Police shootings inquest jury calls for changes

The jury at a coroner's inquest into the shooting deaths of three mentally ill people by police officers calls for changes in how police deal with emotionally disturbed persons.

July looked into the deaths of Michael Eligon, Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis

Jury recommendations

9 years ago
Duration 1:50
A jury in a coroner's inquest into the deaths of three mentally ill Toronto residents makes its recommendations.

A jury in a coroner's inquest into the deaths of three mentally ill Toronto residents who were shot by police recommends that officer training put more emphasis on verbal de-escalation techniques.

The inquest examined the deaths of Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis and Michael Eligon, who were all gunned down after approaching police with knives or scissors.

The five-member jury spent three weeks deciding how many of 220 proposed recommendations submitted by various parties were worthy of their endorsement.

The jury agreed with 74 of those recommendations, including incorporating the three cases into future police training scenarios. Three of the de-escalation and training recommendations were:

  • Train officers to use a variety of commands when emotionally disturbed persons don't respond to regular commands.
  • Train police officers to consider a person's mental state, not just their behaviour when the person is in crisis.
  • Police investigate alternatives for front-line officers: body armour, body-worn cameras, car cameras and shields.
  • Police maximize emphasis on de-escalation during annual training.
  • On Tasers the jury didn't recommend increased use, but called for more study of the impact on emotionally disturbed persons

Lawyers for police warned jurors not to micromanage officers and their training. But families of the victims pushed the jury to recommend police take a person's mental state into consideration and make every attempt at de-escalation when dealing with someone in crisis.

The inquest heard that when an officer is faced with an individual advancing with a weapon, their response is based on the person's behaviour and not their mental state.

The inquest looked at three shootings at once due to similarities of the circumstances surrounding the deaths.   

No officers were charged with a criminal offence in any of the three cases.

The 3 cases

Michael Eligon, 29, died Feb. 3, 2012: Eligon had left Toronto East General Hospital, where he had been involuntarily admitted under the Mental Health Act.

He was dressed in a hospital gown and armed with two pairs of scissors stolen from a nearby convenience store, the Special Investigations Unit said in its report on Eligon's shooting.

After the store owner confronted Eligon, he cut the owner's left hand with the scissors, prompting the owner to call 911. Police officers in the area were notified about a man getting stabbed by a patient who had fled the hospital.

Eligon later demanded car keys from two different women and police responded to a call about a carjacking.

When Eligon tried breaking into two homes, a dozen officers drove to the area and repeatedly demanded he drop the scissors in his hand. As he moved toward police, an officer shot him.

Reyal Jardine-Douglas, 25, died Aug. 29, 2010: Toronto police confronted Jardine-Douglas on a public transit bus after they received a call about him acting irrationally.

When Jardine-Douglas pulled a knife out of his bag, officers repeatedly asked him to drop it and walked backward on the bus. Jardine-Douglas continued to approach the officers with the weapon, after which an officer shot him.

Sylvia Klibingaitis, died Oct. 7, 2011: Klibingaitis called 911 from her home and said she was going to commit a crime. When officers went to her house, She walked toward them holding a knife in her hand in what the SIU called a threatening manner. She did not drop the knife in response to officers' demands and when she moved closer she was shot.

With files from The Canadian Press