Derek Francique’s mind races all the time with thoughts of his son, who was shot dead by police a year ago.
He doesn’t know why police tried to arrest the young man as he sat in a car in Mississauga, Ont., nor does he know the name of the officer who fired the fatal shot at Jamal Francique.
All he knows is that the last year has been a struggle as he holds out for answers on what happened.
“The only thing I know is that my son left his home, went to a car that he was helping to get fixed and my son ended up dead,” Derek Francique said.
“That’s it and we don’t know which police officer did it. Nothing.”
Francique struggles to get out of bed most days, but also struggles to sleep, saying he’s caught in a netherworld he doesn’t wish upon anyone.
“The depression is real,” he said.
“But at the same time, you have to be as strong as you can be for your children and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Around 7:45 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020, Peel Regional Police officers confronted Jamal Francique while he was in a car, according to the Special Investigations Unit, which is probing the death.
There was an “interaction” as police moved to arrest him and one officer shot at the 28-year-old multiple times, lodging one bullet into his head, the SIU said.
The young man lived for two days in hospital before dying.
The SIU said the investigation is now with the unit’s director for review.
On that January day last year, Derek Francique said he and his son were set to go see an ailing relative, but the young man did not show up.
He then got a call from Jamal Francique’s mother who said she couldn’t get a hold of their son. At the same time, a local news channel reported a shooting by police in Mississauga.
Derek Francique said he went to the scene with a friend, but only learned that the person who was shot was sent to St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto.
He found out his son was the one shot shortly after walking through the emergency department’s doors.
The details of the next two days are difficult for him to discuss.
“It’s a very, very, very, sad, sad, sad, situation,” he says.
Jamal Francique, a Black father of a seven-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, loved playing basketball, working on cars and riding his motorcycle, his father said.
He described his son as an animal activist who was ready to return to school to learn how to operate heavy machinery.
“His kids aren’t doing very well,” Derek Francique said.
The pain of the past year was also compounded by the fact that nine other members of Francique’s extended family have died since his son was shot.
The day after burying his son on Feb. 2, his father passed away. His stepfather also died in the past year and his nephew was stabbed to death in August, he said.
“I haven’t got the chance to grieve past my son, let alone grieving for my father or stepfather,” he said.
Last spring, widespread protests began after the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto while police were in her home.
Jamal Francique’s family began speaking out at the rallies, but it took a toll.
“I have to lie down in my bed for at least a week to have the strength to be able to stand up and have the courage and the ability and the power to do all that,” Derek Francique said.
At a Dec. 11 rally protesting police shootings, Peel police headquarters was defaced.
In late December, police charged Francique with mischief over $5,000 along with two others. He and his lawyer, Knia Singh, say the allegations are false and plan to fight the charges in court.
Jamal Francique was one of 55 people who were shot by police in Canada between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30. Of those, 34 were killed.
The Canadian Press tracked each shooting using information from police, independent investigative units and independent reporting.
Peel police had six shootings in 2020 or a rate of 0.44 per 100,000 people, which ranks second per capita for local forces, excluding the RCMP and provincial forces.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2021.