Editor’s note: This article contains descriptions that may be upsetting to some readers.
A GoFundMe in memory of a man who was fatally shot by Calgary police over the weekend has already raised over 50% of its goal.
Latjor Tuel was in the midst of a mental health crisis when police approached him on Saturday, according to his daughter. She wrote that he was a former child soldier in South Sudan and suffered from PTSD.
The encounter with police, involving a K9 unit, ended with Tuel being shot to death.
According to a press release from the Calgary Police Service (CPS), police were called to the area of 45 Street and 17 Avenue SE around 3:40 pm on February 19 for reports of a man believed to be in possession of weapons.
Witnesses reported that the man, now identified as Tuel, had assaulted a bystander and was threatening others. CPS confirmed during a press conference on Tuesday that the man was in possession of a knife and a stick.
Upon arrival, says CPS, officers located Tuel, who was still holding the knife and stick, and attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution. “Despite their de-escalation efforts, the man’s action led to officers discharging their service weapons,” reads the press release.
Tuel’s daughter, Nyalinglat Latjor, has created a fundraiser through GoFundMe entitled “Justice for Latjor Tuel.”
The fundraiser’s goal is currently set at $70,000, and, at the time of writing, more than $45,000 has been raised in the past 18 hours since the GoFundMe was started. Nyalinglat writes that the money is being raised to send Tuel back home to South Sudan, for funeral costs, and also for legal costs.
“Latjor was an amazing man with a big heart,” reads the GoFundMe page. “He worked hard to send money back home to Africa and support his family any way he could.”
“He was someone who loved to make people smile. He could put a smile on your face even if you were having your worst day,” continues the post.
Nyalinglat also shared photos of her father in an Instagram post that has garnered over 64,000 likes in the past day. The caption alongside the post reiterates the information shared on the fundraiser page, saying, “My father was going through a PTSD episode [that police] should have [de-escalated].”
“A group of police against one Black man and not one of you used your training to [de-escalate] what was clearly a cry for help … because he’s Black he’s automatically a threat,” reads the Instagram caption.
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The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has taken over the investigation of the incident.
ASIRT said in a press release that video of the incident shows that Tuel was initially sitting down on the sidewalk while officers spoke to him. “Officers can be heard on the video repeatedly telling the man to drop the knife or throw the knife away,” reads the release, adding that video then shows Tuel starting to get up and move about 15 minutes later.
ASIRT has not released the video to the public.
The police watchdog said officers first discharged less-lethal baton rounds at Tuel, and he began running in the direction of a group of police officers, a police dog, and CPS vehicles. ASIRT says that video shows the dog’s handler pulling the dog back, upon which Tuel advanced in their direction.
In the ensuing altercation, says ASIRT, the man swung the stick and stabbed the knife at the dog, while the dog bit the man and officers used conductive energy weapons on him. The dog was reportedly seriously injured in the incident, and was transported to an animal hospital in life-threatening condition. It is currently stable and receiving medical care.
Following this, a confrontation occurred between Tuel and the officers. Two officers discharged their firearms, and Tuel fell to the ground. Officers approached the man and moved the knife and stick away from him, and emergency medical services and CPS officers provided medical care to Tuel at the scene. Their efforts were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead.
— ASIRT (@ASIRT_AB) February 22, 2022
ASIRT’s investigation will examine the circumstances surrounding the use of force.
“What we find most challenging about this situation,” writes Tuel’s daughter on the GoFundMe page, “is that there’s more news coverage about the dog being in stable condition but no coverage about how the community is in shambles over losing one of their own.”
“We came to Canada to find stability and safety for our family and rebuild our communities,” she continues. “But instead, we were met with prejudice and racism. We live in a society where a Black man’s life is worth less than a dog.”
CPS said during Tuesday’s press conference that they have an ongoing relationship with the Sudanese community in Calgary, involving the police’s anti-racism committee and an African advisory board, through which citizens provide information to the chief in regard to programming and priorities.