Family of Koray Celik still looking for answers, 2 years after death in police intervention
Bureau of independent investigations dismissed eyewitnesses, treated them 'like bunch of liars,' says father
Family and friends of Koray Kevin Celik gathered outside a police station in Montreal's West Island Wednesday night, to protest against what they say is a lack of accountability by the independent agency that investigated Celik's death.
Celik was pronounced dead in hospital in the early morning of March 6, 2017, after a police intervention in the Île–Bizard home where he lived with his parents and siblings.
"We intend to demonstrate our intention to keep his spirit alive," said Cesur Celik, Koray's father, at the candlelight vigil in Pierrefonds.
Eyewitness reports 'discarded,' says father
Cesur and his wife June were interviewed by the Bureau of independent investigations (BEI), the agency that investigates cases in which a person is seriously injured or killed during a police operation.
But they say their testimony was not taken seriously, based on the public statement released by the BEI 18 months after Koray's death. They are suing the BEI over that statement.
"Events took place in front of our eyes, in our home, in our corridor. We were eyewitnesses. And BEI discarded 100 per cent of that," Cesur said.
"We are, in their eyes, [a] bunch of liars."
Around 2 a.m. on the day of Koray's death, the parents called police for assistance for their son who was in crisis. The four officers who arrived at the house were informed that the man was intoxicated.
The BEI statement says that Koray was aggressive toward police and would not follow orders. It goes on to say that an officer tried to control him using a baton, and the three other officers brought him to the ground.
The statement says the officers then "rapidly realized that [Koray] was now unconscious and did not have a pulse," and subsequent attempts to revive him at the scene were unsuccessful.
However, the family says that's not the whole story.
Cesur's parents, who both witnessed the intervention, said police came running into a room where Koray was sitting on a bed, shining a flashlight in his face.
"There is no mention of severe beating, brutal beating, choking, kicking, until ... his heart stopped," said Cesur.
"Despite our begging and screaming and yelling for them to stop, he gave his last breath in their hands."
He said that police continued to beat his son after he had been handcuffed.
The family says only the side of police officers was included in the public statement and that by including that Koray was aggressive but omitting other details of the intervention, the BEI is absolving police of their responsibility in his death.
The BEI does not release its full reports to the public.
The family is seeking $50,000 in damages, but Cesur says the main aim of the lawsuit is to shed light on a body that he says is not accountable to its citizens.
The lawsuit alleges the BEI acted unlawfully when it published an account of the intervention that was one-sided and included information not required by the Police Act.
"My heart bleeds," said Koray's brother Tyler Kerem, who was also at Wednesday's vigil.
"How can we go this long without any answers?"
With files from Matt D'Amours