Ontario’s police watchdog has ruled no criminal charges should be laid against any officers in the fatal police shooting of 62-year-old mentally ill man Ejaz Choudry, a death that sparked outrage and protests last summer.
Choudry, described by his family as gentle and devout, was killed on June 20, 2020, in his apartment in Malton following his family’s call to a non-emergency line for a wellness check.
In a statement via their lawyer, Nader Hassan, Choudry’s family expressed their disappointment. “While this announcement is no doubt disturbing, it is not surprising,” the statement said.
“The SIU’s decision leaves the family with more questions than answers.”
According to the Special Investigations Unit — the province’s civilian police watchdog — Choudry was shot during an interaction with Peel police tactical response unit officers who were called after his daughter initially called Emergency Medical Services to request medical assistance, saying that her father had schizophrenia and had not taken his medication.
According to the SIU report, Choudry was shot as he moved toward the officers holding a “large kitchen knife.” The officers first attempted to stop him with a Taser and rubber bullets, but were unsuccessful, before one officer then fatally shot Choudry with a pistol, the report said.
“In the final analysis, as I am not reasonably satisfied for the foregoing reasons that the shooting of Mr. Choudry amounted to legally unjustified force or was the culmination of a criminally negligent course of conduct, there is no basis to proceed with criminal charges in this case notwithstanding Mr. Choudry’s tragic death,” SIU director Joseph Martino wrote in his decision released Tuesday.
The subject officer who shot Choudry did not consent to be interviewed or provide his notes. All officers under SIU investigation have the legal right to refuse to participate.
In their statement, Choudry’s family said they had hoped for accountability in what they considered a “clear-cut case.” According to the statement, Peel police refused their offer to assist in defusing the situation.
“Ejaz committed no crime,” the family said. “He did not deserve any of this.”
According to the SIU report, Choudry’s daughter called for medical assistance around 5 p.m., telling the dispatcher that her father had a small pocket-knife but was not dangerous.
Paramedics arrived first at Choudry’s apartment, then police appeared around 5:30 p.m. His daughter and two officers then entered the apartment, finding him in mental distress, in a bedroom and seated on a prayer mat.
According to the report, the Peel police tactical response unit was called after Choudry retrieved a large kitchen knife from under the mat and point it toward the officers.
Officers next attempted to negotiate with Choudry from outside his apartment, and he repeatedly asked them to leave, telling a Punjabi-speaking officer that he had taken his medication and had no intention of hurting himself.
According to the report, a crisis negotiator was requested, but not available.
Choudry stopped responding sometime before 8 p.m., after which three members of the tactical unit used a ladder to climb up to his second-floor balcony. The officers next “forcibly breached” the balcony door, intending to apprehend Choudry under the Mental Health Act.
Cellphone video showing the three officers on Choudry’s balcony was taken around this time and later posted to social media, according to the report. In the clip, which runs for just 19 seconds, the officers can be heard yelling, “Police, put the knife down, put the knife down, put it down,” in the seconds before Choury was first shot with a Taser, then with rubber bullets, and finally fatally with a pistol.
Choudry was hit by several weapons, including a bullet to the chest. He was pronounced dead at 8:38 p.m.
In a statement, Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said “more has to be done to support those in crisis, and police should not be the primary responders called upon to manage mental health calls.”
He said the service has been teaming up with the Canadian Mental Health Association — Peel/Dufferin to expand its Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams (MCRRT), which pairs officers with trained crisis workers.
In their statement, Choudry’s family also criticized the SIU for taking almost a year to rule on the case, adding they are eager to move on to a coroner’s inquest.
Speaking to the Star Tuesday, Choudry’s nephew Hassan Choudhary✔" said it was “devastating” to hear again how his uncle was killed.
“His four children are left without a father,” Choudhary✔" said.
Recent Peel police SIU cases
The Ejaz Choudry case is one of several recent SIU rulings on cases involving serious injuries or death in interactions with Peel police.
" July 26, 2020: The SIU charges Peel Const. Valerie Briffa over the shooting of Chantelle Krupka during a domestic call on Mother’s Day. Briffa, a rookie cop, is charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and careless use of a firearm, offences that each carry the possibility of jail time upon conviction. In a rare move, Briffa has since resigned from the police service. She is scheduled for another appearance in Brampton court this month.
" Nov. 20: The SIU clears two Peel police officers in the death of a 34-year-old Mississauga man. The man, who has not been named by police or the SIU, died after he was Tasered after two officers went to a Malton home following multiple calls from family members inside.
" Dec. 14: The SIU rules a Peel police officer was acting in self-defence when he shot and killed D’Andre Campbell, a 26-year-old mentally ill Brampton man who was armed with a knife. The SIU found that at the time of his death, D’Andre Campbell was “clearly unwell and not of sound mind when he picked up a knife and brandished it” at two Peel police officers following a call for a domestic disturbance inside a Brampton home. “I have little doubt that the (subject officer) believed he was acting in self-defence, and perhaps in defence of his partner, when he discharged his firearm at Mr. Campbell,” the SIU director wrote.
" Jan. 20, 2021: The SIU clears a Peel officer of criminal wrongdoing in the shooting death of Jamal Derek Francique Jr. According to the SIU, the officer shot and killed Francique as he tried to evade police during an attempt to arrest him near his Mississauga home. The officer fired several shots at the car Francique was driving “to ward off what he believed was an imminent risk to his life,” the SIU found.
" Feb 26, 2021: The SIU clears a Peel officer of criminal wrongdoing in the non-fatal shooting of a man who went on a “violent rampage” in Mississauga, seriously injuring several people with a knife. “There can be no doubt that the (man) was intent on doing harm to the officers with the knife,” the SIU report said. “Retreat was not an option.”
" March 29: The SIU concludes three Peel officers were not criminally negligent in the death of mentally ill Mississauga man Clive Mensah, 30. Mensah, who had schizophrenia, died after the officers Tasered him a dozen times during an “intense” struggle to restrain him in his own backyard. “Though there is no doubt that significant force was used against the complainant, I am satisfied it was not unlawful,” the SIU director concluded.
Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic
Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star