Nearly 40 people held a vigil on March 3 in memory of Michael Eligon, who was allegedly shot and killed by a police officer on the morning of Feb. 3. on Milverton Boulevard, near Coxwell and Danforth.
The group first marched from Toronto East General Hospital to the site of the incident where a few speeches were made by local residents, some of whom witnessed the event.
Beaches-East York Member of Provincial Parliament Michael Prue, who was out of town when the shooting occurred, was also present and said that action needs to be taken to prevent these types of incidents from happening again.
“We need to make sure that the police receive training. I think the training is woefully inadequate for them to try to defuse issues with people with mental health problems,” said Prue.
It is believed that Eligon had escaped from East General after being admitted for a 72-hour psychiatric assessment.
Various reports suggest he entered a nearby variety store and stole at least one pair of scissors before wandering into various residences in the side streets south of the hospital, where he was subsequently killed.
The vigil ended with a walk to 55 Division at Coxwell and Dundas, where organizer Doug Pritchard led the group in a moment of silence to remember the officer who allegedly shot Eligon as well as the other officers who were traumatized by the shooting.
“[The police officers] are subject to the training and the resources and the policies of the management of the Toronto Police Services Board which is staffed by us as civilians in this city”, said Pritchard. “We are calling on the Toronto Police Services Board to adopt the best practices in dealing with people in crisis.”
Pritchard was also a witness to the shooting and recalls vividly the sequence of events that morning on his street.
“The first thing I saw was the blue hospital gown and thought, ‘this must be a mental health situation and where is the mental health support or a mental health team?’ Then I found out we don’t have much for the police in the way of mental health support,” said Pritchard.
He then saw about 16 officers confronting the man. One officer raised an arm and shots were fired.
He is hoping to see more police officers trained to deal with mental health crisis in all divisions throughout the city.
Toronto Police cannot comment on the incident as the Special Investigations Unit is handling the case.