Posted on February 25, 2022

Loved Ones of Black Man Killed by Calgary Officer Refute Police Claims

Michael Rodriguez, Calgary Herald, February 21, 2022

Family and friends of a Black man killed by Calgary police are raising questions about the official accounts of his death.

Calgary police fatally shot Latjor Tuel on Saturday after he allegedly attacked a police service dog while officers attempted to apprehend him near a bus stop on 17th Avenue S.E. in Forest Lawn. Video of the incident, which Postmedia has chosen not to publish due to its graphic nature, shows an officer fire four shots as Tuel struggles with the dog. Tuel died of his wounds on scene.

“How dehumanizing that be? (It tells you) they value the life of the police dog more than the Black man,” said Charles Odame-Ankrah, a friend of Tuel’s and one of several speakers at a Monday media availability put on by the Calgary African Community Collective.

“This is a serious issue. Systemic racism is rife and alive in our society.”

Tuel, a South Sudanese refugee who had lived in Calgary for roughly 20 years, was described by family and friends at the event as having suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder related to his time as a child soldier in his home country. He had long been financially supporting family members who still live in South Sudan.

Several speakers refuted the police version of events, saying Tuel was “simply waiting for the bus” and the item police called a weapon was a retractable cane he used to help him walk due to issues with his knee. His reaction in hitting the dog, they said, was in self-defence and didn’t warrant his death.

“I want to ask all of you here; (would you) stay and put your hands in your pockets when somebody’s unleashed a K-9 dog on you?” said Odame-Ankrah. “Naturally, you go into defence. It’s a natural human reaction.”

Loved ones reiterated Tuel’s struggles with his mental health, referencing his PTSD and struggles in recent days. Regardless of his mental state, they say police had other options that wouldn’t have resulted in Tuel’s death. Police efforts to resolve the situation without violence were not enough, they said.

“The important thing that could have been done differently by the (police) would be to help him rather than to shoot and kill,” said Nhial Wicleek, a longtime friend of Tuel’s.

Lina Atak, an advocate for the Sudanese community who witnessed the altercation, said the information released by police and amplified by local media has vilified Tuel, painting him as an unstable criminal.

“What I would like to correct is the message that has been put out there to demonize our brother, to criminalize him as a bad person,” she said.

“Our brother was not a criminal and he was not a danger to society. He was not a danger to the community . . . He was simply a Calgarian enjoying a meal as he waited for the bus.”

In a Saturday evening news release, the Calgary Police Service said officers were called around 3:40 p.m. for reports of a man in possession of weapons. Police say witnesses reported the man had assaulted a bystander and was threatening others.

When they arrived, police said they found the man still holding a weapon and were unsuccessful in trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution. A brief struggle ensued between Tuel and a police dog, with police alleging Tuel seriously injured the dog before they shot him. The dog was taken to an animal hospital following the altercation and was in stable condition Saturday evening.