In 1994, a coroner's inquest into the 1988 fatal shooting by police of Lester Donaldson, a paranoid schizophrenic, produced 85 recommendations aimed at preventing more deaths of mentally ill people at the hands of police.
Yesterday, six years later, another coroner's inquest began reviewing how and why police shot and killed another mentally ill man.
The subject of this latest inquest is Wayne Williams, a 24-year-old schizophrenic who was shot four times on June 11, 1996.
Winston Williams told reporters yesterday that his son's death could have been avoided had police used other methods to stop him.
The family, which has been granted standing so it can participate in the hearing, hopes the exercise of another inquest will prevent further deaths.
"We hope no one, absolutely no one, will get killed. . . . We hope that no parent will have to experience anything like this," Mr. Williams said.
The task of the three women and two men on the jury is not to assign blame, but to explore all the facts and circumstances leading to the death and to make recommendations.
Yesterday, jurors heard how the young Mr. Williams smashed the windows of about 20 vehicles parked in private driveways on Ellesmere Road near Meadowvale Road in what was then the city of Scarborough before police arrived.
Peter Fearon testified that he called police after a man banged on his front door at 5:40 a.m. while he was getting ready for work. He said he looked out his front window and saw a man smashing the windows of his car with a baseball bat. The man continued up the street, leaving destruction behind.
Mr. Fearon, 46, said he followed and yelled at the man to stop. "He said, 'If you come near me I'll kill you,' " so he kept his distance.
As the young man walked around the corner onto Muirbank Boulevard, five police officers in three cruisers arrived. Told to put down his weapon and to lie on the ground, he refused. Instead, he pulled out two knives and pointed them at the five officers, Mr. Fearon testified.
"He had one in each hand. . . . He suddenly yelled and charged toward the officers in the centre. . . . I thought he was going to stab one of the officers when he ran toward them," he told the hearing.
He never reached them. Two of the officers fired seven shots, four of them hitting Wayne Williams, who slumped to the ground.
Joanne Mulcahy, the lawyer representing the five officers involved, told reporters that police had "no inclination he was possibly an emotionally disturbed person."
She said that police had about 75 seconds to deal with the violent man. "Based on the experience and training they [the police officers]had, the shooting could not have been prevented," she said.
Police are better trained today in how to deal with the mentally ill, she said, "but on June 11, 1996, they couldn't have done anything different."
Julian Falconer, the lawyer for the Williams family, disagreed, telling the hearing that the officers did not take time to formulate a plan on how to deal with him.
The coroner, William Lucas, has allowed the inquest to focus on Wayne William's mental illness rather than restrict it to the events leading up to his death. As a sign that the psychological problems are intrinsically linked to the shooting and need to be explored, Dr. Lucas has granted standing to the Ministry of Health and to the Queen Street Patients' Council, a group concerned about the rights of people with psychiatric problems.