Police indicated that Korchinski-Paquet was on the balcony when officers arrived and she jumped from the building, the Toronto Sun reported. However, the family has contested their relative would not commit suicide and said the police were responsible for her death.
Korchinski-Paquet’s name was trending across Canada with the hashtag “#JusticeForRegis.”
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, a civilian watchdog group that has oversight of the police, tweeted that it is investigating the case.
The province’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a 29-year-old woman this evening in Toronto. While police were present at an apt building on High Park Avenue, the woman fell to her death. https://t.co/o8YIJXQxQW
— SIU (@SIUOntario) May 28, 2020
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Korchinski-Paquet Was Active In Her Church
According to what the family’s lawyer, Knia Singh, told CBC News, Korchinski-Paquet was a talented gymnast who was “proud of her Ukrainian and Nova Scotian roots.”
She was also active in her church, according to Pastor Roy Dawson of Peace Community Church of Jesus Christ. Dawson told CP24 that Korchinski-Paquet was a young woman with a beautiful smile who would often attend church with her mother and would help “at every cookout.”
Dawson told CP24, “She always was positive, she loved children, she was thorough and she was always very positive.”
2. She Had A History of Mental Illness
Korchinski-Paquet’s family and their lawyer told CBC that Korchinski-Paquet began suffering from epilepsy five years ago and “the family sometimes required help from police.” Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder that can be caused by a genetic disorder or injuries that directly affect the brain.
The CBC reported that Korchinski-Paquet’s mother, Claudette Korchinski-Beals, called police “after a conflict that left the 29-year-old in ‘distress.'” Korchinski-Beals said she wanted her daughter taken to Toronto’s Center for Addiction and Mental Health. CTV News reported that Korchinski-Paquet’s family “called police to help her get through a mental health crisis” and that police were called “for an assault that had just occurred.”
Singh told CP24 that he believes race played a role in the incident and “that people of color who also suffer from mental health issues disproportionately become victims of police violence.”
3. Her Family Doesn’t Believe She Committed Suicide
A man claiming to be Korchinski-Paquet’s cousin posted a video stating that the police threw his cousin off a building and showing an image of 100 High Park Avenue. He said she would never have contradicted her faith by jumping from the balcony, according to CTV News: “My cousin’s not jumping. She’s a Christian woman, she’s not doing suicide, that ain’t what we do, we don’t do that, we ain’t killing ourselves, that’s number one, 100 percent.”
Another video of the woman’s mother emerged in which she states that police pushed her daughter off the balcony.
— Abidemi ✨ (@essy_ogum) May 28, 2020
According to CBC News, the family has since walked back its comments.
However, Singh told CTV News that Korchinski-Paquet had been asking building managers to install a mesh enclosure around the balcony for weeks, making it unlikely that she would jump from it.
The family has started a GoFundMe page for funeral and legal costs.
4. Her Family’s Lawyer Calls Her Death ‘Suspicious’
According to Singh, Korchiniski-Beals had a conflict with her daughter that left Korchinski-Paquet in “distress” and she called police at 5:15 ET, asking if they could take her daughter to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, CBC reported. The family also said that she had experienced an epileptic episode earlier in the day, which contributed to her state of stress.
“I listened to the call it sounded rather frantic and there was a need for police to be there,” Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said. He said police arrived “four minutes after they were dispatched,” according to CTV News.
Police met Korchinski-Paquet, her brother and mother in a hallway, where Korchinski-Paquet and officers “exchanged” words, according to CBC News. She told police she needed to use the bathroom and according to Singh, her brother saw several officers follow her back into the apartment but barred him from entering. An officer then told the family waiting in the hallway that Korchinski-Paquet was either on a neighbor’s balcony or the balcony below hers, CTV News reported.
According to Singh, a minute or two later, “the family heard a commotion and Korchinski-Paquet cry, ‘Mom, help. Mom, help. Mom, help,’” the Toronto Sun reported. After the cries for help, Singh said it was quiet and officers soon confirmed that Korchinski-Paquet was dead.
Singh also said he does not know if a Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, which is intended to respond to calls involving mental health crises, was ever deployed before Korchinski-Paquet fell to her death, CTV News reported.
At a news conference, Singh asked: “How can a call for assistance turn into a loss of life?” According to the Instagram post from the man claiming to be Korchinski-Paquet’s cousin, she was on the pavement for over an hour after her death.
5. The Toronto Police Chief Is Urging the Public to Wait for the Facts
Saunders released a statement on Twitter asking people to be patient, calling the incident tragic and saying, “… we want the facts as much as anyone.”
— Mark Saunders (@marksaunderstps) May 28, 2020
He also spoke at a press conference about the incident:
My condolences go to the family in regards to this particular incident. Any loss of life is something that we do take seriously as a police agency and I will tell you, I stand for transparency and accountability 100%. … My fear is that misinformation, when we don’t have an opportunity to speak, can lead to negative consequences. I would urge the public to wait until the facts come out. … I support my men and women based on the limited information that I have right now and I do hope the public has the opportunity to hear the absolute truth.
Legally, he said the SIU investigation prohibits him from being able to give details about the case. He said he’s waiting for fingerprints, statements and DNA to tell the story and “tell the truth.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory has also released a statement:
I extend condolences to the family & friends of Regis Korchinski-Paquet who are mourning her death. I know her family have raised questions about her death & want answers about what has happened. We all want & need answers when a tragic death happens in our community. pic.twitter.com/3FT24a3opf
— John Tory (@JohnTory) May 28, 2020
“I extend condolences to the family & friends of Regis Korchinski-Paquet who are mourning her death. I know her family have raised questions about her death & want answers about what has happened,” he wrote in part. “We all want & need answers when a tragic death happens in our community.”