Family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet say they want investigation into her death reopened
The family of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the 29-year-old who fell to her death from her highrise balcony last year, are seen at a press conference on Tuesday.
TORONTO -- The family of a Black Indigenous woman who fell to her death from a Toronto highrise balcony last year is asking an independent body to review the case months after the province’s police watchdog deemed no charges would be laid against responding officers.
A lawyer representing Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s family held a news conference on Tuesday in response to a report released by the Special Investigation Unit last August.
The SIU’s report concluded that no charges were warranted against the officers who responded to an emergency call at Korchinski-Paquet’s home, where she ultimately fell from her balcony to her death.
The family has asked the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to investigate the case.
“On November, 20th 2020, the family filed an OIPRD report, initiating an independent investigation into the whereabouts and the actions of the SIU’s subject officers, and in terms, the conduct and the policies of the officers who participated in the actions that took place on May 27 2020,” Jason Bogle, the attorney representing the family, said at the press conference.
The Special Investigations Unit is an arm’s length provincial agency responsible for investigating anytime police are involved in a death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. The OIPRD is a civilian-run agency which manages all public complaints about police in Ontario.
Police responded to Korchinski-Paquet’s apartment building at 100 High Park Avenue after the 29-year-old’s mother called police.
Her mother told reporters that Korchinski-Paquet was suffering a mental episode and that she wanted officers to take her to a mental health facility.
According to the SIU’s report, five 911 calls were made by Korchinski-Paquet, her mother and brother, after Korchinski-Paquet and her brother were engaged in a fight.
When officers arrived, Korchinski-Paquet was in the apartment while her mother was in the building corridor and her brother was in the stairwell.
Seven minutes later one of the witness officers reported that Korchinski-Paquet was “scaling the balconies.”
Korchinski-Paquet subsequently fell to her death.
The SIU's report found that despite early allegations that she had been pushed, Korchinski-Paquet was alone on the balcony when she fell.
The report included interviews with one subject officer, six witness officers, and 15 civilian witnesses, including Korchinski-Paquet’s mother and brother.
“Based on his review of the evidence, the Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Joseph Martino, has determined there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any of the officers committed a criminal offence in connection with Ms. Korchinski-Paquet’s death,” the SIU said in a statement.
When the report was released, Korchinski-Paquet’s sister Renee Korchinski said the family was “totally disgusted with the outcome.”
Korchinski-Paquet’s brother said that if police didn’t follow his sister into the apartment, “she would still be alive.”
In a statement to CP24, Toronto police said they cannot comment further on the investigation.
"The Service fully co-operated with the SIU investigation which concluded that the officers acted lawfully throughout their engagement with Ms Korchinski-Paquet and her family. The circumstances are currently subject to an OIPRD investigation and as such, we cannot comment any further at this time."
On Feb. 1, Korchinski-Paquet’s family requested that the SIU reopen their investigation but the SIU has yet to do so.
At today’s press conference, Bogle said the family is not satisfied with the SIU’s findings and turned to the OIPRD for an independent review of the case.
Bogle said the family is raising concerns over missing statements from other witnesses in the SIU’s report, including one witness who was video calling Korchinski-Paquet right before her death.
“One witness provided the family with a screenshot of her phone that had engaged Regis Paquet’s cell phone on the day that she died. In that video call, she had observed that Regis was being jostled, and that the call was immediately terminated as her view of seeing Regis Paquet went out of focus,” Bogle said.
“Thinking that she was engaged with her family member or possibly her brother, the witness attempted to reestablish video contact with that same cell phone, only to have each one of her subsequent attempts cancelled by whoever was holding her phone on that day following Regis’ death.”
Bogle said it appears that whoever had Korchinski-Paquet’s phone at the time was cancelling those incoming phone calls.
He added that in February the family asked the SIU to return Korchinski-Paquet’s phone to them but they still have not received it. The family claims that the SIU said they never had possession of her phone.
“The family, to their dismay, have found that the SIU, as well as the Toronto Police, have taken the position that that cell phone... is now being asserted as being either lost or never obtained in the first place. And this is contrary to all positions that we have seen for the months that followed the investigation,” he said.
Bogle said the screenshot of the witness’ calls to Korchinski-Paquet have been passed on to the OIPRD for their investigation.
Bogle noted that if the witness’ cell phone does prove she was in a call with Korchinski-Paquet before her death then that might change the timeline of the incident.
“If the cell phone reflected that she was engaged in a video call prior to her immediate death then that may change the timeline to which the officers indicated how it was that she was able to quote unquote, make it to the balcony, whether or not they were engaged with her at the time of when, quote unquote, there was a discussion regarding her being on the cellphone,” he said.
This week, the family is launching a website, titled regisforever.com, to collect further information from any other witnesses for the investigation and to advocate for further police reform.
“The purpose of this foundation is also to encourage the necessity of body cameras, which was a pilot program that was started in 2016, alongside the Justice Tellic report that was released in April 2016, which still has not remained completely implemented, up until this date,” Bogle said.
Toronto police said they will be conducting their own separate investigation into the incident and will present the findings to the Toronto Police Services Board.
-With files from CP24's Joshua Freeman