Security footage retrieved from highrise where Toronto woman fell to her death

Ontario’s police watchdog says it has reviewed security camera footage and interviewed the officers who were at the Toronto highrise where 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet apparently fell to her death — after what her family says was a 911 call that went terribly wrong.

But neither the footage nor the interviews will be made public, for now. 

“While the investigation is ongoing, the details … will not be released in an effort to ensure the memories of other potential witnesses are not tainted,” the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said in a news release Monday.

The SIU said it has interviewed six officers and four civilian witnesses. It expects to interview the family later this week.  

The update comes after thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday to demand answers about the death of Korchinski-Paquet’s, who was black, and to protest the deaths of an unarmed black people at the hands of police.

Questions have swirled since Korchinski-Paquet’s death with her family, community advocates and various politicians asking what exactly happened in the moments leading up to her 24-storey fall from the balcony of her family’s apartment.

An online petition calling for transparency in the investigation has amassed over 161,000 signatures.

Protesters march against the recent deaths, in the U.S. and Canada, of unarmed black men and women at the hands of police, in Toronto on Saturday. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Concerns about role of race

Korchinski-Paquet’s relatives have said they worry race played a role in her death too, citing the cases of Andrew Loku in 2015 and of D’Andre Campbell who was fatally shot by police in nearby Brampton, in April, after what the SIU called a “domestic situation.” Campbell’s family said he suffered from mental illness.

“The family is extremely concerned that in recent times people with mental health distress issues across North America are ending up dead after interactions with the police,” their lawyer Knia Singh said last week. 

Korchinski-Paquet was an active member of her church, a talented gymnast and proud of her Ukrainian and Nova Scotian roots, her family’s lawyer said.

In the past five years, however, she began experiencing epilepsy, with the family sometimes requiring help from police, according to Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders.

Saunders has said police were called to the apartment where Korchinski-Paquet lived with her family on May 27 by multiple reports of an assault.

Two of those calls stated that a knife was involved, according to the chief, but the family has said there was no assault underway or knife present when police arrived.

Korchinski-Paquet, her brother and mother met police in the hallway of their apartment, Saunders said, and “words were exchanged” between her and officers.  

Not long afterward, she asked to enter the apartment unit to use the bathroom. Police followed her inside, but did not allow her mother or brother to enter, the family has said.

Within a minute or two, Singh said, the family heard a commotion inside the apartment. 

“Mom, help. Mom, help,” were the final words her mother would hear her say before they heard silence, according to the family. Police officers confirmed minutes later Korchinski-Paquet was dead. 

In the immediate aftermath, Korchinski-Paquet’s mother and cousin took to social media in a series of emotional video statements pointing fingers at police, saying they believed she had been pushed. 

Singh has since said those accusations would not be part of the family’s official statement, but that they would instead wait for the evidence before coming to any further conclusions. 

A memorial grows outside 100 High Park Dr. where Korchinski-Paquet died. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Meanwhile, Saunders has urged calm in the wake of her death, warning of an information “vacuum” faced by police that risks being filled by “opportunists.”

Saunders said police are not “legally permitted to discuss the incident” because of the SIU investigation underway. The SIU is an arm’s-length civilian oversight agency that investigates deaths, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault involving police,

“I’ll urge the public to please wait for the facts to come out,” he said late last week.