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Inquest rules police shootings of mentally ill Toronto residents as homicides

The deaths of three mentally ill Toronto residents shot by police were homicides, a jury in a coroner’s inquest ruled Wednesday.

Since this was an inquest, the homicide verdict means the Toronto police shot and killed the three people but there will be no criminal implications.

The jury recommends that police training puts more emphasis on verbal de-escalation techniques.

The inquest heard that when an officer is faced with an individual advancing with a sharp object, their response is based on the person’s behaviour and not their mental state.

The jury recommends training officers to take into account whether a person is in crisis and all relevant information about their condition, not just their behaviour, and refraining from shooting for as long as possible.

The recommendation is one of dozens the five-member jury issued on Wednesday, and many are focused on police training when dealing with emotionally disturbed people carrying edged weapons.

They also suggest police consider further use of in-car cameras, body armour that provides officers greater protection from edged weapons, body-worn camera technology for front-line officers and shields to disarm and control people with edged weapons.

The inquest has been examining the deaths of Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis and Michael Eligon, who were all gunned down after approaching police with knives or scissors.

Lawyers for police warned jurors not to micromanage officers and their training.

But families of the victims pushed the jury to recommend police take a person’s mental state into consideration and make every attempt at de-escalation when dealing with someone in crisis.