Caleb Tubila Njoko’s mother is calling for justice after her son died following a 15-storey fall from a balcony in London, Ont., after she called the police for help.
Njoko, 27, passed away in hospital on May 8, three days after the fall.
On May 5, his mother, Nelly Wendo, said she was worried about his mental health.
She had brought him to her house after his friends called her, saying they were concerned about him and that he had started acting out.
“I wanted to call an ambulance, but in Canada, you have to call 911,” she said in her native French.
According to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario’s police watchdog, officers were called to an apartment building on Walnut Street at roughly 11:15 p.m. Tuesday “in relation to a man in distress.”
After this, Wendo said several police officers arrived at the apartment, and her son slammed the door, saying “I don’t want to see you” to police and barricading himself inside.
She said police surrounded the building and she was only able to speak to him over the phone.
“Police want to help you, you’re making your mother suffer,” she remembers saying to him.
Wendo said the last words he said to her over the phone were “I know that you love me” before falling off her balcony.
The week prior, Njoko had had a run-in with the police, which Wendo believes is why he slammed the door on them.
On April 28, Njoko was charged with attempting to commit a dual procedure offence and obstructing a peace officer.
Police say a suspect unsuccessfully tried to steal a pizza delivery driver’s vehicle then resisted arrest.
Njoko was taken to hospital for a non-life-threatening injury that police say occurred during the confrontation with the delivery driver.
Wendo told Global News that because police sent a lot of officers that day, she felt they were treating him like a criminal instead of someone who needed help.
Looking back, she said she believes the previous incident with police played a role in his death.
“I want to find a lawyer,” she said. “Caleb is dead because of them, and I need justice.”
The events surrounding his fall from the balcony are still under investigation by the SIU. According to the SIU, one officer is being investigated and three are being spoken to as witnesses.
Jonthan Hans, a friend of Njoko, agrees with Wendo and questions whether police were the right people to help a person with mental health issues, arguing they saw him as a “delinquent” instead of someone in need of help.
The two attended high school together, and Hans said that despite some poor decisions, that’s not how he wants his friend to be remembered.
“He was a go-getter, he was ready to help out whoever needed help and was there to support his friends,” Hans said.
Hans said his friend was trying to figure things out in life and struggled with homelessness for a time.
He added that Njoko was trying to put his life together and had gotten a job.
“He had nothing but a kind heart and was just trying to be successful in life,” Hans said.
His death came just weeks before that of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Toronto woman who fell to her death following an interaction with Toronto police.
According to a statement issued by the SIU, Toronto police officers were called to an apartment building on High Park Avenue north of Bloor Street West at around 5:15 p.m. on May 26 with reports of a “domestic incident.”
“Regis was in distress over a family conflict, and her mother sought police assistance to bring calm to the situation,” Knia Singh, a principal lawyer with Ma’at Legal Services who is representing Korchinski-Paquet’s family, said during a press conference the day after her death.
It’s unclear at this time what happened when Paquet fell from the 24th-floor balcony to her death, but the incident has seen thousands of Canadians rally and call for justice in her case.
— With files from Jacquelyn LeBel, Annabelle Olivier, Jessica Patton and Nick Westoll