Toronto·The Fifth Estate

Family of young black man killed in Brampton, Ont., says he was shot by police after calling 911 himself

D'Andre Campbell was known for his big heart and big dreams. He was one of eight siblings living with their parents in a cozy neighbourhood in Brampton, Ont., brimming with life.

Ontario's police watchdog has said D'Andre Campbell was shot at with stun guns, then shot

The parents of D’Andre Campbell, a Black man shot dead in his Ontario home by Peel Regional Police police in April, speak for the first time with Mark Kelley about their anguish over losing their son. 5:00

D'Andre Campbell, 26, was known for his big heart and big dreams. He was one of eight siblings living with their parents in a cozy neighbourhood in Brampton, Ont., brimming with life.

"He always said that, like, if I win the lottery, I'm gonna buy a car. I'm gonna buy a big house, you know? He just, he always lived outside the box. He never looked at anything in a negative way,'" said his sister Michelle.

But in early April his life was cut short by two police officers. And two bullets.

This is the first time the parents have shared the story of Campbell's life and his tragic death. Amid the protests against police brutality, the family spoke to Mark Kelley, co-host of The Fifth Estate, in an exclusive interview.

'These kind of things need to stop'

"It's not easy to bury your son when you know it's not corona," his father, Claudius Campbell said, referring to the virus that causes COVID-19. "Or an accident. Or cancer or some crazy disease. Some mad people come inside his house and take his life. These kind of things need to stop. Like right now — at this moment." 

On April 6, Peel Regional Police received a 911 call to respond to a "domestic situation." Two officers were dispatched.

"It was D'Andre who called 911. He said he wanted to be taken to the hospital, " Yvonne Campbell, D'Andre's mother, said.

D'Andre was struggling with schizophrenia. The family had called 911 "four or fives times" before when they were concerned about his well-being. Police would then take him to a nearby hospital.

"It's not the first time they come to the house for D'Andre," said his mother. "And once they punch in his name, they should see all the information. To know the type of person that they're coming to deal with. To know how to handle the situation when they come to the house. Don't come and take someone's life when they are calling for help." 

Stun guns, then bullets

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is an independent agency called in to examine police shootings. The SIU said officers arrived to find Campbell in the kitchen.

"There was an interaction which included the discharge of conducted energy weapons by two officers," according to a news release. "One officer then discharged his firearm multiple times. The man was struck. He succumbed to his injuries at the scene." 

The SIU said a knife was later recovered from the scene.

D'Andre Campbell poses with his mother, Yvonne Campbell, at their home in Brampton in September 2018. (Submitted by Yvonne Campbell)

But questions remain. Why, if Peel Regional Police had been called to the Campbell house multiple times, was no one from the department's crisis intervention team dispatched? The team deals with mental health calls. Citing the ongoing SIU investigation, Peel Regional Police said it was unable to answer that question.

"They shouldn't be going to our house with guns," Claudius said. "For what? They're gonna fight a war? Why are they bringing guns to deal with a mental issue? They're not going to war; they're going to kill. So, they need to retrain all those people and let them think, stop right now." 

Five family members were in the house when police arrived. They say three witnessed the incident.

'We are all one, right?'

"I seen two young officers," said Michelle. "When I looked at them, they were roughly my age category [29 years old]. No older than me.

"If they're going to answer a 911 call, they need to understand what type of area they're coming around to know if it's something that they can handle. If not, you send someone that's more experienced." 

D'Andre Campbell's father, Claudius, says racism played a role in his son's slaying. (Submitted by Claudius Campbell)

Asked if race played an issue in the shooting death, Claudius Campbell was emphatic that it did.

"Racism is everywhere all over the world. It's here in Canada too. And we all have to put our eye on it and put a stop to it. Because we all have to live together. We all are one, right?"

Chief points to 'positive changes' 

Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah offered condolences on behalf of the force in a news release following the shooting and recognized the "tragic outcome.

"Key members of the black community and the Peel Police black advisory committee have seen positive changes in police and community engagement. The value of relationships will continue to be number one for myself and Peel Regional Police." 

D'Andre Campbell was shot in his home in Brampton on April 6, 2020 after he called 911 (Supplied by Shenika Malcolm)

In March, Ontario's Human Rights Tribunal ruled Peel Regional Police officers discriminated against a six-year-old black girl when they handcuffed her wrists behind her back and kept her restrained for nearly half an hour. Two white Peel Regional Police constables were called to the school after administrators requested assistance with the girl, who they said was acting violently.

Adjudicator Brenda Bowlby called the response a "clear overreaction" that can only be explained, at least in part, by the officers' implicit racial bias.

'I don't like police anymore'

Due to complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Campbell family had to wait almost two months before they could bury their son.

At the funeral, Bishop Devon Eccles said: "It's time for us to rise up as a community, as people and say that 'enough is enough'. He's not the only one, and he won't be the last one unless we stand to do something about it. And so today I mourn with you. I cry with you. And I grieve with you over this senseless loss. A young man, 26 years old, is cut down in his prime." 

As the SIU continues its investigation into the shooting, Claudius Campbell impatiently waits. Why, he asks, did the police kill his son when he was the one who called them for help?

"I don't like police anymore. I used to respect them. Two gunshots in my son's chest? The guy is not a criminal. He's not wanted. You only shoot the wanted people, right? They come in the house and they murder him, just like that.

"Where does that happen? Where does that fit in? Tell me now. Can't find an answer. We need answers."

The Fifth Estate is always interested in your tips and story ideas. Contact us at fifthtips@cbc.ca. 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the Special Investigations Unit said officers arrived to find D'Andre Campbell in the kitchen holding a knife. In fact, the SIU said officers encountered Campbell in the kitchen and that a knife was later recovered from the scene.
    Jun 11, 2020 7:43 PM ET

With files from Kate Zieman

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