Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared three Peel Regional Police officers of criminal wrongdoing for their involvement in a violent 2019 arrest that left a Mississauga man with a history of mental illness dead.
The family of 30-year-old Clive Mensah said they were dismayed to learn that no one would be held accountable for his death, which came after a physical confrontation, 12 taser discharges and a blast of pepper spray.
“Clive was alone and scared and had done nothing wrong,” read a statement from the family released through their lawyer. “In all this time, we have heard nothing from Peel police. No explanation and no apology about what happened to Clive.“
On Monday, Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah offered condolences in a statement that said the tragedy has been difficult for both the family and Peel officers. “Due to the unpredictable nature of policing on the frontline, our officers often find themselves in difficult situations,” he said. “Despite their best intentions to navigate these situations safely, there is at times a tragic outcome.”
The SIU examines any police interaction that results in death or serious injury. Their involvement in the case began after Mr. Mensah died in hospital at 4:19 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2019.
Just one hour earlier, a resident at 1185 Runningbrook Dr. called police to complain that another tenant in the house, Mr. Mensah, was being “exceptionally loud,” according to an SIU narrative of the incident. Shortly after, another neighbour reported seeing Mr. Mensah walking up and down the street flailing his arms and yelling.
When Peel police arrived on the scene at 3:21 a.m., they rolled up next to Mr. Mensah and asked him to return home. Mr. Mensah turned around and did just that. But one officer thought that he was trespassing. “He’s in someone’s backyard,” an officer said over the radio. “We’re going to have to deal with this expeditiously.”
Three officers caught up with Mr. Mensah on his backyard deck. “Unaware that [he] lived at the address, the officers ordered him to the ground,” the SIU report states. Mr. Mensah complied, but continued to flail his arms.
One of the officers fired a taser, which only seemed to aggravate Mr. Mensah, who raised himself from the deck and “lunged” at the police. In the moments that followed, the officers tasered Mr. Mensah several more times and blasted him with pepper spray before handcuffing him and leaving him face down.
Only when a fourth officer arrived in the backyard and checked on Mr. Mensah did they realize he had no pulse.
He was pronounced dead in hospital at 4:19 a.m., barely one hour after the Peel officers first responded.
The report says the three officers pulled their taser triggers a total of 12 times, but none resulted in “a sustained connection with the optimal charge.” SIU director Joseph Martino wrote that the tasering was “of particular concern” and suggested the officers could have taken physical control instead of resorting to a weapon, but said the taser could be justified because Mr. Mensah “had given officers reason to believe that he was intoxicated, intruding on to private premises and unwilling to surrender peacefully.” Mr. Martino also noted he was a large man at six-foot-three and 334 pounds.
Emily Lam, lawyer for the Mensah family, contended that the use of force was “unjustified and grossly excessive” and questioned what role his identity as a Black man may have played in his treatment that night. She said Mr. Mensah had struggled with mental-health issues since 2015.
Two of the three subject officers declined to be interviewed by the SIU or provide notes to investigators, as is their right under the law.
“The result,” Ms. Lam said, “is that the SIU director had limited and incomplete information about the incident.”
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