Family claims ‘prolonged, violent encounter’ with police led to man’s death

Family members say Taresh Ramroop did not need police intervention but rather proper mental health care. They've called for the abolishment of the police service and for officers involved to be named and criminally charged.

By Melissa Nakhavoly and John Marchesan

The family of a man who fell to his death from the 16th floor of a high rise building in the west end is demanding action, claiming their loved one died following a “prolonged, violent encounter” with Toronto police.

Police say they were called to an apartment complex in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood just after 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 following reports someone was throwing furniture and other items from the top floor onto the street below.

An hour later, Emergency Task Force officers were deployed to the scene and negotiations began with the man, who had barricaded himself inside a bedroom in the apartment. According to police, a psychiatrist was en route to the scene but did not arrive in time before the man fell from the balcony of the apartment around 7 p.m.

The victim has been identified as 32-year-old Taresh Ramroop.

Photo of Taresh 'Bobby' Ramroop.

Photo of Taresh ‘Bobby’ Ramroop.

Family members, along with community advocates, say Ramroop did not need police intervention but rather proper mental health care. They claim police staged an “hours-long standoff” during which they were locked inside a superintendent’s office in the building and denied any attempts to speak with him throughout the ordeal.

“For six hours, they kept us locked in the room,” said Ramroop’s sister Vanessa Persaud. “We will never understand why these weapons, tactics or officers were necessary when we as a family did not place this call for police.”

The family says they were only allowed to leave the room “several hours” after Ramroop fell to his death as he “tried to escape from a window” in the apartment.

“This was essentially like a sting operation. This was multiple officers on rooftops, in neighbouring apartments, and somehow none of them were able to help and support this man,” said Desmond Cole, a community advocate who spoke on behalf of the family.

“The family have also remarked a police officer said at one point ‘stand back he’s going to jump’ and that that was said and an eyewitness heard that. But the family remarks that at no time were there any safety nets or other kinds of mechanisms that could have been used to actually save this man’s life.”

Butterfly Sabrina Gopaul, an activist with the Jane Finch Action Against Poverty committee called Ramroop’s death a tragedy that could have been prevented, adding that police should not be allowed to deal with people in crisis.

The family has called for the abolishment of the city’s Police Service, for the release of body cam footage of the incident, and that officers involved in the incident be named and criminally charged.

Police chief James Ramer issued a statement on Thursday, defending the actions of first responders.

“Barricading automatically requires a higher level of response according to procedure, given the elevated risk of harm and therefore this was not an incident where the MCIT (mobile crisis intervention teams) would be deployed to attend the scene,” said Ramer, noting that two of the ETF officers onsite were certified crisis negotiators.

“At no time was there any confrontation, a ‘stand-off’ or physical contact between the officers and the man.”

The province’s Special Investigation’s Unit is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding Ramroop’s death. In an updated statement released Thursday, they say three officers who were first on the scene attempted to negotiate with Ramroop before three additional officers from the ETF arrived and attempted to negotiate from an adjoining apartment.

The SIU says three of nine witness officials designated have been interviewed while two civilian witnesses have also been interviewed.

“The SIU is actively reviewing cellphone video, body worn camera footage and other evidence,” read the statement.

A memorial is planned for Ramroop on Nov. 1, the same day he would have celebrated his 33rd birthday.

The case is similar to the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell to her death in May of 2020 while trying to sidestep onto a neighbour’s balcony, after she, her brother and her mother each called 911 over an argument that had turned physical. A subsequent SIU investigation cleared six Toronto police officers who were in the apartment, saying that while their efforts to de-escalate the situation were unsuccessful, none of them broke the law. The family has launched a $10 million lawsuit against police, the SIU and several others.

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