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No grounds to charge officers in death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet:SIU

Last Updated Aug 26, 2020 at 2:26 pm PDT

A horse drawn carriage carrying a white coffin was part of a public memorial and walk for justice held to honour Regis Korchinski-Paquet a woman who fell to her death from a balcony while police were in her apartment in Toronto on Saturday July 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio

TORONTO — Regis Korchinski-Paquet fell to her death while trying to sidestep onto a neighbour’s balcony, according to a report released Wednesday by Ontario’s police watchdog, which concludes there are no grounds to charge officers who were in her home at the time.

The lengthy report from the Special Investigations Unit notes that Korchinski-Paquet’s death sparked “important conversations” about the ways in which police interact with Black and Indigenous people, but says there was no evidence of police wrongdoing or “overt” racism in the incident itself.

Director Joseph Martino said race may have been a factor in the events leading up to the death of the 29-year-old, who was both Indigenous and Black, but that examining systemic issues in policing is not his role.

“The task before me was a narrow one — namely, to determine whether there were reasonable grounds, on the evidence collected by the SIU, to believe that any one or more of the officers who responded to Ms. Korchinski-Paquet’s apartment committed a criminal offence in connection with her death,” he wrote.

The Special Investigations Unit said six officers were in the 29-year-old woman’s home when she fell from the balcony in May, while her mother and brother were nearby.

The agency’s report says Korchinski-Paquet’s mother called police to the home because the two siblings were fighting — “bottles and punches had been thrown” — and she wanted both of them removed from the apartment.

When the 911 operator asked about any mental health issues, the report says, both Korchinski-Paquet’s brother and mother indicated that she had epilepsy and had had seizures earlier in the day.

It says that after police arrived and had conversations with Korchinski-Paquet and several others, the 29-year-old went out onto the 24th floor balcony and tried to cross over to an adjoining one, which is when she lost her balance and fell to her death.

The agency said no officers were on the balcony with Korchinski-Paquet at the time, and there’s no evidence the officers committed a crime.

The decision comes after the arm’s-length agency interviewed all six officers, along with 15 civilian witnesses.

The agency said investigators also received a written statement from Korchinski-Paquet’s father, with whom she had been speaking on the phone moments before her death.

Korchinski-Paquet’s death sparked protests in the city and calls to change the way police deal with people experiencing mental health crises.

But Martino noted there are forums other than the SIU that are designed to tackle systemic issues.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2020.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misidentified the director of the Special Investigations Unit.