A second police force has declined to lay charges in the case of Soleiman Faqiri, a 30-year-old mentally ill prisoner whose 2016 jailhouse death has become a rallying cry for advocates of prison reform across the country.
The Ontario Provincial Police confirmed on Thursday that it has closed its investigation and determined that “there is no reasonable prospect of conviction on any criminal offences,” echoing an earlier conclusion by the Kawartha Lake Police Service.
Mr. Faqiri spent 11 days in solitary confinement at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont., before he died on Dec. 15, 2016. A subsequent coroner’s report described 50 injuries riddling Mr. Faqiri’s body and a prolonged confrontation with correctional officers.
The OPP’s decision came as a shock to Mr. Faqiri’s family, who have been pressing the jail and police for answers through lawyers, media interviews and a series of cross-country appearances that have publicized the tragic intersection of mental illness and the criminal-justice system.
“We are heartbroken, crushed, disappointed,” Mr. Faqiri’s brother Yusuf said. “We don’t know how to make sense of this.”
The OPP informed the family of its decision last week over a Zoom call, but family members chose to wait several days to make the information public. A lawyer for the Faqiris who was on the call said investigators had pieced together how Mr. Faqiri died, but decided against laying charges because they couldn’t determine fault down to the individual officer.
“That’s a profoundly troubling interpretation of criminal law,” lawyer Nader Hasan said. “The Attorney-General for this province has to take a look at this. Something isn’t right here. This is a miscarriage of justice.”
The OPP turned down a request from Mr. Hasan to release a legal opinion from Crown attorneys that was used to underpin the decision.
Mr. Faqiri had been a straight-A University of Waterloo student and aspiring engineer when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2005. In March, 2016, he began refusing medication, and violent outbursts followed, according to the family.
For eight months, family members talked to caregivers and police about having him placed in a psychiatric facility, to no avail.
On Dec. 6, amid a major mental-health breakdown, Mr. Faqiri was charged with aggravated assault for stabbing a neighbour.
By Dec. 12, it became clear that the jail couldn’t treat Mr. Faqiri’s mental-health issues. A justice of the peace ordered Mr. Faqiri’s transfer to a psychiatric facility, but a lack of beds delayed the move.
Three days later, Mr. Faqiri refused to enter his cell and a correctional officer doused him with pepper spray. Staff called a “code blue,” – indicating an officer in need of immediate assistance. Responding officers placed a spit hood on his head and shackled his wrists and ankles, according to the coroner’s report.
Soon after officers left the cell, “onlookers noted that Soleiman was no longer moving and had stopped breathing.”
Paramedics would pronounce him dead in his cell.
Three correctional officers were fired, but one has since been reinstated.
The family has filed a $14.3-million excessive-force claim against the province and several correctional officers. Two dismissed officers responded with a counterclaim against the province, calling the death accidental and blaming any possible negligence on training and staffing problems at the jail.
In a statement of defence, the Government of Ontario denied it breached any duty of care owed to Mr. Faqiri.
A full coroner’s inquest has been announced but remains unscheduled.
“This fight is far from over,” said Yusuf Faqiri, who’s holding a rally outside the Ministry of the Solicitor-General offices next week. “The truth will come out.”
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