Andrew Loku was stopped by police 1 hour before officers shot him, inquest hears

A coroner's inquest into the death of Andrew Loku, which began on Monday, heard police officers stopped a confused Loku as he rode on his electric bicycle on a Toronto highway about an hour before he was shot dead by police in his apartment building.

45-year-old had 3 times the legal limit of alcohol in his body, jury hears

Andrew Loku, 45, was shot by police on July 5, 2015 after he refused to drop a hammer he was carrying. A coroner's inquest into his death begins on Monday. (Handout photo)

A coroner's inquest into the death of Andrew Loku, which began on Monday, heard police officers stopped a confused Loku as he rode on his electric bicycle on a Toronto highway about an hour before he was shot dead by police in his apartment building.

Loku, 45, was killed on July 5, 2015 shortly after midnight when he was confronted by officers in the hallway of an apartment complex near Rogers Road and Caledonia Road in Toronto's west end.

The father of five, who came to Canada as a refugee from South Sudan, was shot twice by police in his apartment building hallway, while he wielded a hammer.

According to Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Loku was shot after he refused to comply with police demands to drop the hammer.

The SIU, which is called in whenever a civilian is injured or killed during an interaction with police, decided in March 2016 that the officer who fired the shot would not be charged. It called the shooting "legally justified."

Loku stopped by police on DVP before his death, inquest hears

Just over an hour before Loku died, shortly after 11 p.m. on July 4, 2015, officers stopped him on the Don Valley Parkway, according to inquest counsel Michael Blain, who laid out what's known about the case. 

Blain told the inquest Loku was riding an electric bicycle on the highway when police first came across him that night. He appeared confused, had a faint smell of alcohol on his breath and told officers his GPS had sent him on the highway.

Police temporarily confiscated his e-bike and drove him home to his apartment building.

It was less than 10 minutes after that his apartment security camera showed him arriving home that someone called 9-1-1 from the building.

Protesters in front of the Toronto Police Headquarters in Toronto on Monday March 21, 2016. A group of Black Lives Matter protesters occupied space in front of the headquarters after the Special Investigations Unit cleared a police officer of any wrongdoing in the death of Andrew Loku. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

The female caller reported a man with a hammer had threatened to kill his neighbour and at her door, yelling.

Two minutes after the call, two Toronto police officers arrived on the scene — a "coach officer" and a new recruit, who'd only been on the job a few months.

Both officers reported that Loku had a hammer in his hand and walked towards them in the apartment hallway, despite the officers asking him to drop it.

One officer fired two shots, Blain told the inquest, though he did not mention whether it was the more experienced officer or the recent recruit. That detail is expected to come out during this inquest.

Loku was pronounced dead at 12:25 a.m. on July 5, 2015 after police and paramedics attempted first aid.

Loku had more than 3 times legal limit of alcohol

An autopsy found Loku's body had more than three times the legal limit of alcohol. The inquest heard he was a recovering alcoholic.

Loku's death, and the SIU's decision not to lay charges, led to angry protests by Black Lives Matter Toronto and demands that the officers involved be identified and charged and video footage of the incident be made public. There were allegations against Toronto Police of anti-black racism, and accusations its officers are unable to adequately deal with people under mental distress. 

Steve Lurie, the Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association's Toronto branch, called for an inquest into the fatal shooting of Andrew Loku by Toronto police. 'We have evidence that Andrew was calm at the time of his shooting,' he told Metro Morning. (Canadian Mental Health Association)

The inquest cannot lay blame or result in criminal charges or financial compensation for the family of the victim, but the five-member jury will make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.

The first witness to testify, Jackie Patterson, provided mental health support to Loku as an employee with the organization Across Boundaries, which assists racialized people.

Patterson said Loku suffered from PTSD and suffered flashbacks from having been kidnapped and tortured in Sudan, before he fled to Uganda.

But she said his mental health had been stable for years and the last time she saw him, at his graduation from a construction program at George Brown College just weeks before he died, on June 11, 2015, he was happy and looking forward to starting a new life.

Patterson told the inquest an ongoing issue Loku had was with excessive noise from his upstairs neighbours.

Howard Morton, who represents Across Boundaries, hopes recommendations out of this inquest will represent a first in the country, exploring both race and mental health together. (CBC News)

Other neighbours had said Loku was so bothered by the noise he sometimes slept in the laundry room.

The lawyer representing Across Boundaries, Howard Morton, says recommendations out of this inquest could represent a first in the country, exploring both race and mental health together.

"So we have race on the one hand, mental illness on another, confrontation with the police, let's get a good result. And not another death."

Ten different parties, including Across Boundaries, have standing at this inquest, as do representatives for the police officers involved, the Toronto Police Service and the Black Action Defence Committee.

"He was a very promising young man … The tide was rising for him," Kingsley Gilliam, a founder of the Black Action Defence Committee told reporters. "He was summarily cut down because the police's answer is to give a command and shoot.

"That is unacceptable in civilized society."

The inquest is scheduled to last several weeks and hear from 20 witnesses.

About the Author

Lorenda Reddekopp

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Lorenda reports on national and international news, as well as local stories based in Toronto. She grew up in small-town Saskatchewan and spent three years reporting from Guatemala.