YU INQUEST: 'Stressed-out' cop testifies

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Sat, 06 Feb 1999 01:53:26 -0500

[WARNING: This message contains information some people may find
disturbing. Please consider this carefully before reading further.]

Things got seriously interesting and revealing at the inquest into the
shooting death of Edmond Yu by Toronto police today as PC Jeff Rogers
(sp?) was the latest witness to take the stand.

Rogers, as many people know, was one of the cops who was actually on
board the bus with Edmond at the time of the shooting. When the inquest
resumed on January eighteenth (before being scrubbed altogether and
restarted from scratch on Feb. 1st) his lawyers spent two solid days
trying to have him excused from testifying, claiming he suffered from
'post-traumatic stress disorder' and that testifying would worsen his
condition. There was testimony from several medical professionals
towards this motion before the coroner ruled that in fact he must

On the afternoon of February 20, 1997 Rogers was stopped across the
street from the scene of the shooting with another officer from
Toronto's mounted unit, in a van that was towing a trailer containing
two horses. (They were apparently on their way from the police stables
on the C.N.E. grounds to their regular patrol downtown.) A call for
assistance came in regarding an assault on a passenger at the transit
loop involving a 'possible mental patient',  after which he pulled the
van across the street, stopping behind a cruiser from 52 Division. After
conferring briefly with the other cop (Lou Pasquino) who was there the
three of them boarded the bus.

Inside they encountered Edmond Yu sitting in a 'relaxed posture, with
his arms resting on his knees' and a tranquil expression on his face,
'like a man watching television'. The three cops moved closer - Pasquino
noticed a travelling bag between Edmond's feet, reached down and dragged
it away from him, storing it under one of the bus seats.  Rogers
described the bag as containing tools (including a 'large screwdriver')
and assorted kitchen paraphernalia among other things. From this he
inferred he was dealing with a 'street person.'

The three began to question Edmond, to which he initially didn't respond
except to hand over his metropass when asked for I.D. His initial
hesitation in answering led Rogers to the conclusion that the man
'definitely had problems.' (Eventually Edmond then relaxed and
apparently was entirely cooperative with the cops almost up to the
second of the shooting).

Eventually (after 5-10 minutes) the police instructed Edmond that he was
to accompany them for a psychiatric assessmernt (When asked he had
admitted to a psychiatric history and a prior incarceration in the
Clarke Institute). This was when the situation began to deteriorate -
apparently after considering this Edmond appeared to decide that he
wanted no part of it. (Rogers described his facial expression 'changing'
to a 'questioning look.'). At this point Pasquino ordered him to 'stand
up and turn around'. Edmond complied by abruptly rising to his feet.

Here is where the discrepancies start becoming glaringly apparent.
Rogers states at this point Edmond's face 'darkened abruptly' and that
he 'suddenly reached inside his vest' and appeared to be trying to free
something inside. (Other witnesses had described him as 'slowly reaching
inside his coat.') Rogers said he was thinking 'gun!' and he took
several quick steps backwards towards the center doors of the bus. He
described tripping over his own feet, falling down the steps to the
center doors with his arm protruding outside through the rubber edging
around the doors. He recovered from his fall and drew his gun, pointing
it at Edmond's chest. He said that by this time Edmond had succeeded in
freeing whatever he had been reaching for and was holding a 'shiny
object' Rogers thought initially was a 'hatchet'  high over his head,
almost touching the ceiling of the bus. (Earlier testimony described
Edmond as 'slowly withdrawing' his hammer from his coat and holding it
at 'chest height, close to his body'.)

Rogers said he then heard PC Andrea Cowan screaming at Edmond to 'drop
it!' (Cowan had been the last to arrive at the scene, after which
Rogers's partner had left the bus.) At this point there was a rapid
sequence of 'several' shots fired. Edmond spun around and was seen to be
'bleeding profusely' from the head and neck, then collapsed on the
floor. Rogers described the blood as like a 'small garden hose' going
'whoosh, whoosh, whoosh' across the floor of the bus for several seconds
before stopping abruptly. (Edmond was hit by three bullets, with three
other shots piercing the rear window of the bus. All of the shots were
fired by PC Lou Pasquino). Cowan stepped forward at this point and
plucked the hammer from Edmond's hand. Pasquino had left the bus and was
at his car, talking on the radio, after which he returned.

While I'm sure this cop's upset was to a degree genuine, there was
clearly (to my mind) embellishment not only of his own state of mind
but of Edmond's behavior. I sensed a persistent effort on his part to
justify what took place by exaggerating his own supposed fear (He
claimed he thought he was going to die). He appeared to be making many
judgments as to Edmond's mental state and potential for violent behavior
mainly on the basis of facial expression and his initial slow response
to being questioned. He had described Edmond as appearing 'suddenly
monstrous' in expression, and that he was 'pumping himself up', and
described his behavior as an 'explosion.' (All of this in direct
contrast to the civilian and TTC eyewitnesses who had described Edmond's
movements as 'slow' and 'non-aggressive.') Personally I sensed a
deliberate effort to demonize Edmond in particular and to play on the
'violent mental patient' myth in general.

Jeff Rogers is a big, powerful man, standing six-two and weighing 240
pounds. He was supported by two other cops - all three of them were in
full uniform and of course all three of them were armed. Edmond by
contrast was all of 5'6" in height.

As the cross-examination progressed it became increasingly clear thet
there were many inconsistencies between Rogers's testimony, his notes
from that day and the statement he had given to the SIU (Special
Investigations Unit) immediately after the shooting. Hell - he even
stated that at the time he wasn't even sure if he hadn't in fact been
the one to pull the trigger! (Rogers did not discharge his gun).

I had an afternoon meeting and had to leave at the lunch recess so I
wasn't able to hear the testimony after that point. At the time of
adjourment the lawyer for the Yu family had begun a fierce
cross-examination and the sparks were beginning to fly. Rogers continues
his testimony when the inquest resumes Monday.

P.S. The second annual memorial on the anniversary of Edmond Yu's death
will be taking place on Saturday, February 20. People will gather at the
Spadina Avenue transit loop (the scene of the shooting) at Queen's Quay
Blvd. and Spadina Ave. at 3:30 PM, then walk to Grange Park (South of
the Art Gallery of Ontario - enter from McCaul St. or Beverly St.) for
the memorial starting at 4:30 PM.

Graeme Bacque
+++ Fighting 'mad' and proud of it! +++