One month before he was shot dead by a Peel Regional Police officer, Jermaine Carby was apprehended under Ontario’s Mental Health Act after attempting to disarm a Toronto police officer, Torstar News Service has learned.
After he was taken to hospital following apprehension by police, Carby threatened to commit suicide by hanging or injecting air into his veins through a syringe.
Information detailing Carby’s mental health apprehension was provided to his relatives during a meeting with the Special Investigations Unit last week, after the police watchdog ruled the unnamed officer who killed Carby during a traffic stop last September would not face criminal charges.
Carby’s family recorded the meeting with SIU officials, including director Tony Loparco, and provided Torstar with audio from the meeting. The family has also provided the coroner’s and toxicology reports.
The information sheds new light on Carby’s mental health challenges — including suicidal tendencies — and raises fresh questions about how much the Peel officers knew about Carby’s background in the moments before he was killed.
Carby’s family was told at the meeting that the in-car computer Carby’s name was run through would have reported that he had “suicidal tendencies,” “mental instability” and had previously tried to disarm an officer.
“We’re asking, why wasn’t someone from the mental health unit called? Why didn’t they deal with this information better, being that they knew this?” said La Tanya Grant, Carby’s cousin.
Carby, 33, was shot three times on September 24, 2014, after the black Jetta in which he was a passenger was pulled over for a traffic stop in Brampton.
Moments after being pulled over, the officer ran Carby’s name through the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), a national database that includes criminal files, and discovered Carby had a lengthy criminal record and outstanding warrants from British Columbia.
According to the SIU investigation, when the officer questioned Carby about the warrants, he pulled out a knife and moved toward officers, prompting one of two officers who arrived as backup to shoot.
But when the officer who made the initial traffic stop ran Carby’s name through his in-car computer, CPIC also cautioned the officer, via a warning note, that Carby had previously attempted to disarm a police officer, the family was told in the meeting.
The caution, which stated Carby had also threatened suicide and wanted police to shoot him, is in reference to an Aug. 19, 2014 incident when Carby was apprehended under the Mental Health Act by Toronto police. The law allows police to detain a mentally ill person who poses a danger to himself or others; Carby’s family does not know the length of his detention under the act, said Grant, nor did they know much about his mental health difficulties prior to his death.
According to an occurrence report that SIU officials referenced in the meeting, after attempting to disarm a Toronto police officer, Carby threatened in hospital that he would kill himself by hanging, or injecting air into his veins.
The details of the Aug. 19 incident would not have been accessible to the officer through the CPIC report on his in-car system. The report would have shown the officer a list of cautions about Carby, including that he was violent, mentally unstable, had suicidal tendencies and was an escape risk.
It’s not clear, however, how much of the information about Carby’s mental health was seen by the officer who searched his name.
SIU officials said at the meeting that the unnamed officer who ran Carby’s name through CPIC said he saw the information about the BC warrants and the caution that he had attempted to disarm an officer, but “never said he saw the rest of it,” said an SIU official.
The officer was not specifically asked by SIU investigators about what information he saw on his in-car computer.
Grant said her family wonders if more could have been done to avoid using lethal force against her cousin, considering his mental health challenges. Among their questions is how much of an attempt officers made to verbally de-escalate the situation, rather than — as the SIU investigation found — repeatedly ordering Carby to drop the knife.
A toxicology report from the Centre of Forensic Sciences found Carby’s blood contained methamphetamine and amphetamine in amounts consistent with recreational use, a low amount of THC and a trace amount of the depression medication Citalopram.
Methamphetamine use is also listed as a contributing factor to Carby’s death, caused by “gunshot wounds of torso,” according to the coroner’s report. During the meeting, Loparco told Carby’s family that the unnamed driver of the Jetta said Carby had been smoking crystal meth previously.
Peel Regional Police is conducting an administrative review of the events surrounding Carby’s death, including the actions of one Peel officer who removed the knife Carby was apparently wielding from the scene.
In a harshly worded statement, SIU’s Loparco called removal of evidence “hard to fathom,” characterizing it as “tampering.” The Peel police union later fought back, calling Loparco’s comments “inflammatory” in a letter sent to the SIU director and obtained by the Star.
In 2011, Carby’s name became notorious when Vancouver police announced they had arrested a man by that name for manslaughter in the stabbing death of a 50-year-old man; that charge was later stayed.
Vancouver police Insp. Brad Desmarais told the Vancouver Sun at that time that Carby was “one of the most well-known street-level enforcers in the Downtown Eastside, with a long history of violence, drug trafficking and drug possession.”