Family of man fatally shot by Toronto-area police seeking $2M in civil lawsuit
The family of a Mississauga man who was killed by police just over three years ago is seeking $2 million in damages in a civil lawsuit launched against the service, claiming its officers turned a “straightforward mental health call” into a “high-risk tactical operation” that resulted in the father of four's death.
Rena Ahmad, the wife of the late Ejaz Choudry, has filed a lawsuit against Peel Regional Police, Chief Nishan Duraiappah and five unnamed officers who attended the call, alleging the officers’ conduct was “arbitrary and grossly disproportionate.”
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Choudry, a father of four, was fatally shot by Peel police officers inside his apartment in the area of Goreway and Morning Star drives in Mississauga. He was 62.
Just after 5 p.m. on June 20, 2020, Choudry, who lived with schizophrenia, was in his apartment on Morningstar Drive with his family when his daughter called paramedics, requesting assistance as she said her father was not taking his medication and was in crisis.
Responding officers from Peel police made a number of unsuccessful attempts to remove Choudry, who they believed to be armed with a knife, from his home, before kicking the door in, according to Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, an arms-length agency that reviews incidents involving the police that have resulted in death or serious injury.
The officers fired a Taser, three non-lethal rounds, and then two rounds from a handgun at Choudry, with the latter striking him in the chest. The SIU said Choudry did not drop his knife after being shot and that an officer then shot two more plastic projectiles at him, before kicking his arm, causing the blade to drop.
Choudry was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:38 p.m. His death prompted outrage from both his family and the wider community, sparking mass demonstrations for days in his neighbourhood and calls for a full inquiry.
People hold signs in solidarity during a rally for justice for Ejaz Choudry, a 62-year-old man who was recently killed in a Peel Regional Police-involved shooting, in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday, June 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
CIVIL LAWSUIT LAUNCHED
The $2-million lawsuit, filed by Ahmad on behalf of herself, her daughter and three sons in June 2022, claims financial and emotional damage from the death of their husband and father.
It alleges battery and negligence, claiming the manner in which officers treated Choudry was “well” below the standard.
"They negligently allowed a straightforward mental health call to spiral out of control and become a high-risk tactical operation," the lawsuit says, adding the police "deployed deadly force without justification. "The subject of the operation was a frail, racialized, elderly man who was suffering from non-life threatening mental health issues who did not speak English fluently.”
The lawsuit further alleges the use of excessive force once officers made their way back into Choudry’s apartment for the last time.
“While on the ground bleeding from gunshot wounds, one of the officers kicked Ejaz’s elbow so hard that he broke it,” according to the statement of claim. “Ejaz died minutes later from the loss of blood caused by the gunshot wounds.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court. When reached for comment, Peel police said it would not provide any further statement while the suit was before the courts.
POLICE DENY BREACH OF CHARTER RIGHTS
In Peel police’s statement of defence, filed in October 2022, the service denies the officers used excessive force or breached Choudry’s Charter Rights, instead claiming they were acting out of necessity and self-defence.
Police claim responding officers were led to Choudry by his daughter, who told officers her father had recently been carrying a knife.
The documents state officers found Choudry sitting on a rug and when asked to produce his knife, pulled out of a large kitchen blade.
Police argue that they tried to talk with him through the door of the apartment and got a Punjabi-speaking officer to help, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
The sttement of defence says that from 8 p.m. to 8:25 p.m., police did not hear from Choudry and became concerned for his wellbeing “given the medical history provided by his family [and] the elevated potential for self-harm as he was in crisis and in possession of two knives.”
When they re-entered – the statement of defence doesn’t specify the entry was by force – they claim Choudry threatened them with the kitchen knife.
“Efforts to stop Choudry from advancing on police using non-lethal options were unsuccessful,” reads the claim.
Police say that Choudry held onto the knife after he was shot. They deny officers assaulted him or used unnecessary force.
Within its statement of defence, police asked to have Chief Nishan Duraiappah struck from the listed respondents, stating he is not liable for the acts or omissions of any of the officers involved and was not involved in the incident himself.
The next hearing date is set for April 9, 2024.
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