Ontario's police watchdog says it is investigating the death of a 30-year-old trans woman who died in hospital after an incident involving officers.
According to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Toronto police attended an apartment on Bellamy Road after a 911 call was made at around 7 a.m. on Oct. 26.
Investigators say that when officers arrived at the 8th floor apartment unit, they saw that a person had barricaded themselves inside.
The SIU said that officers spoke to the individual and them apprehended them under the Mental Health Act and transported them to hospital.
The individual went into medical distress at the hospital and was pronounced dead at 10:15 a.m. the next day, said the agency, which investigates police incidents involving death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.
The investigations unit said it had first misidentified the individual as a man, but later clarified, after speaking to the victim’s next-of-kin, that the person who died was a trans woman.
Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam issued a statement following the death, saying she is deeply saddened by the “tragic loss.”
“I am deeply saddened to learn about the death of a 30 year old Black trans woman on October 26, 2020, who died in hospital after being apprehended by police under the Mental Health Act,” she wrote in her statement Wednesday.
I am deeply saddened to learn about the death of a 30 year old Black Trans woman on October 26, 2020, who died in hospital after being apprehended by police under the Mental Health Act. Read my full statement here: https://t.co/HIwH8gdrxn #TPSWhatHappened?— Kristyn Wong-Tam (@kristynwongtam) November 4, 2020
“I extend my sincerest condolences to her family, friends and to our community deeply affected by yet another loss.”
Wong-Tam said she is reinforcing calls and demands for transparency and accountability from the Toronto police, and said she was troubled by the initial statement calling the victim a man.
“Despite the SIU investigating, I’m unsure we will get the closure desperately sought,” she stated. “We cannot continue to sit idly as more trans lives and Black lives are lost. We need more information to get clarity on why and how this happened.”
“This tragic loss also falls in the midst of the City of Toronto’s policing reform efforts, and underscores the urgency in creating a new model of care when responding to mental health crises.”
“No one else should have to die before we change this system and this is why I firmly believe that governments have a responsibility here. I am sorry that the delays in our responses have failed this individual.”
The Toronto Police Service also issued a statement on Wednesday responding to the incident.
“The loss of any life is tragic. The Toronto Police Service sends its condolences to family, friends and the broader community who may be impacted by this death,” a spokesperson said.
The SIU said it is urging anyone who may have information about this incident to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529.