After 10 years, family, friends still seek justice
JEFFREY REODICA 10TH DEATH ANNIVERSARY MEMORIAL, MAY 21, 2014
By Veronica C. Silva
Ten years after he was gunned down by a Toronto Police officer, Jeffrey Reodica’s death is still bringing together the Filipino community in Toronto.
Friends, family and the members of Filipino community gathered at Nathan Phillips Square on May 21, 2014, exactly 10 years after the 17-year-old high school student from Scarborough was shot three times by a plainclothes police officer from an unmarked vehicle. He succumbed to his injuries three days later in a hospital, and a few months later, the Special Investigations Unit cleared the police officer of any wrongdoing in the incident.
Yet despite all these years, everyone who remembers Jeffrey is still baffled at the circumstances behind his death, despite weeks of inquest and extensive media coverage from both mainstream and ethnic media.
“We were not sure what to hope for or how to commemorate Jeffrey 10 years after the struggle that we endured. What are we supposed to do? Should we do anything? It feels so hopeless, sometimes in these attempts for us to seek justice and for us to get accountability from the Police, and to get answers from the people in power,” said Joel Reodica, elder brother of Jeffrey.
“But we knew that we should at least gather and get together, at least do something in memory of Jeffrey, and remind everybody that we have not forgotten the brutal injustice that happened 10 years ago,” he added, as he tried to fight back tears from memories of what seemed like only yesterday.
Jeffrey’s death resulted in a string of Inquest jury recommendations to prevent such incidents from happening again. Some of these recommendations included the need for proper identification of police and their vehicles, and to make available to police other options to counter possible threats, such as batons, pepper spray or stun guns. One of the issues raised surrounding Jeffrey’s death was that he was not aware of the identities of the police officers who were trying to apprehend him; that’s why he tried to run away from them. The police officers, on the other hand, insisted that they properly identified themselves, but were under threat for their lives. That is why one of them shot Jeffrey at the back as the teen was trying to run away.
Willie Reodica, Jeffrey’s father, lamented that after Jeffrey’s death, there have also been other cases of alleged abuses by the police, including the recent death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, also an immigrant.
Yatim was shot in a streetcar downtown allegedly by Constable James Forcillo. Forcillo was charged with second-degree murder and his trial is ongoing. Meantime, the officer who shot Jeffrey, Detective Dan Belanger, was cleared by the SIU.
Still, 10 years after, the family is not convinced, as they are still struggling to make sense of Jeffrey’s death.
Family and friends of Jeffrey are also consoled by other members of the Ontario community whose families have also been affected by police deaths.
Karyn Greenwood Graham, communications lead of Affected Families of Police Homicide, and whose son was a victim of suicide by cop seven years ago, said one of the changes families want is for trauma support.
Even then, Jeffrey’s family is doubtful that they can find peace after all these years.
“I don’t think there’s not going to be any closure ever,” said Joel Reodica. “Nothing’s going to bring Jeffrey back. But I think we still need to continue on with our struggle despite it being an impossible uphill battle.”
Jeffrey’s death has brought together the Pinoy community and an organization called Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ) was organized.
Ricky Esguerra, one of the co-organizers of the group, said CASJ continues to fight for social justice for other Pinoy community members, including caregivers and temporary foreign workers.