Family of man shot and killed by Toronto police say officers used ‘unnecessary force’

The family of Andrew Geisler is still reeling after he was shot and killed by police in a Scarborough strip mall.

“It was an unnecessary use of force, I don’t understand why he got shot twice. I don’t understand why they didn’t use a taser first,” said Lesley Geisler, Andrew’s older sister.

It’s a question that many in the Geisler family have been pondering since Andrew was shot and killed last Wednesday by Toronto Police Services (TPS).  Police were called to the Shoppers World Danforth plaza around noon, where Geisler was allegedly armed with a knife.

An eyewitness told Global News that the officer commanded Geisler to drop the weapon, but after Geisler advanced, he shot and killed him.

“He went for the kill shot. He could’ve hit him in the arm, he could’ve hit in the leg, he could’ve tasered him — there were other options,” Lesley said.

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As with any officer-involved shooting, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has invoked its mandate. Global News contacted TPS, who said they could not speak since the SIU is probing it.

The SIU said they have recovered video evidence, the officer’s gun, and the knife wielded by Geisler, and have five witnesses to speak to. While the Geisler family seeks answers, the SIU said they could not confirm a timeline for its report but ensured they would do a thorough investigation.

And while the Geislers are grieving a son and brother, they are urging Toronto police to re-evaluate how they interact with people in mental distress.

“Police officers, I don’t think they are trained enough on people going through distress,” she said. “I would really like to challenge the police of chief on how they deploy their firearms.”

‘A kind and gentle soul’

Andrew had struggled with alcoholism for the better part of 12 years, according to Lesley. He was a former ironworker, and once he moved away from home, Lesley said he went down a dangerous path.

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“He lived with my dad for a while; when he lived alone, he started drinking heavily,” he said. “Anytime he was alone, he was drinking.”

Throughout his battle with his demons and mental health challenges, Andrew had the support of his family, and tried many times to get clean.

“He went to a treatment centre for several weeks and came out a different man,” she said.

But Lesley said they could never address the root cause of his alcoholism, which led Andrew to relapse and fall into a vicious cycle.

“Waitlists were long or full, and if you didn’t have 20 or 30 thousand, you were screwed,” she said.

Click to play video: 'SIU investigating after police-involved shooting in Toronto’s east end'

SIU investigating after police-involved shooting in Toronto’s east end

Lesley said the family often tried to get Andrew help, but would find themselves fighting an uphill battle with a system that didn’t have resources to help all the vulnerable people.

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“I think they’re working with the best with what they have, but they just don’t have the funding, there’s not enough help. The mental health crisis is so bad, they’re so overwhelmed,” she said.

Andrew was often transient during the past dozen years but had been living in Scarborough for a little while with a girlfriend. Lesley said she thought he was going to his other sister’s home on the day of his death to get help.

“When they told me the location, I immediately thought he was trying to get to my sister for help. She lived right there,” she said.

Lesley had spoken with Andrew the days leading up to his death and said that he told her of the “bad place” he was in, and that he was looking for help.

“It was heart-wrenching. I wish I could’ve been there,” she said.

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The family of a man who fell 16 storeys to his death during an interaction with Toronto police is demanding answers

At various points in the interview, Lesley said she was still stunned by the police officer’s response to someone she said was suffering.

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“It was a horrible reaction to someone in mental distress. This was not a calm, collected way of dealing with someone. I would say he killed him,” she said.

When remembering Andrew, Lesley said that her brother was not a violent individual and “wouldn’t hurt a soul” and instead was looking to cause himself pain.

“You might not be able to help them, but having their love and support behind them at all times is so important,” she said.

Lesley told Global News her family is considering legal action against the Toronto Police Service.

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