Toronto

He died in jail after 'blunt impact trauma' — now police say no one will be charged

The family of Soleiman Faqiri has learned through a letter sent by police to their lawyers that the investigation into the 30-year-old's death has been completed and no criminal charges will be laid.

Family of Soleiman Faqiri raising questions about investigation into his death

CBC News has learned from his family's lawyers that Kawartha Lakes Police Service will not proceed with criminal charges against anyone involved in the death of Soleiman Faqiri, 30, who died following an episode with guards involving blunt impact trauma at Central East Correctional Centre. (Submitted by Yusuf Faqiri)

More than 50 cuts, bruises and other obvious signs of injury — all caused by blunt impact trauma. Almost 11 months waiting for answers.

Now the family of an inmate who died in an Ontario provincial prison has learned no one will be held criminally responsible.

Soleiman Faqiri, 30, died in segregation at the Central East Correctional Centre on Dec. 15, 2016 — 11 days after he was arrested on charges of assault and uttering threats. Since that day, his family has been searching for answers about how their loved one, a man with a history of schizophrenia, could have his life cut short just before he was supposed to be transferred to a mental-health facility.

Some of those answers came in a 56-page coroner's report released in July that detailed a litany of injuries Faqiri suffered in the final moments of his life after, according to his lawyers, between 10 and 20 guards entered his cell.

'No grounds' for criminal charges

What the report didn't answer was if anyone should be held accountable in Faqiri's death. The medical cause was deemed "unascertained."

Now, the Kawartha Lakes Police Service has concluded its investigation. On Monday, it said in a news release that it was contacted after Kawartha Lakes Paramedic Services had gone to the prison on Dec. 15, 2016, to attend to an "unresponsive male." Faqiri was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the body was taken to Toronto's Centre of Forensic Sciences and Coroners Complex for an autopsy.

It said it investigated the circumstances surrounding the death and has concluded no charges will be laid.

"Following a thorough analysis of all the evidence and witness statements, and after consulting with the Office of the Crown Attorney and the Office of the Chief Coroner and Ontario Forensic Pathology Services, we have concluded that no grounds exist to process criminal charges against anyone who was involved with Mr. Faqiri prior to his death on Dec. 15, 2016," the release reads.

"The City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service expresses its condolences to everyone affected by this tragic event."

Police noted the Office of the Chief Coroner and Ontario Forensic Pathology Services are involved in investigating the cause of death.

Ahead of the release, a letter was sent to the family's lawyers.

Insp. Will Herbert of Kawartha Lakes Police confirmed to CBC News that an email was sent to the family's lawyers on Friday, saying the investigation was complete. He would not confirm its conclusion.

'The nightmare has come back'

Meanwhile, the notice from police that no charges would be laid has shocked Faqiri's family.

Yusuf Faqiri, his brother, was at work Friday when his phone rang with the news from his lawyers. His first thought was how to break it to his family.

Yusuf Faqiri says his family is grieving the loss of his younger brother Soleiman, who they say was suffering from schizophrenia before he died of blunt impact trauma in segregation. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

He called his brothers, Sohrab and Ali, and the three decided they would tell their parents, Maryam and Ghulam Faqiri, and sister Paletin in person.

As he tried to find the words, his heart sank, the look on his mother's face eating at him.

"The nightmare has come back," he told CBC News. "We're just lost.

"My father had the same question for the next 10 minutes. Why? What is the explanation, Yusuf? Why aren't they pressing charges?"

"We haven't been given one," he was forced to reply.

Lawyer Nader Hasan said the lack of answers is nothing short of "stonewalling."

"We were told initially that the KLPS was taking as long as they were taking because they were waiting for the results of the autopsy report. And then that came out in the summer and it was shocking.… We know that he died after those assaults. What has changed between the summer when the report came out and now?"

Police say investigation was 'thorough'

"We asked KLPS, how did you come to the conclusion there were no grounds that a single one of these guards involved in that incident committed a criminal act?" he said. "Why did it take 11 months to figure that out?"

CBC News posed many of those same questions to Kawartha police. It also inquired about video footage referenced in the coroner's report, which could shed more light on Faqiri's final moments and why the family's lawyers have not been allowed to see it.

Soleiman Faqiri, left, is pictured here with older brother Yusuf, right, and younger brother Ali. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

None of those questions were answered. "Our police service conducted a thorough investigation and we were completely transparent with the family's lawyers how they can review our investigation," Insp. Herbert said in an email to CBC News, in which he added police are required to respect the Freedom of Information Act.

The province has also not commented on whether any jail staff have faced or will face any consequences, saying little more than that their investigation is ongoing.

"The ministry does not publicly discuss internal human resource matters including staff discipline. It would be inappropriate for the ministry to comment further while investigations are underway and may be subject to a coroner's inquest," said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Faqiri's case isn't the only recent instance to raise questions about the province's handling of inmates with mental-health issues in segregation.

Last month, the Ontario Human Rights Commission launched legal action against Ontario over allegations that prisoners with mental-health disabilities have been illegally forced into solitary confinement and that the government has repeatedly breached a legally binding 2013 agreement around the treatment of Christina Jahn.

"We are deeply concerned by the issues raised by the commissioner and we know — plainly and simply — that we need to do better," Marie France Lalonde, minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said at the time.

'They've left my family with no confidence'

The Faqiris and their lawyers are now hoping for an immediate coroner's inquest, which coroner Dr. Eric Ready said in the report would be "highly likely," though one has not yet been officially called.

Last December, ministry spokesperson Andrew Morrison said "should the coroner's investigation determine that the death was anything other than natural causes, a mandatory inquest will be held."

The family also said they've lost faith in Kawartha police and are raising questions about whether the force was far enough removed from the correctional centre to carry out their investigation fairly. They're calling on the Ontario Provincial Police or another similar agency to reinvestigate.

"We were always told, 'It's a complex case.' Yet this is almost a year and that year is now summarized in a one-sentence email?" Yusuf Faqiri told CBC News. "They've left my family with no confidence."

'They took her son away'

"I can tell you that our police service has been the sole source of police investigations within the Central East Correctional Centre for the past 14 years now, without any problems, I'm not sure why that would change now," Herbert said in an email to CBC News.

Family co-counsel Edward Marrocco said a coroner's inquest will help on that front. "We can rest assured knowing that the work of the KLPS is going to be scrutinized and reinvestigated and reviewed down to every letter and every period."

Soleiman Faqiri was laid to rest by family members on a frigid Sunday last year after he died in an Ontario jail cell on Dec. 15. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Until that happens, Yusuf Faqiri says, he and his family remain lost.

"My mother.... She doesn't know how to take this news. She cries every day, she visits his grave every day. They took her son away."

He hopes an inquest can give them they answers they need to begin to heal.

"But the most important thing before even the inquest is why, give us an explanation for why charges are not being pressed," he said. "We deserve that."