In the News
All Out to End Police Violence and Impunity!
Police Killing of Latjor Tuel
Latjor Tuel, a young Sudanese man, was shot and killed by the Calgary police on Saturday, February 19. The killing has deeply affected his family, the Sudanese community and all justice-loving Calgarians. The Sudanese community immediately went into action to condemn the killing and to demand police accountability and justice for Latjor Tuel. Members of the Sudanese community gathered the following day and laid flowers near the spot where Latjor was shot four times and died.
“We are saddened and heartbroken at the incident that happened yesterday,” said Khor Top, president of the South Sudanese Community of Calgary. The community held a meeting with people from other African communities and Black Lives Matter participating. They organized a rally to demand Justice for Latjor Tuel on February 25 at Calgary City Hall. The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) joined the family and community in expressing its deepest condolences to Latjor’s family, his friends, and his community who are suffering greatly from this loss, and who are demanding justice for Latjor.
Latjor came to Canada as a refugee from South Sudan, where he was a child soldier. He is described as a man very well known in the community, as a kind and gentle man with a big heart, who could make anyone smile and loved to do so. He worked extremely hard to support his family and to send money back home to Africa. Latjor suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the extreme trauma he experienced as a child soldier, and was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time he was killed, family and friends explained.
The Calgary Police Service released a report which gives a self-serving account of what took place. It said, in part, “Shortly after 3:40 pm, today, Saturday, February 19, 2022, we were called to the area of 45 Street and 17 Avenue S.E., for reports of a man believed to be in possession of weapons. Witnesses reported the man had assaulted a bystander and was threatening others. Upon arrival, officers located the man who was still in possession of the weapons and attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution. Despite their de-escalation efforts, the man’s action led to officers discharging their service weapons.”
Those present explained that when police arrived, Latjor was sitting at a bus stop, that he walked with a limp, and usually carried a walking stick, which he had with him when he was killed. Tuel’s daughter explained that Tuel’s cousin was present and asked the police to allow him to intervene. The police refused to allow this and instead responded with full force, including the use of a K9 dog. She said:
“A family member tried talking to them and telling them that he could de-escalate the situation with Latjor as he was his cousin… The fact that such a great man had to die on the street at a bus stop is beyond disgusting; it is dehumanizing. Calgary PD could have done anything other than kill him in cold blood…. Anything other than killing an innocent black man suffering from a PTSD episode… We came to Canada to find stability and safety for our family and rebuild our communities. But instead, we were met with prejudice and racism.”
Video shows the police standing around while Latjor lay motionless on the ground after they had shot him multiple times before finally checking to see if he was alive or dead. Witnesses say that his body was left on the sidewalk for more than seven hours, a further indignity to Latjor and the community.
A woman who witnessed Latjor’s killing told the Calgary Herald, “As a South Sudanese advocate in Calgary, we’ve been saying we have a problem here in Calgary with the police enforcement. We’ve been complaining for so many years that our kids are dying in ways that are not explained. We have brought this forward and we’ve been talking about it for many years. This is not new.”
“They [the police — TML Ed. Note] have to respect us. We are human beings. They have to respect us,” another woman told the press.
To claim, as the police do, that a shooting is necessary and justified because police were unprepared to respond to someone with mental health problems is completely unacceptable.
Facts show that police violence and killings and particularly racist police violence are time and time again covered up in Canada and the perpetrators are repeatedly given the green light to act with impunity. This includes many acts of deadly force by police against victims suffering mental health conditions, particularly against Black and Indigenous people. Indigenous people make up just 4.8 per cent of the national population but account for 15 per cent of all fatalities at the hands of police. Black people make up 3.4 per cent of the population, but account for nine per cent of the fatalities due to police violence.
Hundreds of people rallied and marched in downtown Calgary on Saturday February 25 demanding justice for Latjor Tuel. A large vigil was held on February 26 at the site where Latjor took his last breath, where people paid their respects and called for justice. People also showed their support through messages sent to the South Sudanese Community of Calgary. The rally and vigil confirmed what many people in the community are saying as they confront this crisis, that the demand for deep-going change is stronger than ever.
Let us stand as one against the use of deadly force by police, to demand accountability, an end to impunity, and justice. Now is the time to step up the fight against police violence and impunity, against state-organized racism and for a society which provides the rights of the people with a guarantee.
Justice for Latjor Tuel! Hold the Calgary Police to Account!
No to Police Impunity and State-Racism!
(Renewal Update, posted February 28, 2022)