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Chief Neufeld responds to Calgary police shooting of Latjor Tuel

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said officers had no knowledge of a shooting victim’s prior mental health history and were responding to an assault call.

On Saturday afternoon, 41-year-old Latjor Tuel was shot and killed by Calgary police on 17 Avenue SE and 44 Street.

According to a release from the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the body responsible for investigating police incidents, CPS responded to a 911 call at 3:41 p.m. about a man on 17 Avenue SE with a stick and a knife. One caller reported the man had hit someone with the stick.

Five minutes later officers were on scene. Tuel was still holding the stick and knife, according to ASIRT. Other officers arrived and surrounded Tuel, who was sitting on the sidewalk. ASIRT said video shows officers asking Tuel to drop the stick and knife.

They said at 4:02 p.m. Tuel got up and officers fired less-lethal baton rounds at Tuel, ASIRT said. According to the report, Tuel then got up and advanced toward officers.

A police dog, on a lead, approached Tuel before being pulled back, ASIRT said.  Tuel continued to move towards officers, swung the stick and stabbed the dog. Officers then attempted to use a Taser on Tuel. 

A “confrontation” between Tuel and officers occurred, ASIRT said, and two officers fired at Tuel.  He died at the scene.

Chief Neufeld said he attended the scene Saturday and could see the emotion.

“On behalf of all members of the Calgary police service, I offer my most sincere condolences and acknowledge the pain that is being felt by his family and friends, both here and back home,” Chief Neufeld said at a news conference Tuesday.

“By all accounts, Mr. Tuel was well known and well respected in his community, and his death is most certainly being felt by many.”

Fundraising effort

A GoFundMe campaign was launched Monday and already had nearly $50,000 of a $70,000 goal. The money was being raised to help with burial costs and to get Tuel back to his home of South Sudan.

“He was a hard working man and an amazing man with a big heart; who would work hard to provide for both his family in Canada and South Sudan,” the donation post read.  

“A man dedicated to his community known to many as some who inspired joy to those around him.”

The post described the challenges Tuel had and his life as a former child soldier. The post said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after fleeing the Sudanese civil war.

“He suffered from ongoing mental health crisis, He was going through a mental health crisis at the time of his murder. A clear cry for help,” the post read.

Chief Neufeld said the call was reported as an assault, not mental health.

“It was a complaint of an assault involving a man in possession of a knife and a stick in a busy public area on 17th Avenue southeast,” Chief Neufeld said.

“Some have suggested that the police were not the appropriate resource to respond to a call such as this and that maybe mental health resources could respond instead. To be clear, with the situation and information that was provided to Calgary 911, this situation involved the person armed with weapons who had committed an assault. This was a police call and police were the appropriate resource.”

The Chief said that a lot has been reported on Tuel’s mental health history.

“Now one thing to understand, though, is that the police officers responding to this call and calls like it did not have the benefit of any of that information.”

Grieving city: Mayor Gondek

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the news of Tuel’s death at the hands of Calgary police is tough to process. 

“It’s a really difficult time for everybody,” she told media on Tuesday afternoon.

“In this particular case, we're grieving over the loss of a man who had tremendous impact within his community. Not only the neighbourhood he lived in, but also the Sudanese community in Calgary. This was a person that was loved by friends and family, and he's gone.”

Mayor Gondek said she was concerned that there wasn’t yet a strong enough support network for newcomers that have experienced trauma.

“We have to be strengthening our social support networks, we have to be strengthening our mental health networks’ we are in a crisis situation globally. And I don't think that we've committed enough resources,” the mayor said.

She’s hoping members of Calgary’s police commission ask tough questions at Wednesday’s meeting.

Mayor Gondek said there are questions around the deployment of less-lethal options and whether they were deployed correctly. She said we’ll have to wait for more answers as the investigation continues.

The Alberta NDP also extended condolences to Tuel’s family and community. They too called for better mental health supports.

“The use of force cannot and should not be a substitute for trauma-informed care and mental health support. Racialized communities deserve better care and compassion from our institutions, including policing,” read a joint statement from Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, Multiculturalism critic Jasvir Deol and Justice Critic Irfan Sabir.