Montreal

Father of Île–Bizard man who died after police intervention welcomes public inquiry

Cesur Celik says the announcement of a coroners inquiry is the first positive thing he's heard from authorities since his son died in 2017.

Koray Celik died in 2017 in his family's home after being subdued by 4 Montreal police officers

Cesur and June Celik are suing the city, the police and the independent investigation bureau over the death of their son in 2017. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

The father of Koray Celik, 28, who died in 2017 after an altercation with police, is welcoming news that a Quebec coroner will convene a public inquiry into the case.

The coroner's office announced the inquiry Monday.

Celik's father, Cesur, was there when his son died in the family's home in L'Île-Bizard, and has always maintained officers used excessive force.

Crown prosecutors and Quebec's bureau of independent investigations (known under its French acronym BEI) concluded, after an investigation, that officers used reasonable force and that Koray's death was attributable to cardio-respiratory arrest caused by intoxication.

The BEI investigates any case in which a person is injured or killed during a police operation. 

Cesur Celik told CBC in an interview Tuesday the inquiry is a ray of hope.

Koray Celik's father Cesur told CBC Tuesday he believes the public coroner's inquiry into his son's death will allow the truth to come out. (CBC)

"This is the first time in the last three years that we have obtained something positive from the authorities," Celik said.

"I witnessed the severe beating of my son to death. This has been hidden from the public eye," he continued.

"Now they will not be able to sweep what we say under the carpet. At least that is going to be heard," Celik said.

The family has already launched two lawsuits related to Koray's death: one against the city of Montreal and the officers, and another against the BEI, for allegedly bungling the investigation.

Kicking, kneeling, hitting

Police and the Celik family have very different accounts of what happened the night Koray died.

Cesur Celik and his wife, June, called police for assistance because Koray was intoxicated and they were worried he might want to drive.

Koray had consumed alcohol that night, along with pain pills prescribed to him for a recent dental procedure.

When police arrived, Cesur and June Celik told officers Koray was not armed.

Koray Kevin Celik was 28 years old when he died after a police intervention at his family's home in Île–Bizard. (CBC)

They both witnessed what happened next.

They said Koray took what they called a "staggering step" toward the four officers, and that's when the officers tackled him to the ground and began hitting him with metal batons.

The Celiks said officers continued to beat Koray once he was pinned to the ground with his hands secured behind his back -- kicking, kneeing and hitting him while one officer covered Koray's nose and mouth with his hand.

Prosecutors conclude force was reasonable

The report from the Independent Investigations Bureau tells a completely different story.

According to a BEI statement issued once its investigation was completed, when police arrived at the home, Koray was aggressive toward officers and didn't follow orders.

The statement said an officer tried to control Koray using a baton, and three other officers brought him to the ground.

The statement said officers rapidly realized that the young man was unconscious and didn't have a pulse. Attempts to revive him at the scene were unsuccessful.

The BEI delivered its report to the Crown prosecutor's office, which decided not to lay charges.

Prosecutors concluded the officers' use of force was reasonable and unlikely to have caused serious injury or death.

Family hopes inquiry will reveal truth

Celik said the BEI investigation was a whitewash.

"We were not believed by them. They took the police version of events and offered it to the public. They hid from view our eyewitness statements," Celik said.

Public coroner's inquires in Quebec are convened when the chief coroner believes it's in the public interest for witnesses to testify under oath and for people to hear the information.

Celik said that gives him hope.

"They will not be able to hide the truth from the public eye. Until now, they have," Celik said.

He said the family's fight for justice for Koray has taken its toll.

They've spent thousands of dollars in legal fees, and Koray's two brothers have left the province to escape the memories of his death.

Celik's eye twitches and closes as he speaks, something he said is a physical manifestation of the stress and trauma he's felt since Koray died.

No date has been set yet for the inquiry.

 

About the Author

Steve Rukavina is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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