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Constable Dave Cavanagh. (Toronto Police Service/Toronto Police Service)
Constable Dave Cavanagh. (Toronto Police Service/Toronto Police Service)

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A man whose friend was shot dead by police says the mere fact that a charge has been laid has given him faith in the justice system.

“At least we made it this far,” Antonius Clarke said Thursday at Toronto’s College Park court after a brief hearing. “It’s not going to take away the pain of losing a brother, a friend.”

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Constable David Cavanagh, charged with manslaughter in the Sept. 29 shooting death of 26-year-old Eric Osawe, did not attend the hearing, which set a new court date of Feb. 23.

Constable Cavanagh is the first officer to be charged in a duty-related shooting in Toronto in 13 years. The charge comes as the Toronto police and the Special Investigations Unit, which probes all such incidents involving police in Ontario, are under fire over allegations of police brutality at the G20 summit.

Defence lawyer Peter Thorning said he is seeking to change his client’s bail conditions, but wouldn’t comment on details.

Charges against police officers don’t come very often, said Mr. Clarke, who mentioned he was also a friend of Mr. Osawe’s family. Whatever the verdict, he’s glad his friend’s death is being addressed in the justice system.

Mr. Clarke runs a non-profit organization for at-risk youth called Friends in Trouble, where Mr. Osawe was a client. Mr. Clarke helped raise funds for the funeral and autopsy as an individual. His organization also helped with legal matters.

Mr. Osawe’s family didn’t attend Thursday’s hearing, though nearly a dozen friends and supporters made an appearance, filling up courtroom seats and the hallway outside. Mr. Clarke said the family had been on their way, but turned around when they learned the accused wasn’t coming.

Constable Cavanagh was charged on Dec. 1 and suspended with pay.

Mr. Osawe was shot and later died at St. Michael’s Hospital. His 23-year-old brother was arrested on weapons charges. Mr. Osawe was a Nigerian immigrant and a father of two. He had been released from prison a few months before his death and had found work and had moved to a different neighbourhood.

Editor's Note: This online version of the article contains a clarification about the role of Mr. Clarke and his organization Friends in Trouble that was not in the original online version.

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