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2 city councillors, The 519 call for answers after Black trans woman dies in police custody

Last Updated Nov 5, 2020 at 2:45 pm EST

A Toronto Police cruiser is seen in an undated photo. CITYNEWS/Dilshad Burman

Two city councillors are joining the call for answers after a Black trans woman died last month while in the custody of Toronto police.

Officers were called to an apartment in the Bellamy Road North and Eglinton Avenue East area just before 7 a.m. on Oct. 26, for reports of a break and enter.

According to police, when officers entered the unit they determined there hadn’t been a break and enter but that a person was in crisis. After speaking with the woman officers determined she should be taken to hospital.

Police said once in hospital the woman went into distress and, despite life-saving measures taken, she died.

“The loss of any life is tragic, the Toronto Police Service sends its condolences to family, friends and the broader community who may be impacted by this death,” Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said.

The province’s Special Investigations Unit was called in and continues to investigate the situation.

The 519 is calling for answers as to how the woman died. They also want the SIU to apologize after misgendering the woman in their release.

“Last week, a 30 year old Black trans woman died while in the custody of Toronto Police,” the organization said in a statement.

“The Special Investigations Unit misgendered the woman in a news release, and still hasn’t corrected itself. Police at 43 Division in Toronto know what happened—they need to tell us NOW.”

Their call is being echoed by Toronto city councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Mike Layton.

“There’re questions surrounding the death of a Black trans woman detained by Toronto Police in a hospital,” Wong-Tam tweeted.

“Although the SIU is investigating, it’s still important for her given and chosen families to know from the #TPSWhatHappened as soon as possible.”

Layton tweeted that this was another reason to speed up the defunding of police.

“Toronto deserves answers. A Black trans woman in crisis is dead. the fact that they were misgendered is unacceptable. We need to move faster to defund the police & develop community based emergency response to protect people facing mental health crisis.”

The SIU said they were contacted by The 519 last week with information on the woman’s identity, but have yet to be able to contact any of her family of next-of-kin.

The 519 said they would publicly identify the woman out of respect for family and friends who may or may not know the details surrounding her death, however, owever, a statement issued on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Toronto and Maggie’s Toronto identified her as Coco.