Family of man shot dead by police, anxious for SIU report
Ten months after the death of their brother Anthony, the Divers family is still no closer to finding out if the Hamilton police officer who shot him will be charged.
“The police and the (Special Investigations Unit) know what happened that night, but I’m his brother, and his two sisters, and we don’t have a clue, almost a year later, what happened on Sept. 30,” Divers’ brother, Edward, said.
The SIU, the independent agency that investigates police-involved deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault, has yet to produce a decision in the Divers case.
Delay in SIU cases was recently ad-
dressed in a sweeping review of Ontario police oversight bodies, which recommended tighter timelines for completing investigations.
The wait for the Divers family has been made worse, they said, by SIU investigators implying to them that a decision is forthcoming.
One lead investigator told them in December that his report was on SIU director Tony Loparco’s desk, waiting for approval, the family said. But seven months later, still nothing.
“They said in December they had a decision, and now they’re stalling and stalling even more,” said one of Divers’ sisters, Leslie Wilson.
The SIU did not respond to the Star’s request for comment for this article. A spokesperson told the Star in December the SIU attempts to conclude investigations as quickly as possible.
“The SIU has been in regular contact with two of Mr. Divers’ siblings. All communications have been prompt, courteous, professional and as transparent as possible given the limitations during an ongoing SIU investigation,” Monica Hudon said at the time.
Divers, 36, was shot and killed around midnight Sept. 30 by a Hamilton police officer who was responding to a call about a man who had committed an assault and was reportedly armed with a gun, according to the SIU.
“There was an interaction and the officer discharged his firearm,” said a brief news release issued by the SIU last fall.
The family said they believe, based on an eyewitness whom they spoke to, that Divers was not armed that night. Two eyewitnesses interviewed by The Hamilton Spectator also said they did not see a weapon.
Divers, who had mental health issues, was clearly in crisis, his family says.
The family has been persistent in their attempts to get answers as to what happened that night. They call the SIU weekly, and in June two investigators came to speak with them in person, yet had no final decision to share.
“It was almost like giving us false hope,” said Divers’ eldest sister, Yvonne Alexander.
She has so far been unsuccessful in reaching Loparco, the SIU director, despite her many phone calls, she said.
“Is this guy like God? He doesn’t even talk to you.”
The family said the uncertainty has exacerbated their grief. Birthdays are hardly celebrated, and they only really marked Christmas for the sake of the children.
“Are we going to get justice for Tony?” Alexander asks. “Ten months of my life seems like 10 years of my life ... I can’t enjoy anything, because 24/7 my brother is on my mind.
“We want a decision, to start the new normal without our brother ... How can I grieve? I don’t even know what the hell happened to my brother, so I that I could put facts together and grieve my loss.”
The SIU has long faced criticism not only from affected families, but from police associations as well, for taking too long with probes.
The final report from a sweeping review of police oversight bodies, made public in April, by Justice Michael Tulloch recommended that the SIU aim to conclude investigations and report the results to the public within 120 days.
If the SIU is unable to complete a probe in 120 days, it should report its status to the public, and then every 60 days thereafter, Tulloch said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General told the Toronto Star on Friday that the government is working on new police oversight legislation and that Tulloch’s recommendations, “including those about public outreach and timelines, are under active consideration as part of the ongoing work to be ready to introduce legislation in the fall.”
The SIU has already publicly stated that it would need additional resources to meet Tulloch’s recommended timelines.