Family of woman who died after falling from balcony won't speak to SIU after apparent leak, lawyer says
TORONTO -- The family of a woman who fell to her death following an interaction with police will not speak with SIU investigators for the time being in the wake of the apparent leak of details about the incident to a Toronto newspaper.
The Toronto Sun published a story on Tuesday, which included a number of previously unreported details about an interaction between officers and 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet in the moments leading up to her death.
The newspaper, citing unspecified sources, said that Korchinski-Paquet had barricaded herself on her High Park balcony by using a large appliance to block the door and ultimately fell to her death “while trying unsuccessfully to vault to a neighbouring balcony.”
The SIU is continuing to investigate the incident but on Wednesday’s the family’s lawyer Knia Singh told CP24 that his clients have made a decision not to speak with investigators at this time.
The about-face comes after the SIU said Monday that it had planned to speak to Korchinski-Paquet’s mother and brother sometime this week.
“If the investigation is taking place and information is being leaked it is not a clear, fair and transparent investigation,” Singh said. “I have to have a conversation with the SIU and the SIU needs to explain how did that information get to the Toronto Sun and once we understand that maybe we can move forward but we need answers.”
Leak is ‘very problematic’
The only other people inside the apartment unit at the time of Korchinski-Paquet’s death were police officers and while the Sun did not identify the source for its reporting, Singh said that it would stand to reason that it is an officer.
He said that if that is the case, it is “very problematic” and would represent a deliberate attempt at shaping the narrative around an incident that is actively being investigated by the SIU.
It would also go against a law prohibiting police from commenting on SIU investigations, he noted.
“What this leak has done now is start to create a narrative where the public is going to say ‘Oh yeah, she ran to the balcony, she blocked herself in.’ That is what the public now believes because sources say it but the only source is the Toronto police,” Singh said. “This investigation is only a week old, it hasn’t even reached a full week yet and the fact that narrative is attempting to be shifted is very problematic. The family made a statement, the police made a statement and it was left at that. The investigation should have proceeded and the fact that you have news reporters alleging a version of events that the public is going to believe as true is highly problematic.”
Korchinski-Paquet’s mother, Claudette Beals-Clayton, told reporters last week that her daughter was in the midst of a mental health crisis when police were called to the apartment.
She said she had asked officers to take Korchinski-Paquet to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health moments before she fell to her death and is still unsure how she ended up dead.
Police, meanwhile, have said that they were called to the apartment for an assault call and that at least two of three 911 calls mentioned knives.
There is not a lot of information about what happened next but at some point Korchinski-Paquet asked to go to the washroom inside her apartment after being brought into the hallway. She was then followed in by several officers, according to her mother and brother.
Speaking with CP24, Singh said that the family will “preferably” take part in the SIU investigation but he said that they will not do so until they are comfortable and until the issues around the apparent leak of information about the case are resolved.
He said that the family “want answers more than anybody” but also want to ensure that the SIU investigation is “fair and transparent.”
“I am not in a position to allow the family to speak with the SIU when things like that are floating around,” he said. “The SIU has to explain what is happening. They need to speak with the officers and they need to get a handle on this investigation before it gets out of control and it is already getting out of control.”
The SIU said Wednesday that it reached out to Toronto police to remind them that disclosing details of an incident being investigated is illegal, and doing so impacts public confidence in an investigation.
"The public and affected persons will have less confidence in the results of an SIU investigation where pronouncements are made by police services or officers ahead of the completion of a full SIU investigation, which is what used to occur prior to the enactment of the regulation and what the regulation was meant to remedy."
"These types of pronouncements can also contribute to delay in the investigative process, as seems to have occurred here with the cancellation of the family interviews."
For its part, the Toronto Police Service said it is investigating the source of the leak.
"The Toronto Police Service does not comment on the validity of information from unnamed sources. We can say that any unauthorized release of information is taken seriously by the TPS and the matter is being investigated by Professional Standards."