Vanessa Persaud shakes silently as she holds the corner of a framed collage of her brother — one side showing him fully grown next to an image of a baby in an oversized toque.
When he steps to the microphone in a parking lot at the corner of Jane Street and Finch Avenue, not far from where Taresh Bobby Ramroop, 32, fell to his death, her voice barely wavers. She is confident something went wrong.
Flanked by her mother, father and other family and friends, Persaud explains how her brother, who would have been 33 next week, died after police were called to their 16th-floor family apartment on Finch. They want to know why.
“My brother was severely depressed and just because he was depressed, he did not deserve to lose his life,” she told reporters who had gathered Wednesday to hear the family’s account of that Oct. 13 day.
“He was a human being, just like any of us. He was someone’s baby, someone’s son, someone’s brother.”
In an unusually lengthy emailed response to the Star’s questions about the case, Toronto police Chief James Ramer detailed the sequence of events following “multiple” 9-1-1 calls to police shortly after 4:30 p.m. Those calls, Ramer said, involved reports of “furniture and other items including an air conditioning unit, being thrown from a top floor apartment and landing near a reported daycare on the street level.”
When police arrived, Ramroop — whom Ramer did not name — had “already barricaded himself inside a bedroom,” a circumstance that “requires a higher level of response according to procedure, given the elevated risk of harm.”
This was the reason a mobile crisis intervention team (MCIT) was not deployed, Ramer said.
“Our mandate is public safety,” he added. “Our members’ singular goal in these situations is the safe apprehension of the person in crisis to get them the supports they need.”
He said he was “offering my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and community of the man involved.”
“This is a tragic outcome for this man and his loved ones.”
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the provincial police watchdog, is now investigating the death.
An SIU press release said three officers “attempted to negotiate” with the man before officers from the highly-armed, elite Emergency Task Force (ETF) arrived to also attempt negotiation.
“In the course of the negotiations, the man fell from the apartment window to the ground below,” the release said.
Ramroop’s sister said their mother, Debbie Indal — who stood crying next to her, holding a picture of the son she lived with all his life — headed to the apartment from work when her son texted that “somebody’s trying to break into our house.”
Persaud said their oldest brother, who was in the apartment when police arrived, was told to leave as police entered the unit.
By the time Indal arrived, Persaud described seeing at least 10 officers, alleging her mother was pushed back and told not to enter the building. Indal, Persaud said, told the officer not to touch her and entered the building, only to be directed into the superintendent’s office by police.
Officers told them Ramroop was experiencing “psychosis”, Persaud said. That’s when Indal called her and Ramroop’s father. Both were also placed in the superintendent’s office upon arrival.
“They kept us locked in the room. They advised us not to call or text Bobby and Bobby throughout the day had texted his mom and dad that he needed help,” Persaud said, adding they were in the office for several hours. They saw an ambulance arrive, but had not yet been told of Ramroop’s death.
“We will never understand why these weapons, tactics or officers were necessary when we as a family did not place this call for police.”
In his email, Ramer said there was never any “confrontation,” “stand-off” or physical contact between the man and officer.
He further explained that officers on scene requested the ETF, who arrived with paramedics at around 5:30 p.m. A psychiatrist was also called by police but did not arrive before Ramroop fell at 7:01 p.m., Ramer said. He added that two of the ETF officers were trained crisis negotiators and that all officers receive mental health training that is trauma-informed.
“Everything to that point and afterwards is now the subject of an independent investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and we are legally not permitted to comment further,” his statement said, adding they have provided all video and audio recordings from body-worn cameras to the independent investigative unit.
The family has questioned the number of officers quoted in the SIU press release, though it’s not clear if the release refers to what the unit calls “subject” and “witness” officers — those directly involved in or witness to the death — rather than the total police presence.
Persaud said they are demanding the Toronto police be abolished and replaced with a more “caring” emergency response, as well as the names of the officers involved and any footage be released.
The SIU’s director has the authority to make findings of criminal wrongdoing or to clear officers in cases involving serious injury or death. That investigation is still underway.
Ramroop, his sister said, was passionate about graphic design, with members of his family sporting clothing Thursday with his intricate and colourful designs. He worked both as a carrier for FedEx as well as UberEats without complaint, Persaud said. He practised healthy eating and meditation, known to be constantly singing and dancing, always sporting his headphones.
“He wanted a family. He wanted his own apartment. He wanted three children,” said Persaud. “He wanted to be a great father and he wanted to do more for the world, not just for himself.”
His family is currently fundraising to cover the costs of his funeral.
This is the second high-profile such falling incident involving Toronto Police in less than three years.
Afro-Indigenous woman Regis Korchinski-Paquet fell to her death in May 2020 after police responded to a call about a family dispute.
The SIU cleared the officers in that case after the death sparked protests over policing, race and mental health.
Her death helped push politicians and policing officials to establish a non-police emergency mental health response and bolster the existing mobile crisis intervention teams (MCIT) program that sees a mental health nurse paired with a specially-trained police officer.
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