Task Force (ETF).
Toronto police cannot comment on the investigation, including whether any of the responding officers sported the body-worn cameras currently being tested in the force’s pilot project. It is known, however, that no member of the ETF squad is currently participating in the yearlong project, which involves only officers from two police divisions — one downtown and one in Scarborough — and from Traffic Services and the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross would not confirm if any part of the incident is captured on surveillance video, but said any relevant footage would have been handed over to the SIU.
In a heated exchange with a reporter asking about Wettlaufer’s death in a news conference Tuesday, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said he has repeatedly explained that legally he cannot comment on an incident once the SIU takes over.
“To ask me a question, knowing that it would be unlawful for me to answer, is not really fair,” he said.
According to the Police Services Act, the provincial legislation governing policing, officers “shall not, during the course of an investigation by the SIU into an incident, disclose to any person any information with respect to the incident or the investigation.”
The regulation is intended to ensure the integrity of the independent investigation, but some critics say it creates a situation where the public is left in the dark about a high-profile issue, often for months at a time.
Darryl Davies, a criminology instructor at Carleton University, said the province should consider changing the Police Act, currently under review by the ministry of community safety. Davies says there is far more information about fatal shootings when they don’t involve police, and that’s not they way it should be.
“There is no justification for treating the cases differently. In fact one could argue that because the shooting is by a person employed, trained and paid by a government entity that there should in fact be more transparency and not less,” Davies said.
However Mark Valois, a former Toronto Police officer and retired use-of-force training officer, said the legal gag-order works the other way, and it can be “very frustrating.”
“Absolutely there’s times when things happen, and things are hitting the news, there’s rumours and you might read something and say, ‘that’s not what happened, but I can’t say anything,’ ” he said.
Toronto mayor John Tory said Wednesday that the shooting is “tragic for that family and for the city,” and highlighted new training being provided by police “in a whole bunch of areas.”
“(That includes) dealing with people in crisis and dealing with the use of force and so on to make sure that the objective is what it is, which is that there should be zero instances of this kind if that’s possible.”
Wettlaufer is the second man to be killed by Toronto police in under two weeks. On March 4, 30-year-old Ottawa man Devon LaFleur was shot dead by police in a confrontation outside a women’s shelter, in the Steeles Ave. and Bayview Ave. area. The SIU is currently investigating.
A funeral is expected to be held for Wettlaufer later this week, said Timothy. The family has launched a Go Fund Me page to help cover the funeral costs.
This article has been corrected from a previous version which stated Wettlaufer's mother was in the family home while on the phone with her son. She was near the family home, which is adjacent to the wooded park area where Wettlaufer was shot, and was walking in the park area.
With files from Jennifer Pagliaro
Wendy Gillis can be reached at email@example.com
From: To Serve & Protect - To Cherubim’s of death