The brother of a man who died in handcuffs on an Ontario jail cell floor after an altercation with guards says he sees similarities between his brother’s story and that of B.C.’s Myles Gray.
Yusuf Faqiri, whose brother Soleiman had schizophrenia, is calling for greater oversight and accountability for deaths involving law enforcement.
Soleiman died face down wearing spit hood at the Central East Correctional Centre in 2016 following an altercation with guards that left him pepper sprayed, and with more than 50 injuries in total.
Court documents released this week suggest the six guards allegedly involved did not follow their own use of force protocols. His official cause of death was “unascertained” according to the coroner’s report.
Gray died in 2015 after an encounter with Vancouver police, which left him with injuries including a fractured voice box, a broken nose, eye socket, and sternum, and a ruptured testicle.
Officers had been called to a report of an agitated man, leading to a 20-minute altercation that also left two officers with injuries. An autopsy was unable to conclude an exact cause of death.
In both cases, no one was charged in the deaths.
“The Ontario Provincial Police made a remarkable and astonishing rationale in that they said, ‘we could not press charges against the guards because we do not know which guard gave the fatal blow’,” Faqiri said.
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In Gray’s case, prosecutors said they would not approve charges because they could not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that any offence was committed.
In announcing its decision this week, the BC Prosecution Service said the seven officers involved were the only eyewitnesses, and said they “provided an incomplete and, in several respects, inconsistent accounts of the detail and sequence of events” in the critical 10 minutes around Gray’s death.
Faqiri said the similarities between the cases were troubling and called on Gray’s family not to give up their fight for answers.
“There will be more tragedies like this if we do not change how law enforcement approaches individuals with mental illness, and also how they need to themselves be held to account,” he said.
“We as families, not only do we lose our loved ones, but by this lack of accountability and justice … it seems that our loved ones continue to die in front of us, but that does not necessarily mean that we can not stop fighting.”
On Saturday, the Gray family responded to Faqiri’s comments.
“Thank you Soleiman and Myles for bringing our families together,” they wrote.
Faqiri’s family is currently involved in a $14.3 million lawsuit against the Ontario government over his brother’s death.
Gray’s case has returned to the jurisdiction of B.C.’s police complaints commissioner, now that the criminal file has been closed.
In response to the prosecution service’s decision this week, Vancouver police said “This has been a tough, tragic situation for everyone involved. We respect the decision from Crown counsel and don’t have anything further to add at this point.”