Inquest called for Andrew Loku’s death in police shooting that sparked protests

A man holds a photo of Andrew Loku.
A man holds a photo of Andrew Loku. The Canadian Press/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A coroner’s inquest has been ordered for a mentally ill man killed in a Toronto police shooting that ignited local Black Lives Matter protests.

The coroner’s office said Wednesday the inquest will examine the events surrounding Andrew Loku’s shooting and that, as in other inquests, the jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.

A date for the inquest was not announced.

Loku, 45, was shot last July by police after officers were called to an apartment by a woman who said Loku had a hammer and was threatening to kill her friend.

READ MORE: No charges laid against Toronto police officer who fatally shot Andrew Loku

According to an investigation by the province’s police watchdog, two responding officers told Loku to drop the hammer as he walked toward them with the tool raised above his head.

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As Loku continued to move towards the officers and came within a few metres of one of them, an officer shot him twice, killing him.

The Special Investigations Unit ruled last month the officer did not exceed the range of justifiable force.

READ MORE: Wynne meets with Black Lives Matter protesters in front of legislature

That finding sparked a two week camp-out at police headquarters by Black Lives Matters Toronto protesters. The group has demanded an inquest into Loku’s death, as well as the public release of the two officers’ names and an overhaul of the of the SIU watchdog.

Co-founder Sandy Hudson told Global News the group was “celebrating the victory right now.”

“This type of move would not have happened had we not taken that action,” she said.

Hudson said the group wants building surveillance video recorded at the time of the shooting released, and for the coroner’s inquest to begin promptly.

Protesters camp out front of the Toronto Police Headquarters in Toronto on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Protesters camp out front of the Toronto Police Headquarters in Toronto on Monday, March 21, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

The Toronto branch of Canadian Mental Health Association last week took the rare step of writing to the chief coroner calling for an inquest into Loku’s death.

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The letter said it did not appear police tried to de-escalate the situation or use methods other than use of force.

The CMHA said Loku lived in a supportive housing unit it provides for those with mental illness.

Former police board chair Alok Mukherjee welcomed the inquest, saying it will explore “difficult issues” relating to the death.

“I very much hope that the Coroner will take into consideration the fact that Mr. Loku was a Black man suffering from mental illness,” Mukherjee said in an email.