Toronto

Call an inquest into Andrew Loku's death, Canadian Mental Health Association says

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is joining a chorus of calls for a coroner's inquest into the death of Andrew Loku, the Toronto man who was fatally shot by police in the summer of 2015.

'We have evidence that Andrew was calm at the time of his shooting,' CMHA executive director says

Andrew Loku, 45, was shot by police in July of 2015 after he refused to drop a hammer he was carrying. (Handout photo)

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is joining a chorus of calls for a coroner's inquest into the death of Andrew Loku, the Toronto man who was fatally shot by police in July 2015. 

"We have evidence that Andrew was calm at the time of his shooting," CMHA Toronto executive director Steve Lurie told CBC's Metro Morning on Friday.

He was 45 years old when he was fatally shot last summer by Toronto police. Matt Galloway spoke with Steve Lurie. He is the Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association's Toronto office. 7:23

He said while the CMHA provided the Special Investigations Unit with that evidence, "they came to a different conclusion and that's the purpose of having an inquest."

The Special Investigations Unit, which investigates all cases in Ontario in which civilians are killed or injured by police officers, determined that Loku, 45, was shot by Toronto police around midnight on July 5, 2015.

The shooting happened at an apartment complex near Rogers and Caledonia Roads, after Loku refused to comply with demands to drop a hammer and threatened to kill a friend of a guest in the apartment. 

Steve Lurie, the Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association's Toronto branch, is calling for an inquest into the fatal shooting of Andrew Loku by Toronto police. (Canadian Mental Health Association)

Three investigators and three other forensic investigators were assigned to probe the incident. They determined that the officer did not exceed "the ambit of justifiable force in the circumstances" and that no charges would be laid.

'Limited to looking at police actions'

Lurie says the CMHA handed video evidence over to the SIU, showing Loku leaving the apartment where the conflict started. He says the video also shows Loku walking slowly towards police with the hammer lowered in his hand.

Lurie believes the "issue" that Loku was having with one of his neighbours had been resolved by the time police arrived, "yet we have the findings of the SIU, which were pretty much limited to looking at police actions and not what had happened during the event itself." 

'He was doing okay at the time' 

Loku lived in a facility that housed people with mental health issues and Lurie said he had been doing well there. 

"He had just graduated from college. He was a respected member of the community. He had formed a band ... so the evidence we have is that he was doing okay at the time," Lurie said.

Regardless of what Loku may have been going through that night, Lurie says, "in this instance, unfortunately, once again non-violent de-escalation was not used." 

For Lurie, that is the most troubling aspect of the fatal police shooting.

"If he was demonstrating behaviour that was not normal, there are police crisis intervention teams that could have been called to meet with him," Lurie said.

Lurie says Loku's death highlights the need for police to improve their efforts to train officers and employ non-violent de-escalation techniques. 

Black Lives Matter protesters set up outside police headquarters for two weeks after the Special Investigations Unit cleared a Toronto police officer of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of 45-year-old Andrew Loku from this past July. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Calls for an inquest into Loku's death have already come from his family, the African Canadian Legal Clinic, former chair of the Toronto Police Service Board Alok Mukherjee and from the Black Lives Matter movement, which staged a protest outside police headquarters for two weeks. 

Protesters have also been calling on for charges against the officer who shot and killed Loku, and the relese of the officer's name. 

Lurie says an inquest into the Toronto man's death would at least help people "get to the bottom of what actually happened and how these tragedies can be prevented in the future."