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Cesur Celik walks carefully down the hallway, adjusting his body to hug the wall as he passes, trying not to step on a section of the floor beneath him.
For two years, he’s avoided this part of his home altogether. Until recently, pieces of fabric still hung on the walls to cover dents and scuff marks.
Celik gestures to a room at the end. The bed is made tight, with dozens of youth hockey trophies and medals laid out on it. A Patrick Roy frame hangs on the wall.
On March 6, 2017, Celik’s youngest son, Koray, was sitting in his room, intoxicated and in a state of crisis. His parents tried to console him. When he started speaking of driving off, first they hid the car keys. When he found another set, they called the Montreal police.
Koray, 28, would die of heart failure during the ensuing police intervention. His parents witnessed the entirety of what transpired. But they say their version of events has been ignored since Day 1, adding to their pain in these last two years.
Now on the heels of finding out no charges will be laid against the officers involved — and being refused an opportunity to ask questions about the decision — they’re questioning the entire system in place.
“It’s hard to understand, how, after everything we’ve explained, this is the result,” Celik, 65, says of the decision. “They were acting as if their lives were in danger, but it was my son who was dying, not them.”
Two weeks ago, Celik and his wife, June, made the hour-long drive from their home in Île-Bizard to the Montreal offices of Quebec’s office of criminal prosecutions (DPCP).
The appointment came after two years of frustration, legal action and, more recently, a back and forth with the office over how the family would be informed whether the police officers would be charged in Koray’s death.
When someone is injured or dies during a police intervention in Quebec, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) is tasked with investigating the incident. The BEI hands its findings over to the DPCP, which ultimately decides whether charges should be brought.
From the moment the family was first explained the process, they say they were told a meeting would take place with the prosecutors once the decision was made.
Knowing the meeting was to occur, the Celiks asked if members of the media and a Turkish diplomat could attend. They say they wanted witnesses there out of transparency concerns.
The office refused the request. The Celiks then agreed to meet without anyone else present, but for reasons left unexplained, the meeting fell through.
“The decision to meet, or not meet, with a family is discretionary,” the prosecutor involved in the case told the family’s lawyer. “The reasons justifying the holding or the refusal to hold a meeting with relatives does not, in turn, have to be communicated.”
The Celiks were devastated by the change of plans. Instead of a meeting, they drove to the offices to be handed documents explaining why no charges were being laid. The prosecutor who gave them the papers was not involved in the case, and there was no opportunity for them to ask questions.
Celik was overcome with frustration during the meeting. “This is the first and only thing we’ve heard” in more than two years from the BEI, the DPCP or the coroner’s office, he remembers saying, and asking why the prosecutor involved didn’t have “the decency” to meet with them.
“It’s hurtful,” he would later say.
Asked about its practices when informing victims or families about its decisions, DPCP spokesperson Jean-Pascal Boucher said the office acted appropriately in the case and that, by law, prosecutors do not need to meet with families.
“(Families) can send their questions to the DPCP in writing when no meeting takes place,” he added.
Within an hour of the Celiks receiving the documents, the DPCP issued a news release announcing it would not pursue charges against the officers. For the family, it was another blow.
'She had a gun'
June Celik, 61, stands from her couch and re-enacts the scene as best she can. She has played it over and over in her mind for two years.
When the four police officers arrived at their home that night, Koray was sitting in his bed. It was around 2 a.m. June met one officer at the front door, while Celik met the others in the garage entrance.
She says a policewoman walked toward Koray’s bedroom and shined a flashlight at him. He told her to turn it off. He then got up and approached the doorway, at which point she shined the light in his eyes.
June was holding her son by then. “She had a gun,” she says, “that’s all I was thinking about.”
Koray stepped into the hallway, looking dishevelled. He had two different shoes on, basketball shorts and his winter jacket. The other officers came rushing in.
The officers all took out their batons, June says, and Koray lifted his hands to his face to protect himself. There was a struggle to get him to the ground. Ceramic plates lining the walls crashed to the floor. One officer then hit him across the legs with a baton, making him collapse face down.
There, June says, an officer placed Koray’s head between his knees while another cuffed his hands behind his back. She says the officers delivered several knees and strikes to his sides while one kept his hands over Koray’s mouth. Both parents screamed for them to stop.
It was chaos, and then, all of a sudden, it was silent. The officers turned Koray around and he wasn’t breathing anymore. The parents, hysterical, were taken away into the kitchen and kept there.
“I begged them to let me out,” Celik remembers. “I said, ‘Let me cuddle him, he may come back. If he hears my voice, he may come back.’”
The Celiks say they gave their version of events to BEI investigators, but few of the details have made it into any of the bureau’s official statements about the incident.
In August, the family sued the bureau over a news release it published, arguing it didn’t portray what they witnessed.
In announcing it would not be laying charges, on May 10, the DPCP said it reviewed the BEI’s investigation and found no evidence to show criminal wrongdoing on the part of the officers.
It said Koray showed “signs of aggressiveness and warning signs of assault.” The officers noticed he was no longer resisting as soon as he was handcuffed, it said.
An autopsy report revealed he died of cardiorespiratory arrest “not resulting from the intervention of a third party, but from intoxication or an adverse reaction to a combination of intoxicating substances, and this, in the context of agitated delirium.”
A pre-existing heart condition could have also contributed to the death, the DPCP added. The intervention was legal, it concluded, as the officers were acting on their duty to ensure people’s safety.
Once the DPCP announced its decision, the BEI issued a statement to say it was closing the case.
The BEI further noted the Montreal police force did not follow protocol — “in keeping with its usual practices,” it wrote — in that officers interviewed witnesses before BEI investigators arrived on the scene. The parents remember being interviewed by police officers before ever meeting with BEI investigators.
“The BEI knew this was wrong and they never disclosed it to us until now,” Celik says.
They called for help
Celik stands in his office, scanning the shelves for memories of his son.
It’s in that office that Koray spent his last evening, studying at his father’s desk, before things took a turn. The room is bright with large windows that give to a view of the family’s backyard and, behind it, the Lake of Two Mountains.
Without prompting, Celik starts going over the sequence of events again from that night, and the painful blur the last two years have been. His son was in crisis. They called for help, not for him to die. So many lingering questions. No answers. No transparency.
The family is considering their legal options, he says.
He pulls a spiral notebook from the shelf and starts flipping through the pages. It’s filled with chemical equations and handwritten notes. Koray had studied human biology in university but had recently re-enrolled in chemistry courses. Celik grows quiet as he reads over his son’s notes. “He was so smart,” he then says, dropping his head.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019