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Family of the slain 28-year-old has released a video suggesting he was shot in the back of the head from behind in the January 2020 incident
Lawyers for the family of Jamal Francique are calling for a reopening of the Special Investigation Unit’s (SIU) probe into his police shooting death and the laying of charges against Peel Regional Police.
A 46-page “legal inquiry” released Tuesday by Ma’at Legal Services into the circumstances surrounding the killing of the 28-year-old argues that there are so many “errors, omissions, contradictions and inconsistencies” in the SIU’s probe that the laying of charges against six drug squad officers involved in the incident is the only way to determine the true facts.
“The decision of the SIU Director to not lay charges in this highly questionable incident has denied the public a fair and transparent hearing surrounding the circumstances of Mr. Francique’s death,” the report states.
It asserts that the officers’ actions in a “takedown” of Francique in January 2020 at the very least constitute criminal negligence and possibly murder in the case of the officer who did the shooting.
On that front, family lawyers have released a video showing what looks like a bullet mark on the rear driver side window of Francique’s car, suggesting he was shot in the back of the head from behind. SIU investigators had suggested to the family that the bullet could have ricocheted.
SIU director Joseph Martino cleared the officer who fired four shots at Francique’s car of any wrongdoing in January.
Police say Francique drove at them during an arrest for alleged breach of bail conditions that started with officers trying to box in his Acura and ended with his car crashed up against a garage abutment of a house in the townhouse complex where Francique lived with his parents.
The legal inquiry notes a number of “contradictions and inconsistencies” in the SIU’s report, including over the alleged discovery of a gun on Francique. The SIU report contradicts itself in that one section says it was found in a satchel and another section says it was found in his waistband.
It’s not entirely clear why six drug squad officers were required to effect the arrest of Francique for alleged breach of bail conditions, which required that he remain under house arrest.
The shooting, one of five racially charged incidents involving Peel Regional Police since late 2019, has cast further doubt on the objectivity of the SIU and its ability to conduct impartial investigations into police shooting incidents. The inquiry notes that of 28 police shooting deaths cleared by the SIU between 2017 and 2021, none has ended in charges against police.
The inquiry describes the SIU’s probe into the Francique death as “inadequate,” and the legal reasoning offered by the SIU director not to lay charges as “remarkable,” especially as it relates to the duty of the police to “provide the necessaries of life.”
Here, there’s confusion over when Peel police called in the incident.
There are conflicting versions offered by police to the SIU. And judging by those, Francique may have sat in his car with a gunshot wound for almost three hours before paramedics were called to the scene.
A second video of the incident released by lawyers for the family shows Peel officers approaching Francique’s vehicle sometime after it crashed. The video shows Francique’s car boxed in by an unmarked police car and several officers with their guns drawn calling out for Francique to “show me your hands.”
This scene goes on for several minutes despite there being no sign of movement from Francique’s vehicle. A police canine unit dog can also be heard and seen on the video.
Peel police told the SIU that they failed to approached the car immediately because they “were concerned that Mr. Francique might be armed with a weapon.” They called for backup from tactical squad officers.
The video shows the two officers with shields advancing on Francique’s vehicle and then using an object to break the passenger side window and windshield of his car – and, in the process, destroying evidence from where bullets might have entered the vehicle, the legal inquiry states.
Francique was pulled from the vehicle. Lawyers for the family question why Francique was then taken to St. Michael’s Hospital, which is 37 kilometres away from the scene, instead of Credit Valley, which is less than five minutes away. Francique would die from his gunshot wound the next day.
In October 2020, when things seemed to be dragging on, the Francique family was told by SIU investigators that a decision would be made in the case once a ballistics report had been finalized. But there was no scientific reconstruction conducted by the Centre of Forensic Sciences as part of the SIU investigation to determine the trajectory of the bullets that entered Francique’s vehicle.
Instead, the SIU relied on “observations made on certain assumptions” to determine that three bullets entered the vehicle through the front windshield. There is no mention in the SIU director’s report of the trajectory of the fourth bullet that entered the back of Francique’s head behind his left ear and ended up lodged in the upper right area of his forehead.
The family’s lawyers say the location of shell casings at the scene and what appears to be a bullet graze on the ledge of the back driver side window of Francique’s car suggests the bullet that killed Francique was fired from behind.
Francique family lawyers argue that the SIU’s handling of the case and the legal reasoning offered by Martino for the decision not to charge the officers “has created a lack of confidence and a mistrust in the SIU’s ability to discharge its responsibility.”
They note that SIU investigators are by law “peace officers,” but that unlike sworn police, who are subject to several layers of accountability for their action, “the SIU is not subject to any accountability or transparency mechanism, which is a major flaw in its creation and must be remedied.”