Calgary Police Service Chief Mark Neufeld held a news conference Tuesday to correct what he called misinformation on social and traditional media after officers fatally shot a man on Saturday.
Police shot and killed Latjor Tuel in the 4500 block of 17 Avenue S.E. after receiving a weapons complaint on Feb. 19.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said Tuesday that Tuel, 41, was holding a stick and a knife, adding a witness reported he hit someone with the stick.
Not a mental health call
Because someone was struck, Neufeld said police were responding to an assault call in a busy public place — not a mental health call.
“With the situation and information that was provided to Calgary 911, this situation involved a person armed with weapons who had committed an assault. This was a police call, and police were the appropriate resource,” he said.
“As long as the person is in possession of weapons and there isn’t a productive dialogue that can actually lead toward the person relinquishing those, that’s a very significant crisis situation, which makes it very difficult for mental health professionals or other professionals to do the important work that they do.”
Neufeld said officers did not know of Tuel’s mental health issues.
“A lot was reported in the days that followed in relation to his personal situation. Now one thing to understand, though, is that the police officers responding to this call and calls like it did not have the benefit of any of that information,” he said.
“What they did know is that an individual was in possession of weapons and had committed an assault.”
Officers arrived and surrounded Tuel “from a distance,” telling him to drop the knife, ASIRT said. Neufeld said Tuel ignored police directions.
Neufeld said officers’ less-lethal weapons — ARWEN baton rounds, a taser and a police service dog (PSD) — were used without success.
The dog’s handler pulled the animal back as Tuel advanced in their direction, ASIRT said.
“In the ensuing altercation, the man swung the stick and stabbed the knife at the dog while the dog bit the man and officers used conductive energy weapons on him,” ASIRT said.
Neufeld said PSD Jack was stabbed in the neck and rushed to an emergency vet hospital. Police previously said the dog was in stable condition.
“While attacking the dog, the man continued to move toward the officers. Two officers discharged their service weapons, striking the man,” he said.
EMS provided medical care, but Tuel was pronounced dead at the scene, ASIRT said.
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Neufeld offers condolences
Neufeld offered his condolences to Tuel’s family and the Sudanese community, acknowledging the grief with which many are now coping.
“By all accounts, Mr. Tuel was well-known and well-respected in his community, and his death is most certainly being felt by many,” he said.
There is a delicate balance between supporting the Sudanese community in a time of grief and correcting misinformation, Neufeld said.
“His death is a tragedy, and the Sudanese community is in deep mourning at this loss. They have shared their grief and concern with us throughout the weekend, and we hear how intensely they’ve been impacted,” he said.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said it’s “an incredibly sorrowful” time, and people are left with many questions.
“It’s a really difficult time for everybody. Loss of life in our city is tragic whenever it happens, and in this particular case, we’re grieving over the loss of a man who had tremendous impact within his community — not only the neighbourhood he lived in, but also the Sudanese community in Calgary,” she said.
“I’m concerned that we haven’t built a strong enough network for newcomers to be supported when they come here, especially when they bring with them incredibly complex trauma,” she said, adding the city has to strengthen its social support and mental health networks.
Family friends previously told Global News that Tuel had been a child soldier.
Kay L, executive director of Black Lives Matter Calgary, said police need better mental health training, noting there were many other options they had to de-escalate the situation, especially with one of Tuel’s family members on scene.
Race was an issue in the shooting, he added.
“I think that the Black male has become an object of fear… so that causes the police officers to act differently. It causes the police officers to be more on guard and perhaps pull their weapons more quickly than they would with a Caucasian individual,” he said.
“I think that plays a role. I don’t think it’s the forefront. I don’t think it’s the main issue in this case, but I do think it’s in the shadows, and I do think that it did play a small part in the situation.”
Many people have been forever changed, Neufeld said, including Tuel’s family and friends, the Sudanese community in Calgary and beyond, bystanders, and officers and their families.
“It’s very difficult to hear people speak callously about situations that result in the loss of a life as if they don’t also affect the police officers that are involved,” he said.
“No police officer comes to work thinking that, ‘Today is the day I will take a life.’ These are people who come to serve and protect the community and to keep people safe.”
A ‘fluid’ situation
He said CPS “hires good people” and they are well-equipped. Officers had a “significant amount of preplanning in how to deal with this situation,” Neufeld said.
“These things are fluid, as we saw here. As the incident went on, the man went from seated on the ground to standing up and moving around,” he said.
“There was concerns about him being able to break containment and move outside of that, where he could become a threat to other individuals or, in fact, becoming a threat to officers, which is what ended up happening at the end.
“Having watched the video myself, I was very, very uncomfortable with the proximity of the man to the officers while in possession of that knife. That would have been a big concern to me. But again, you’re talking about the mindset of these officers, which will be part of the investigation.”
If you witnessed the shooting, contact investigators at 403-592-4306.