Death of Latjor Tuel sparks controversy across Calgary
By Keoputhy Bunny, News Editor
The shooting and death of 41-year-old Latjor Tuel shocked many Calgarians and now some of them demand justice. Traditional and social media has exploded with comments from experts and citizens alike questioning the use of lethal force in this situation. There have even been demonstrations downtown demanding justice for Tuel.
At around 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, the Calgary Police Service received a call about a man who was physically harassing pedestrians on 17th Avenue Southwest. Supposedly, he was carrying a stick and a knife and had assaulted a woman passing by. Calgary Police stated they tried to de-escalate but to no success.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an independent agency that investigates incidents that have resulted in serious harm or death, was also called in to investigate. They assert that as Tuel approached the police vehicles that surrounded him, a K-9 unit was released. The K-9’s handler supposedly pulled the dog back as Tuel kept advancing. In the following ‘altercation,’ the statement said, Tuel stabbed at the K-9 unit as it bit him and officers used tasers on him.
In the following struggle, Tuel was shot multiple times. Emergency Services tried to resuscitate him but was unsuccessful. Tuel was pronounced dead at the scene.
Videos of Tuel’s death circulated online on various social media platforms. As the video garnered more views and information about his death spread, questions about appropriate force started to arise. Tuel’s family as well as members of Calgary’s South Sudenese community, have taken to traditional and social media to express their outrage about how the situation was handled. Information also came out that Tuel was a child soldier in his home country of South Sudan and was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.
His daughter, Nyalinglat Latjor has set up a GoFundMe fundraiser for funeral expenses and legal expenses. The money, she says, will also go towards a lawyer “who will help us get answers.” At the time of writing, the GoFundMe has raised over $80,000.
She states that the police executed her father and he was an upstanding member of Calgary and the South Sudanese community.
“Calgary PD is already trying to spin the story to fit their narrative, but they outnumbered him and chose deadly violent force instead of de-escalating the situation,” Latjor wrote in the GoFundMe description. “We live in a society where a Black man’s life is worth less than a dog.”
Calls for more investigation have come from an advocacy group in Calgary. Calgary Black Chambers says that this is one incident in a disturbing trend.
“We believe that there is a fundamental issue with the protocols used by the police that continue to result in death and injury of our fellow citizens,” CBC said in a press statement.
They’re calling for a public inquiry “into the training and protocols followed by the police in Alberta, beyond the scope of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team’s investigation.”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek also had opinions about the incident.
“Loss of life in our city is tragic at any time, but the loss of Latjor Tuel is particularly devastating. He was in crisis and we are left with so many questions,” Gondek tweeted on Feb. 22. “While we await an investigation, we question de-escalation methods and use of lethal force. We question why mental health support is not embedded within community policing.”
Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld held a live press conference to address the shooting on the same afternoon, defending his officers. He pointed out that the information alleging that Tuel had mental health issues had only come out after the incident. When the officers responded, Neufeld says, it was not for a mental health check, it was for an armed assailant.
“The call the police responded to was not, when reported, about mental health. It was a complaint of an assault involving a man in possession of a knife and a stick,” Neufeld stated.
Neufeld also asserted that he did not believe this incident had anything to do with Tuel being Black, rather that he was armed.
His daughter, Latjor, states that he was working to support family back home in South Sudan.
“He loved his community, he loved his family, he loved this country,” she told Global News.
More questions seem to pop up though. A protest on Feb. 25 was held to demand justice for Tuel’s death. At the steps of city hall, Latjor gave a speech that called out the treatment of her father.
“I want to know why they did not give him the dignity he deserved,” she said. “Why did they deploy the K-9? Why was his body left there after the fact?”