Friday, February 24, 2012

Canadian cops slow to act against one of their own

For what is believed to be the first time in the history of the force, a Toronto Police Service officer has been charged with murder in an on-the-job incident.

Const. David Cavanagh, who already was facing a manslaughter charge in the Sept. 29 shooting, on Thursday saw the charge upgraded to second-degree murder in Ontario Superior Court.

The decision would have been made jointly by Crown prosecutors and investigators with Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit.

Eric Osawe, 26, died when police were executing a search warrant at his apartment in Etobicoke, west of Toronto.

Osawe sustained a fatal gunshot wound following what the SIU described at the time as an "interaction" with police.

While details of the brief proceeding before Judge Ian Nordheimer remain under a standard publication ban, both Julian Falconer, lawyer for Osawe's family, and Toronto Police Association boss Mike McCormack spoke to reporters outside court.

"We're OK with the process," McCormack said Thursday, adding the upgraded charge "suggests there was intent there," which he described as "over the top."

Most troubling, he said, was that "the Crown has had the case for two years, and as far as I know, there's no new evidence and nothing's changed."

McCormack said the case was tragic by any measure, especially for Osawe's family but also for the constable, who is 35, and other officers who, in the course of executing similar warrants, also may be kicking in doors and making arrests.

"We don't want to see our officers hesitating when we have to make split-second decisions," McCormack told reporters.

For Osawe's family, however, the upgraded charge came as a relief, Falconer said, and means "the tough questions are going to get asked."

Osawe's younger brother, Ebony Osawe, 23 at the time, was arrested at the scene and charged with a variety of firearms offences.

Cavanagh landed in the public spotlight during the trial of Jorrell Simpson-Rowe, who ultimately was convicted of second-degree murder in Jane Creba's high-profile slaying on Boxing Day, 2005. Cavanagh was one of four officers who staged a gunpoint takedown of two suspects who fled the Yonge Street gun battle that killed Creba.

Original report here

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