Toronto cop who shot and killed Andrew Loku defends himself
Two years after a black man was shot to death by Toronto police in a west end Toronto apartment building, his family has received an apology of sorts from the officer responsible, as he told his side of the story for the first time.
“I can begin by saying this entire event was an absolute tragedy for everyone involved,” said Const. Andrew Doyle in a packed west-end Toronto courtroom on Wednesday afternoon, responding to questions from the family’s lawyer. “This is not the result anybody wanted, especially me. I am absolutely devastated.”
“I’m sorry that this was the end result of a situation I was involved in.”
The inquest, in its eighth day, was packed with supporters and activists from around the city who came to hear from Doyle, the officer who fired the two shots that took Andrew Loku’s life in July 2015.
Activists from Black Lives Matter Toronto, who have been pushing for two years for answers about what happened to Loku — a 45-year-old refugee from South Sudan, who left behind five children — filled the benches, clad in black and gold tees: “We will win,” they read.
A group of five jurors heard how Doyle, a veteran police officer, who had been with the Toronto Police Services since 2007, fired his weapon as Loku was advancing towards him with a hammer raised above his head, ignoring the officer’s commands to drop it.
Doyle was a coach officer, a more experienced officer partnered with Haim Queroub, a new recruit, the night of Loku’s death. Queroub has not yet taken the stand.
Doyle shot twice when Loku got within 10 feet of him to “stop the threat.”
About an hour into their shift, the pair responded to a hotshot call, a call of the highest priority, about a male with a hammer, threatening to kill someone, “smashing everything in the hallway”. At one point, the man — described as an African male in his 40s wearing a grey jacket — was stopping someone from closing their door, and threatening to kill the occupant of the apartment, the dispatcher said.
Upon arriving, Doyle said he saw Loku gesturing with his arms at someone inside an apartment, matching the scene described by the dispatcher. There was no damage in the hallway, however. “Looked to me like there was some sort of action going on at that particular door… I don’t know what he was doing, but that’s what I saw.”
He yelled out “Sir,” to get Loku’s attention, and when he turned around, Doyle noticed the hammer in his right hand. He immediately un-holstered his gun and pointed it at Loku. Loku began walking towards him — hammer in one hand, and the other hand up, with his palm open and facing forward. Doyle and his partner yelled at Loku, over and over again, to drop his hammer.
Surveillance video showed Loku talking as he walked towards Doyle, but Doyle said he didn’t remember him saying anything. The video also showed Robyn Hicks, a witness, initially standing in the hallway beside Loku, although Doyle said he remembered the hallway being empty.
“I remember him falling, like when you chop a tree down.”
“The threat that he presented to me was immediate grievous bodily harm or death,” said Doyle, responding to questions from Michael Blain, the coroner’s counsel.
Doyle shot twice when Loku got within 10 feet of him to “stop the threat,” he said. “He could easily reach me with the hammer and hit me with it or hit my partner with it.” Just 21 seconds had passed from the moment Loku turned towards the officer and Doyle fired the shots.
“I was aiming at the centre mass. I was trained to do that. That is the quickest way to stop the threat,” he said. “He immediately fell to the ground. There was no need for anything else,” Doyle said, adding that he knew he’d hit Loku at least once because “he fell completely.”
“I don’t remember him slouching over. I remember him falling, like when you chop a tree down, flat on his chest… without breaking his fall,” Doyle recalled.
Jonathan Shime, Loku’s lawyer, questioned why Doyle didn’t change his tone or use other de-escalation techniques instead of firing his gun.
“You spent 21 seconds screaming at Mr. Loku.” he said. “Yes,” Doyle responded.
Asked if he’d considered trying to disarm Loku or changing the tone he was using to communicate with him, Doyle said no because he had not been trained in disarming people and he felt his life was in danger.
Doyle, choking up on the stand, said he was “in a state of shock, and time was standing still,” describing the moments before other officers showed up to take control of the situation. “I just stood there.”
Speaking with reporters outside the courthouse, Black Lives Matter member Rodney Diverlus called the process “bittersweet,” expressing frustration at having to learn the “bare bones” details of the incident in the inquest, a full two years after it took place.
“I don’t think the officer did anything to prevent this outcome.”
“It’s incredibly infuriating to sit there with family members and loved ones and to hear this officer talk about his experiences of shock and the way this experience has impacted him, ignoring the way this has actually impacted communities and the way this has impacted family members,” he said.
“I don’t think the officer did anything to prevent this outcome. I think the officer went right ahead in less than 10 seconds, saw a man with his arms up, which is the universal sign for ‘hey, I’m here,’ and shot and killed the man. We heard from his mouth that he does not know about disarmament tactic. He did not speak to any de-escalation tactics that he’d used.”
Last year, after Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing, Black Lives Matter staged a 15-day protest outside of Toronto police headquarters, demanding the officers involved be identified and that any surveillance video from the night of the incident be made public.
Last week, the inquest heard that Loku had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being being kidnapped and tortured by rebels in South Sudan, and that at the time of his death, his blood alcohol level was at three times the legal driving limit.