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'We’re not here for pointing fingers': Inquest begins into 2019 OPP shooting of Tecumseh man

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WARNING: The details in this article may be disturbing to some readers

A coroner’s inquest started Monday into the OPP shooting of Tecumseh man.

Derek Teskey, 48, was shot by police on June 14, 2019.

 “We are mindful that the evidence that is going to be heard in this inquest will be difficult and painful to be recounted,” Rob Sidhu, lawyer for the Ministry of the Solicitor General said to the jury. “I’d like to thank the jury in advance. I understand the demands that jury work can put on you personally and professionally. But rest assured your role is a crucial one.”

A jury of five people were sworn-in Monday to the virtual proceedings that is expected to hear from five witnesses and take five days to conclude.

Coroner’s counsel Jai Dhar told the jury they hope to have presented all of the evidence by Wednesday, before the parties will make submissions to the jury for consideration.

“We’re not here for pointing fingers. We are here for ascertaining the facts,” presiding officer, Dr. John Carlisle, said in his opening address.

He explained to the jury they cannot lay blame or findings of legal responsibility on any of the people involved in the shooting.

Their role, Carlisle said, is to determine the circumstances around Teskey’s death and come up recommendations for how to prevent a similar death in the future.

“There are no winners and there are no losers,” Carlisle told them.

Dhar started the evidence with Teskey’s background.

“By all accounts his early life was promising. He was smart. He attended school. He obtained a professional degree. He had a wife and a child, but he also struggled with mental illness, in particular Mr. Teskey had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” Dhar said.

The lawyer also noted Teskey experienced “challenges with drug addiction” which turned into a diagnosis of substance use disorder.

“These illnesses caused inevitable difficulties in his life and at times manifested in episodes of drug induced psychosis,” Dhar said. “By all accounts it appears he was experiencing one of those episodes on the night of his death.”

The 911 call

On June 14, 2019, Teskey’s mother called 911 because she was concerned for her son’s wellbeing.

The jury heard around eight o’clock she told the dispatcher her son had barricaded himself in a bathroom — armed with a knife — and he was threatening to hurt himself.

Sgt. Trevor Davies with the Tecumseh detachment of the OPP was the first witness to testify at the inquest.

Davies told the jury, he was on patrol at a festival in the Town of Tecumseh when he was called because it was a “high risk and high priority” call that “requires supervision.”

When he got to the home, three other officers were already there, at the bottom of a small flight of stairs trying to negotiate with Teskey.

“He had indicated he just wanted to die and he wanted police to shoot him,” Davies testified, noting that he was the highest ranking officer on the scene.

Davies described Teskey as “highly agitated,” swearing at police and advising he had consumed “a lot of cocaine.”

The negotiation

The sergeant asked for back up from the Emergency Response Team and he requested a K9 unit to be present as another “non-lethal” option for bringing the situation to a “safe resolution.”

“The ideal outcome would have been to convince Mr. Teskey through communication and de-escalation to surrender himself,” Davies testified. “The intentions were to apprehend him under the Mental Health Act to bring him to hospital for medical assessment by a doctor.”

He said Const. Chris Truppe was being successful in communicating with Teskey so he was made the “single point of communication,” they asked any responding units to arrive without sirens activated and asked for the K9 Maximus to remain in the cruiser.

He told the jury it wasn’t safe for the officers inside the home to approach Teskey from inside the home.

Davies said Teskey was requesting a cigarette which police couldn’t acquire from anyone on scene.

Teskey’s mother — who was outside the home — suggested police call her other son, but Davies says Teskey refused to talk to his brother.

Davies also abandoned an idea to put a ladder up to the window “to gather intelligence” on what other items Teskey might have in his possession because he feared it would erode the progress the rapport officers were developing with him.

A conversation with his daughter “appeared to calm him down” according to Davies who said he believed they had convinced Teskey to exit the bathroom.

He assigned two other officers to be “hands on” to take physical control of Teskey if he became violent.

Another three officers were assigned to have their CEWs (conducted energy weapon) drawn and Davies testified he was “lethal cover” with his firearm ready if the situation deteriorated.

“If Mr. Teskey presented himself unarmed or armed and made a motion he was going to re-barricade (in the bathroom) they were also given direction to deploy their (CEWs) to prevent him from re-barricading himself,” Davies testified.

He told the jury he believed Teskey was surrendering until the sergeant got a phone call from a superior and he said out loud the man was surrendering.

The escalation

At that point, Davies says Teskey slowly closed the door and turned the tap on in the bathroom sink.

“Whether meaningful or not, he (Teskey) was at least communicating regularly with us and he had stopped at that point,” Davies testified. “This unfolded very rapidly from this point forward.”

He told the jury it was less than a minute, between when they approached the bathroom door, to Teskey being shot.

Davies says officers observed Teskey “crouched” in the bathtub, with a pillow clutched to his chest and a pair of scissors against his neck.

He said Teskey was growling at them with his teeth bared, before lunging at the three officers.

“My recollection is Mr. Teskey attacked first and then the tasers (CEWs) were deployed,” Davies told the jury when then noting they were ineffective because of the pillow Teskey was clutching to his chest.

A physical fight started between Teskey and two officers in the bathroom and it continued out of the bathroom and the group went “head-first” down a small flight of stairs, according to Davies.

He said Teskey ended up at the bottom of the stairs on his back with the officers on top of him.

“I clearly recall seeing both weapons were in firm control of Mr. Teskey,” Davies testified. “I had genuine fear that one of the officers was going to be stabbed and potentially killed.”

Davies was at the top of the small flight of stairs, watching the fight below, armed with his CEW.

Davies heard an officer cry out about being stabbed and another fell down, complaining of rib injuries.

Both rolled off Teskey and into the nearby hallway and kitchen

The shooting

Davies said at this point, he deployed both cartridges of his CEW but he wasn’t able to make contact so he pulled out his firearm.

“Somebody yelled watch out, he’s getting loose,” Davies testified. “I feared not only for my own life but for theirs (officers) if he was left or right out of my view that would be subject to assault by his weapons.”

“I discharged my firearm, a single round into Mr. Teskey’s chest,” Davies testified.

He told the jury the knife and scissors were still clutched in Teskey’s hands but he was no longer a threat so police called for paramedics to enter the residence.

Teskey was pronounced dead at hospital.

A toxicology report found cocaine, a separate by-product of cocaine, an anti-depressant and an anti-psychotic in Teskey’s blood stream.

Although the coroner observed injuries from the CEW probes, they were not a cause of death.

Teskey died of a single gunshot wound to the chest and he did have minor self-inflicted injuries to his neck.  

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