A bright kid who could make everyone laugh. That's how Jeffrey Reodica's friends remember him. And it's why they were so heartbroken when they heard that he died. That heartbreak was evident once again on Saturday at the funeral for the 17-year-old, who was killed last week in a confrontation with police.
"Definitely a big shock to everybody. [Jeffrey was] very, very young [and was a] very, very bright kid and had a great future ahead of him," laments his friend Alexander Tan.
"The funniest guy. A great person, always smiling, making jokes. He was always somebody that you could talk to," offers pal Christian.
Those friends and others joined Jeffrey's deeply distraught family Saturday morning at St. Rose of Lima Church in Scarborough, where they all came out to pay their last respects.
For Christian, the news of his friend's death was surreal. "Why did he have to leave so early? At first when I found out that he got shot, I didn't believe it," he relates. "And it didn't really hit me when he died until I went to the funeral home and saw him. And I was just so shocked."
Meanwhile, teacher Christine Hughes-Butler says her thoughts were with Jeffrey's friends and classmates.
"They're 17, I don't know how they're dealing with it," she offered. "I just hope to God that they get through it."
Jeffrey met his untimely end on May 21st. That was when 911 calls about about a swarming brought police to the McCowan and Lawrence area of Scarborough. S.I.U. investigators are now reviewing the events of that day, when plainclothes officers were some of the first on the scene.
Through a statement, 41 Division officers Dan Belanger and Al Love - both Detective Constables - contend Reodica lashed out with a knife when police tried to arrest him. But other witnesses say Reodica wasn't armed. He was shot at least twice and was taken off life support three days later.
Reodica's father and mother have hired a lawyer and have indicated they plan to conduct their own investigation into their son's death. They've also said they're not ruling out a civil suit against Toronto police.
TORONTO -- The door is still open for criminal charges against a Toronto police constable who shot a teenager to death, despite an investigation clearing him, a lawyer for Jeffrey Reodica's family said Wednesday.
Lawyer Barry Swadron said there is "still scope for criminal charges" if an investigation by the province's Special Investigations Unit was incomplete, substandard or contradicts the evidence.
The family finds details of the investigation released by the unit "unacceptable" and "rejects a number of aspects of it," Swadron said at a news conference held by the family.
"Does a decision of the SIU mean there can never be a criminal charge against the shooter for shooting Jeffrey?" Swadron asked. "In my view, it does not."
The 17-year-old boy was shot three times on May 21 after police responded to reports of a brawl between rival youth gangs in the city's east end.
The SIU, a civilian agency that investigates police incidents involving death or serious injury, found that several witnesses reported seeing the teen holding a large rock when he was confronted by a plainclothes officer.
Witnesses said the Grade 11 student dropped the rock when ordered to, but the SIU said he continued walking away from the officer despite being told to stop.
After a struggle in which Reodica broke free and struck an officer with his left hand -- which the officer believed held a knife -- the teen was shot.
A post-mortem determined Reodica was shot once in the side, once in the back above his right hip, and once in the back between the shoulders.
Ontario's chief coroner has ordered an inquest into the killing, which the family "is anxious to participate in," Swadron said.
"At this stage in the mourning process, the family is determined to get to the bottom of why he had to die."
The provincial Coroner's Act "contemplates the possibility" of criminal charges in a death being laid on evidence presented at an inquest, Swadron said.
He also urged the coroner to issue a summons to obtain the entire SIU investigation and make it available to all participants.
SIU spokeswoman Rose Bliss said Wednesday the incident is "tragic," but the unit stands by its investigation.
"We are confident that we did the best job possible based on the evidence available," she said.
The family disputes several statements made by the SIU and suggests it's possible Reodica did not know the officers were police, Swadron said. It wants the inquest to consider a number of issues, among them:
--Under what conditions plainclothes officers in unmarked cars should be involved in community policing.
--When and how they should be required to disclose their identities.
--When they should be permitted to use deadly force, and if so, when might it become excessive.
Swadron said the family questions the SIU report's determination that the officer identified himself as "normal police practice."
"Just because it makes sense, does not mean it happened," Swadron said.
"Will the director accept the family's word that it is the normal practice of Jeffrey to respect and listen to the police?"
A date for the inquest has not been set.
(An exclusive interview with a boy who was at the scene when Jeffrey Reodica was shot by a police officer on May 21, 2004 in Scarboro.)
As the real story behind Jeffrey Reodica's mysterious death slowly unfolds, many questions have been left unanswered. Willie Reodica, Jeffrey's father already appealed to all potential witnesses to come forward and help them. Since the incident happened on Friday, May 21, up to the time of his death on Monday night, several versions have come out in the open, some of them conflicting.
All of Jeffrey's friends have been advised not to talk to anybody about the incident so it was difficult for us, in the media to talk to them too. While following up the story, I was shown Jeffrey's school. Then, by chance, I met the boy who was right there when the incident happened.
He said he was scared to talk to anybody especially the authorities. With assurance for his safety, we were able to convince him to ride with us inside the car so we can ask him more questions. I realized that people with us in the car were tense. So was the boy. I became nervous too especially a young lady who was always checking if someone was following us. While inside the car, we were always on the look out of any mysterious van.
This boy, who refused to be identified, was with Jeffrey at the time of the shooting. He saw vividly how Jeffrey was shot and narrated how it really happened.
This was his account:
It all started with a scuffle inside a basketball court on that Thursday, May 20. White teen-agers approached and tried to bully two members of our group.They got our ball and did not want to return it to us. When one of our members tried to get it back, one White boy hit him in the face and pushed him.
Another white boy also physically assaulted the second Filipino boy. More so, they were told to "go back to the Philippines and eat rice". In the hope not to make things worse, we just let it pass. However, deep inside, the two boys did not want to just let it pass.
The following day, Friday, we thought of retaliating. As my friends and I were walking along towards a residential area, the same group of white boys were heading towards us with baseball bats. They thought it was just the three of us. However, some of my friends joined us so the group ran away. We chased them arming ourselves with only rocks in our hands. We ran around the neighborhood until Jeffrey who was standing across the street saw us. He asked us "what's up?". We told him that we want to hit back on these kids who humiliated us on Thursday. Jeffrey, upon knowing who the members of the other group were, told us that he would also help. He said that these were the same group who physically hurt his cousin. Honestly, we felt the need to retaliate because of what happened that Thursday.
Since there were eight of us now, we split our group. We searched the neighborhood but we could not find anyone. Finally, one of my friends spotted them riding a white van. The van passed a corner where they picked up two boys who were hiding. A lady came out of the van and told the two boys to get in. We were 10 feet away from the van. We went towards the van but suddenly a black car pulled over behind it. Two big men came out.
We thought they were relatives of the gang. Then they went back inside their car and drove towards us. One cop (as we came to know later), told us to kneel down and drop the rocks we were holding in our hands. We were confused. We thought these were just guys who wanted to hurt us. They never told us they were cops.
The other cop who was driving the car came out from the car, pulled his gun and went towards Jeffrey. He told Jeffrey to drop his rock and kneel down. He pushed Jeffrey down while pointing a gun at him. Jeffrey bent halfway, covered his head with his both arms with his body in a curl position. While the cop driver pointed the gun on Jeffrey, he was also slapping Jeffrey with his left hand. Since he continued on slapping, Jeffrey swirled around trying to prevent the cop's hand on hitting him.
I know Jeffrey did that because he did not know they were cops. They never identified themselves as cops. We thought they were relatives of the other gang who wanted to hurt us. While doing so, the driver cop shot Jeffrey. I was shocked and so was the other cop who was unable to move. My eyes simply blinked when I heard the first shot. It happened so fast. I saw him shooting Jeffrey then Jeffrey swirled towards the right, the cop again shot him and I heard again another shot. I was standing close to Jeffrey with the other cop next to me. I saw clearly what happened. I was unable to move. Contrary to other reports, I did not see Jeffrey swinging a knife towards the cop. Nor did we all resist when they told us to gather together.
The next thing I knew, I saw Jeffrey splattered with blood all over, his face down. One of the cops administered CPR. Then the cops called paramedics -- after 10 minutes. Later, they brought us all to the police station for questioning. They asked us a lot of questions. They asked us in a very rapid manner. All of us were scared because of what we witnessed. We did not know what to do. Our parents were not around."