62-year-old Ejaz Ahmed Choudry, who suffered from schizophrenia, was shot and killed by a Peel Region police officer in his apartment in Mississauga, Canada. His family had called a non-emergency line in order for him to be taken to the hospital during a mental-health crisis.
Police Constable Sarah Patten confirmed that the initial call stated that Mr. Choudry was suffering from a medical condition and had not taken his medication. She further stated that he was alone in his home, was in a “state of crisis” and believed that he was armed with a kitchen knife. As a result, Patten confirmed that the police believed that Mr. Choudry was a danger to himself.
When the police arrived, they removed everyone from the apartment except Mr. Choudry. “When that happened, his daughter started yelling his name, saying ‘Come outside. They want to help you.’” said Khizar Shahzard, a nephew of the victim. Upon hearing his daughter, Choudry opened the door but closed it immediately after seeing the police. Shahzad recalls telling the officers that his uncle is scared of their uniforms and guns. “If you go upstairs with that, he’s going to be scared. He’s having an episode.”
The officers started shouting at him in English from outside the apartment. Choudry, an immigrant from Pakistan, did not speak English. The family says they asked to be allowed to try and calm their uncle down, but the officers refused and told them to remain patient. “Anyone in distress knows that when anyone you know that really cares about you comes and tells you ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay,’ it makes a difference, said Hassan Choudhary, Mr. Choudhry’s nephew. “None of us were able to go up there and say, ‘Uncle, you’re going to be okay.’”
The Province of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) – which steps in where officers are involved in cases of death or serious injury – stated that Mr. Choudry had locked himself in the unit and the officers were able to communicate with him for a period of time. After communication with Mr. Choudry had stopped, the officers had forcefully entered the unit.
While officers were trying to access the front door, other officers scaled the balcony. Upon entry, the officers had used a taser and fired plastic projectiles from an anti-riot weapon. When these weapons appeared to have no effect, Mr. Choudry was shot and killed shortly afterwards. The SIU is currently investigating approximately ten officers, and has obtained video footage related to the case.
One video, taken by a bystander and posted on Twitter, shows tactical units entering through the second-floor unit’s balcony, and three officers are shown yelling into the apartment and kicking open the door; gunshots can be heard before all three officers entered.
Mr. Choudry’s death comes during a time of heightened scrutiny of police brutality and systemic racism in North America. “He wasn’t a danger to anyone else. He was by himself in his home where he felt safe,” said Hassan Choudhary, the victim’s nephew. “He can’t think straight, he’s schizophrenic, and [police] are going and killing him because he’s going to kill himself? Where’s the logic in that?” He stated that his uncle would easily be out of breath after taking only a few steps, and was not trying to hurt anyone else.
Mr. Choudhary’s comments highlight the lack of de-escalation tactics used by the police. “It’s clear from everything that the family has already shared, from the eyewitness reports, from the video evidence that we have, that the senseless acts of Peel police yesterday was wildly excessive,” said Ibrahim Hindy, president of the Muslim Council of Peel.
“There are reports in the news saying they [had tried] to de-escalate the situation. I was there. There was no conversation.” Shahzad said.
The family, along with Mr. Hindy, held a news conference and demanded a public inquiry into the shooting.
“It’s sad to see that someone that genuine and beautiful is taken from us.” said Mr. Choudhary, who describes his uncle as a bright, caring man who always spent time with his family.
“What happened yesterday was a crazy event. Something that we never thought we’d ever have to see” said Mr. Choudhary. “It was a tough time because we felt that police, paramedics are there to help you, protect you and serve you. But after yesterday’s episode, it really shows you who’s here to protect and serve you. There’s no one.”
“They keep saying he was a threat to himself, but what did you do? You thought he was a threat to himself, so you’re going to kill him?”
Protests ensued across the Greater Toronto Area as a result of Mr. Chaudry’s death, calling for “Justice for Ejaz” and police reform. Earlier this week, a police officer was suspended amid a video showing the officer pushing a man to the ground in Oakville, Ontario. Mr. Chaudry has also become one of the many recent innocent victims to fall victim to police brutality in Canada. Earlier this year, Campbell D’Andre, a 26 year-old black man was also fatally shot by the Peel Police after experiencing a mental health crisis in his own home.
“It’s very sad when a life is lost in our community” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie on Twitter. “I ask the SIU to act quickly. Our goal is to support the vulnerable and ensure these incidents never happen again. The 2021 @PeelPolice budget will be reviewed through a different lens.”
Anyone with information or video evidence of the incident is asked to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529.