By Robert Gillies
The family of Ryerson student Manish Odhavji, who was shot to death by police last Sept. 26, have launched a $1 million lawsuit against Toronto Police Chief David Boothby and several officers, claiming they deliberately sabotaged a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) probe into the case.
Odhavji, 22, was unarmed when he was shot in the back while running from police after a Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce branch on Islington Avenue was robbed, a police investigation was revealed.
SIU director Andre Marin said the investigation was hampered because more than a dozen surveillance officers at the scene said they could recall no specifics about the shooting.
Despite the two SIU requests to have the officers who witnessed the shooting separated to prevent them from tainting each other’s accounts, 13 officers were together for six hours in the detective office at 23 division, according to the SIU chronology of the incident.
“They, in essence, sabotaged relevant information to a homicide investigation,” said Odhavji family lawyer Julian Falconer at a press conference Feb. 18.
Det. Martin Woodhouse and Det. Phil Gerrtis told the SIU the sun was in their eyes and they mistakenly thought Odhavji was armed and facing them when he was shot. The SIU cleared them based on their own accounts.
“I know they say my son committed robbery. I must face the fact that this may be true,” Pramod Odhavji, Manish’s father, said.
“But when they shot him in the back he had no gun. The punishment for robbery is not death. I worry that these police officers behaved like this so the Special Investigations Unit would not learns what really happened.”
The family is also demanding the Ontario Civilian Complaints Commission hold an inquiry. They filed complaints with the commission against the officers involved, Chief Boothby and the police services board.