Ontario’s police watchdog says surveillance video at the Toronto apartment building where 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet died has been secured.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) officials released an update on their investigation Monday afternoon.
The statement came days after the lawyer for Korchinski-Paquet’s family, Knia Singh, called on the agency to ensure investigators reviewed the High Park Avenue building’s camera system.
The SIU also said interviews have been completed with a subject officer, five witness officers and four civilian witnesses. The agency said interviews with family members are expected to occur during the week.
“While the investigation is ongoing, the details of the interviews and the video footage will not be released in an effort to ensure the memories of other potential witnesses are not tainted,” the SIU statement said.
“The SIU appreciates the public interest in this case and is doing what it can to get answers to the public as quickly as possible while ensuring that the integrity of the investigation is not compromised.
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“We ask for the public’s continued patience, and to avoid making any premature conclusions.”
The exact circumstances inside the apartment unit weren’t publicly shared by the SIU as of Monday.
The SIU investigates the conduct of the responding officers in instances where there has been death, serious injury or alleged sexual assault.
Thousands of residents attended a peaceful protest march in Toronto on Saturday in honour of Korchinski-Paquet. Attendees also called for action to address the wider issues of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.
Officers were called to Korchinski-Paquet’s apartment on High Park Avenue Wednesday afternoon after Singh said Korchinski-Paquet’s mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, called 911 because her daughter was in distress over a family conflict and the call was made out of “safety” and “concern.”
Singh said the two, along with her brother, met police in the hallway leading to their 24th-floor apartment. He said she pleaded with officers to take Korchinski-Paquet to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for mental health support. Family members said she was also having an epileptic seizure.
When Korchinski-Paquet told officers she needed to use the bathroom, Singh said officers followed her into the apartment unit and that when her brother tried to get her, he was stopped. The family was not in the unit while Korchinski-Paquet and police were in the apartment unit.
After a couple of minutes, Singh said Korchinski-Paquet called out saying, “Mom, help. Mom, help. Mom, help.” A short time later, he said the family found out Korchinski-Paquet was on the ground.
“I asked the police yesterday if they could take my daughter to CAMH and my daughter ended up dead, so I don’t understand,” Beals-Clayton told reporters on Thursday.
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Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said on Friday that Toronto police received three calls to 911 Wednesday afternoon from three different people. He said the calls indicated there was an assault and that weapons were present. Saunders said officers and paramedics were dispatched to the scene and that police were there within four minutes.
Singh told Global News he didn’t hear the 911 calls referenced by Saunders, but added there were no weapons present when officers arrived and there was no dispute at the time.
Soon after Korchinski-Paquet died on Wednesday, Beals-Clayton claimed in a video posted on Instagram that police officers “shoved” Korchinski-Paquet off the apartment balcony. The Toronto Police Association, the union representing officers, later called the allegation “unfounded.”
Singh told reporters on Friday the family “had a lot of emotion and grief” when the video was filmed. He said the family was in the apartment hallway 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.”
When it comes to matters of mental health, Singh said people should be approached with “respect and caution.”
“In this circumstance, they believe that their daughter was not met with that action by police and if police had acted differently she could still be alive today,” he said.
Saunders, Mayor John Tory, the Toronto Police Services Board and police union officials echoed the calls for a transparent and complete investigation by the SIU, and for the results to be shared as soon as possible.
“The Toronto Police Service shares the same concerns of the community and we all want the facts as much as everybody. The trust of the community and of the public is of paramount importance to the Toronto Police Service as well as myself as the chief,” Saunders said on Friday.
Saunders also called for an expedited rollout of body-worn cameras, calling Korchinski-Paquet’s death a “textbook” example for the need of cameras. He said the cameras should begin to rollout by the end of September, but added not all frontline officers will be equipped with the cameras and cited logistical issues.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign launched to help Korchinski-Paquet’s family with funeral and legal expenses received more than $132,000 in donations as of Monday afternoon.
Anyone with information about Wednesday’s incident was asked to call the SIU at 1-800-787-8529.