The family of a mentally ill man shot and killed by police west of Toronto this spring says their son deserved better.
Days after Ontario’s police watchdog found no basis to lay criminal charges against the Peel Region officer who shot D’Andre Campbell, his family says the 26-year-old was failed by authorities who should have protected him.
“D’Andre deserved better,” his family said in a statement issued to The Canadian Press.
“Some of the most vulnerable people in our communities deserve better.”
Campbell lived with his parents and six siblings in their Brampton, Ont., home. It was a boisterous place, filled with love, music and his heavy footsteps — he was the only one who wore his shoes inside the house, they said.
The young Black man — called Dion by his family and friends — lived for nearly a decade with schizophrenia. He was prescribed medication and lived much of his life symptom-free, his family said. He was a homebody who loved to laugh and listen to music, they recalled.
“D’Andre spent much of his time at home, where he felt safe,” his family said.
“D’Andre lived with the challenges associated with mental illness. However, he was not defined by his challenges and had so much to offer.”
Campbell and several others in the throes of mental health breakdowns have died after police were called to their homes this year.
Some of those deaths, including Campbell’s, sparked protests calling for police to be defunded and some of that money to be spent on a new approach to dealing with those in crisis.
On the day he died, in early April, Campbell called 911 and demanded officers show up to deal with an argument in the home, according to the report on his death from Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit.
He didn’t give the dispatcher his address because he said “police had a tracking system on him and knew where he lived,” the report issued Monday by the police watchdog said.
Campbell’s family has told The Canadian Press they didn’t know he made that initial call.
They said they did not notice anything out of the ordinary about his behaviour that day.
The SIU said two officers arrived at the home and were let in by Campbell’s mother, who told them her son suffered from mental illness.
The officers had also already been told by the dispatcher that Campbell lived with mental illness, the report said.
Police found Campbell in the kitchen holding a large knife and ordered him to drop it, the SIU report said.
Campbell approached the officers, one of whom then fired his stun gun twice, the SIU said. Campbell fell onto the floor and a fight ensued, the SIU said, but the officers were unable to take the knife away.
All three then returned to their feet, the kitchen island between Campbell and the officers.
Both officers drew their guns and one shot Campbell twice in his abdomen, the SIU said.
Campbell died in the kitchen.
His family took issue with some parts of the SIU’s version of events, said their lawyer, Jeremy Solomon. He wouldn’t specific which portions, however, citing the possibility of upcoming civil action.
SIU Director Joseph Martino said in his report that he believed the officers acted in self defence.
He noted, however, that there were legitimate criticisms about how two officers handled the situation.
They did not make attempts to try and calm Campbell, Martino said, and they failed to discuss how they would approach him before they arrived.
The SIU also noted Peel regional police had been called to the home on multiple occasions since 2011 to check on Campbell’s mental health.
He was apprehended several times under the Mental Health Act, the SIU report said, and on other occasions the crisis team left without incident.
Campbell’s family said they are left with many questions.
“Why was D’Andre’s interaction with police on this day different? Why were the officers not prepared to address D’Andre’s needs and circumstances? Why, on April 6, did the police not serve and protect D’Andre, as they had on previous occasions?” they said.
They also asked why Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah hadn’t reached out directly to offer his condolences to them.
A spokeswoman for the chief said Duraiappah offered his condolences publicly to the family after Campbell’s death.
Following the SIU’s report, Duraiappah also issued a statement saying the force is working on improving mental health resources to fill “gaps in the human services systems that must be addressed or we will face similar tragic circumstances again in the future.”
The Campbell family’s lawyer said the young man’s death was preventable.
“Whether errors were made by the officers responding to D’Andre’s request for help, or the training they received was inadequate for interactions with people suffering a mental health crisis, changes must be made,” Solomon said.
Campbell would have turned 27 on Thursday.