Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has called for calm after the death of a 29-year-old woman who fell from a 24th-floor balcony while officers were in her home.
The death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet has sparked questions from the woman’s family, local politicians, and on social media about the role of police officers in the incident.
“I request the public and communities wait for all of the facts regarding this case so that we can move forward once we establish exactly what happened that evening,” Chief Mark Saunders said at a news conference.
Saunders said police received three 9-1-1 calls about an alleged assault at the apartment that involved knives.
Officers arrived within four minutes of the call, he said. The family has alleged police were involved in her death.
Many others took to social media in anger and a protest is planned for Saturday.
The torrent of social media posts bothered Saunders.
“A lot of it is misinformation, a lot of it is lies,” he said. “I’m asking people to wait for the truth.”
On Thursday, Korchinski-Paquet’s mother said she wanted answers from police.
“I asked police yesterday if they could take my daughter to CAMH (the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), and my daughter ended up dead,” her mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton said. “So I don’t understand.”
The SIU said it has interviewed multiple witnesses — including four officers — in their investigation so far.
Saunders said paramedics were also at the scene.
He said this is a textbook case for the importance of body-worn cameras, which Toronto police do not wear. Saunders said he has asked to expedite the process to roll out those cameras.
SIU spokeswoman Monica Hudon said that they’ve identified a subject officer in the investigation and will interview them later Friday.
“The scene was examined, and a canvass of the area was completed in an effort to locate witnesses and video footage,” Hudon said in a statement.
“Investigators have spoken to several civilians who were able to shed some light on what transpired.”
Toronto’s police union expressed its concerns Friday about what it called unfounded allegations that officers pushed Korchinski-Paquet off her balcony.
“The comments posted on social media are opportunistic and sensationalize this tragic event with blatant disregard for evidence or fact,” read a statement from the Toronto Police Association.
“Comments made without facts are a disservice to the community and the police.”
Knia Singh, a lawyer who represents Korchinski-Paquet’s family, told reporters Friday afternoon the family “had a lot of emotion and grief” in that initial video on Wednesday. He noted the family was not in the unit at the time the officers were inside the unit.
“They called for police assistance and their daughter ended up dead. Some concerns are being raised about the mother saying that the police threw her daughter off the balcony,” Singh said.
“I can verify on behalf of the family that this was not witnessed by the mother. However, at the time of the statement, that is what the mother believed.”
Singh reiterated the family’s call for a “fulsome” investigation and wants “to get to the bottom of the truth.”
“The mother believes that if police had acted differently, that her daughter would still be alive,” he said.
The association and Toronto’s police board have asked that the SIU move as quickly as possible in their investigation and provide updates so that the public can be presented with the facts.
However, Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam has questioned the SIU’s ability to investigate the incident.
“Every time the SIU gets involved, the same concerns always come to mind. How can families and the public be assured accountability and transparency,” the councillor said in a Twitter post on Thursday.
— With files from Nick Westoll