As It Happens

Ejaz Choudry's family tried to tell police he wasn't a threat to anyone, says his nephew

Hashim Choudhary says police officers had no business breaking into his uncle's home when he was having a mental health crisis.

Mississauga, Ont., man was fatally shot by Peel Regional Police officers responding to a mental health crisis

(Submitted by Choudry family)
Listen6:30

Transcript

Hashim Choudhary says police officers had no business breaking into his uncle's home when he was having a mental-health crisis.

Peel Regional Police officers shot and killed Ejaz Choudry, 62, on Saturday night in Mississauga, Ont., while responding to a call about a man in mental distress.

Choudry's family has said he suffered from schizophrenia and that they called a non-emergency helpline Saturday, expecting that health-care professionals would come and help him take his medicine.

But when paramedics arrived, they saw that Choudry was holding a pocket knife and called the police, Choudry's nephew Khizar Shahzad, who was at the scene the night of the shooting, told CBC News.

Video footage shows three officers a the second-floor balcony, with weapons raised. They can be heard yelling, "Put down the knife!" before opening fire. The footage was filmed by a bystander and posted on Twitter by Mississauga Imam Ibrahim Hindy.

Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is investigating. In a press release, the SIU asked the public to "avoid making any premature conclusions." 

Choudry leaves behind four children, aged seven to 18. 

His nephew Hashim Choudhary spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off. Here is part of their conversation. 

We're seeing the crowds of people who are turning up around your uncle's neighborhood, plans for protests. What does that support mean for your family?

It means a lot because we know ... you can not fix something like this alone. You can only fix this with a community. And the community out here is supporting us because that's what they do here. 

Let's go back to Saturday night if we can. I know you weren't there when these things began, but what was the concern with your uncle? What was going on with your uncle when all this began?

All I can say is that he had a mental health condition, and he was having a breakdown.

This had happened in the past and they have called a non-emergency helpline for this. It sends paramedics... to him. 

What would normally have happened if the paramedics had handled this?

They would help him by giving him his medication, sedate him, or ... they would take him into the hospital.

Your family did not call the police ... but police did arrive. What were you trying to tell them? What were your family members trying to tell them before they responded to your uncle?

That he is not harmful to you. He's not going to harm you. He's having an episode. He's saying that he's going to kill himself. 

The police were told that he was there, he had a knife. But your family was trying to explain the situation to them, is that right?

We were trying to explain to them that this is a mental health crisis. You do not need cops for this. This is why we have a non-emergency line. He's not causing harm to anybody else other than himself.

We told them, "Let the family intervene" — because that is one of the interventions when someone is schizophrenic. One of the main interventions is having family there. Let the family intervene and let the brothers of the deceased de-escalate him. Let the daughter de-escalate him. Let the son de-escalate it.

You think you, as a stranger, is going to de-escalate him? No, that's not going to work.

They didn't let the family intervene .... They just pushed them back.

I'm sure you've seen it, the video. How did you respond when you saw the police break into the door of the balcony?

I watched that video one time. That is unexplainable. That is senseless.

There was no crime going on. There was no warrant on him that you had to break into the house. You can get a visual from standing on the balcony to see if he's breathing or not. Even if he cut himself, you can help him after.

You do not have the right to make your job easy and break the door and start shooting.

He's told the family before he's scared of the cops and the badges. So you tell me how you're helping by sending someone with that into the situation?- Hashim Choudhary, Ejaz Choudry's nephew

They said that they were at the other door trying to talk to him for about 15 minutes and he wasn't responding for about 15 minutes.

He got tired of you speaking to him in a language that he did not understand. He's not going to respond. 

So he's taking a breather. He has COPD. He needs some time to relax.

Your uncle didn't speak English?

No, he did not speak English. He spoke a different language. He could understand a little bit. But once someone is having an episode like that, you don't even know if they're understanding.

And there was nobody with the police or with your uncle who could translate with the police.

No. No. No. 

Hashim Choudhary addresses the media in front of the apartment building where his uncle was killed. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press)

What do you think that was like for him?

I think the only thing that was probably going through his head is that he has four kids that are so young that he's leaving behind. What are they going to do when they grow up here? How are they going to be? Are they going to be taken care of? That's probably was going through any father's mind at that time.

Do you think he believed himself to be in a situation where he was maybe not going to survive?

All these cops, and then you have task force breaking through your back door, what do you think's going to happen?

He's told the family before he's scared of the cops and the badges. So you tell me how you're helping by sending someone with that into the situation?

You're instigating him. You're highly arousing his brain. You're keeping him at a high intensity. At a high intensity, someone can do anything.

And that would have aggravated the condition he had?

That's aggravating the condition. You're not helping him.

And I swear to God, he was so frail that he could not even attack you. He could probably cut himself. That's it. He could not attack the officer that had all the stuff on him.

What do you want to know from Peel Regional Police at this point if you could get answers?

First of all, we need to know who the officers were that [discharged] their firearms. We want their names out.

And what do you want to tell them when you have the opportunity to do so?

What was going through your mind at that moment? What did you think? I want to know how did you come up with that game plan?

Do you know how his wife and kids are doing?

They're heartbroken. They didn't know what to do now. He was their support. Now they have nothing.

Tell us a bit about your uncle, Ejaz. What was he like?

He was a very nice individual in the area.

If you come here, you ask people in this apartment building, he used to go five times a day to the mosque to pray and come back. He had a lot of free time in that sense. He would walk around, walk around the apartment, walk to the mall down the street from here. He'd come home and stuff like that. He stood outside and just enjoyed the breeze and then sit down, read the Qu'ran and relax.

You can ask anyone in this neighbourhood. They knew who he was. Everyone knew him.

How difficult is this for your family that suddenly you have you're in the midst of something that is going on, a discussion internationally, that you are now having to confront this publicly?

We're doing it for our uncle. We're also [doing it] for the people that this has happened to before. This thing is happening way too long. And this is not acceptable.

It's not like the funding that comes to the police is private somewhere. It's all taxpayer money. We, as a community, pay for them. So how do you have the right to do what you do without helping the community?


Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC News. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Edited for length and clarity. 

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