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Holding a photo of Andrew Loku, Cecil Peter speaks out against carding during a public consultation on street checks hosted by Yasir Naqvi, the provincial Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Loku was shot by Toronto police and died from his injuries.

Fred Lum/Globe and Mail

A Toronto police officer won't face charges for fatally shooting a man wielding a hammer in an apartment building last July.

The officer was backed into a corner and fearing a serious attack when he shot 45-year-old Andrew Loku at a distance of two to three metres, a justifiable use of force, found Ontario's Special Investigations Unit.

Critics say the bigger question is whether police could have avoided such a high-stakes confrontation with Mr. Loku, who lived in housing for people with mental illness.

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"How come the police officers … didn't have the mental-health-crisis intervention team there at the first minute?" said former mayor John Sewell, now a member of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition.

The SIU, which investigates all deaths in the province involving police, said in a statement that officers acted quickly after a 911 call from a woman in the northwest Toronto apartment building, saying a man with a hammer was threatening to kill her.

"From that moment, it was a matter of seconds until the shooting, at which time I have no doubt that the subject officer feared for his life and that of his partner," said SIU director Tony Loparco in a statement.

The responding officers confronted Mr. Loku in a hallway, drawing their guns and asking him to drop his hammer several times, said the release. Mr. Loku kept approaching and raised the hammer over his head, saying 'What you gonna do, come on, shoot me,' " the SIU investigators heard.

Aside from the officer who shot Mr. Loku, they interviewed 15 civilians and nine other officers who witnessed part or all of the incident, said SIU spokesman Jason Gennaro. There was also a "partial video," though Mr. Gennaro couldn't say what it included.

The officers who responded did not have tasers, said Mr. Gennaro. The Toronto Police Service is looking at expanding its use of the less-lethal weapons but currently only a small fraction of officers carry them.

The decision in Mr. Loku's death was released the same week that Alex Wettlaufer, 21, was fatally shot by police in a dark North York park, prompting the SIU to open another file.

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