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Daughter seeking a reunion with long-lost father, now seeking answers about the night he was killed

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 2018-12-10
a person posing for the camera: Joseph Perron was fatally assaulted in June — the 41st homicide in Toronto this year. Police have been conducting an internal review of what happened that night and the response time in arriving at the scene. © Provided by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited Joseph Perron was fatally assaulted in June — the 41st homicide in Toronto this year. Police have been conducting an internal review of what happened that night and the response time in arriving at the scene.

Hi sweety it’s me your dad joe. I love you and I miss you Melissa I think about you every day. I would really like to get to know you sweety hart

There have been 92 homicides in Toronto this year. Joseph Perron was No. 41.

Not just a number. None of them are.

He was Melissa Tomas’ long-lost father — mostly lost and literally lost on the night he was beaten to death in Parkdale, June 13. Couldn’t find wherever he was staying, an assisted living residence, when he was set upon by a man he’d never met before. Suffered from schizophrenia and had at some point in his bedraggled existence experienced a serious brain injury.

Tomas hadn’t seen her dad in two decades. She’d actually grown up believing someone else was her father. But in recent years, Perron had reached out on Facebook to re-establish contact. There was residual bitterness and some wariness on the daughter’s part.

Hate you? I don’t know you Joe. I can’t hate some one I don’t know. Good talk, hear from you in another two years.

Perron’s murder was particularly messy. It isn’t easy pummeling someone to death, up close, fist on flesh. Even worse was the very real possibility that the 51-year-old might have survived, had police answered the call-out for a beating in progress with more alacrity.

The first 9-1-1 call came in at 20:31 p.m. Man being assaulted by the train tracks. The assailant had allegedly come back to the victim twice, continuing the thrashing.

But it was a busy Wednesday night in Toronto and 11 Division had its hands full with a robbery and sexual assault happening simultaneously. There were no police cars immediately available.

At 21:09, paramedics called the dispatcher, wondering where those cops were.

At 21:41, EMT reported they’d taken the victim to St. Mike’s, where he’d gone into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead.

At 22:37, paramedics directed officers to the scene of the crime.

More than two hours after the original call-out.

“Somebody messed up and they’re trying to bury it,” Tomas tells the Star.

Joseph Perron had no I.D. on him. It took some time before police were able to put a name to the body.

“He was a vagrant,” says Tomas, explaining that her father had spent some 20 years mostly in the Maritimes before arriving in Toronto. “But he was a human being. Why was he less important than somebody being robbed or a woman being sexually assaulted? In all of Toronto, there was not a single police officer who could get to my father in time?’’

It was on June 21 that Thomas received a message from Toronto Police, saying her name had come up during an investigation.

“When I called back, the voice on the line said, you’ve reach the homicide department. My heart was in my chest. The officer I talked to said, ‘he’s been murdered, he was beaten to death.’ I was in shock.

“It was a hell of a day.”

What’s up dad. How has life been treating you. It’s been a really long time since I heard from you last. I hope that you are doing well and that you are happy. I’m going to school in the fall, and I have moved back to Oshawa. I have two little kittens and I am moving to an apartment soon. K, be good daddy i love you, love your baby girl.

After the homicide and laggard response time was reported by media, Chief Mark Saunders said he would not allow one regrettable occurrence “define” his police department. “To isolate and cherry-pick any call and say that’s the Toronto police is inflammatory, it’s wrong.”

Supt. Heinz Kuck, unit commander of 11 Division — which only a few weeks earlier had been amalgamated with neighbouring 22 Division — told the Star he would conduct an internal review of what happened that night, looking at deployment and communications and, if everything was jammed, there had been proper reallocation of resources, which clearly there hadn’t been.

“We all shoulder the responsibility to find out what happened and, if there was an error in judgment, to see what we can do to make sure it better not happen again.’’

In September, Perron’s measly effects were turned over to his daughter: razors, shaving cream, medicine and some ragged clothes.

She complains that nobody from the police department or the Crown attorney’s office has kept her apprised of the case, though she has a meeting next week with the lead homicide investigator.

Tomas wrote in a recent email to the Star: “Six months after I have not heard one word about what the f — was so important that they could allow my father, who I desperately wanted in my life, to be beaten to death … I understand that it has been an extremely traumatic year for all Torontonians, we have all experienced so much loss back to back, and I feel for every person who has been affected this year. But my father was just as important as any other, who do I feel so brushed aside?

“I wonder if I am the only individual feeling like this, in a system so crowded so of us who are in great need of answers and consistent support are falling through the cracks. I just don’t know what to do.”

From Perron: LOVE YOU I THINK OF YOU ALL THE TIME YOU ARE ALWAYS ON MY MIND

Tomas has consulted lawyers. But family members of crime victims cannot sue police, a decision affirmed (in another case) by Ontario’s Court of Appeal in April. Tomas was advised to push for a coroner’s inquest.

So what has become of that internal review?

“It’s a multi-pronged investigation,” Kuck tells the Star. He has completed his part but can’t released its contents. “It has to go through the chain of command.”

Kuck has turned his part of the report over to Deputy Police Chief Shawna Coxon, who, in September 2017, was assigned the task with a high level review of the police department’s communications centre. Her recommendation was for 50 more call-takers, which was approved in April.

The Star could not reach Coxon for comment on the Perron review. But police spokesperson Meaghan Gray touched based with the deputy on the Star’s behalf.

“What I can offer is that anytime we have an issue we always look into the circumstances to find out what we can do better,” Gray writes in an email.

“In this particular case, all three units involved (11 Division, communications and TPOT)” — Toronto Police Operations Centre — “collectively looked at what happened and what could have been done differently. All of the issues we spoke to you about in June were substantiated by that review.”

What does that mean? Haven’t got a clue. But this is an internal review that absolutely must be publicly released. 9-1-1 is the city’s life-and-death line. We are owed answers.

Raymond Moore, 41, was arrested six days after the Perron’s death, so that part of the policing job was swiftly resolved. He’s been charged with second-degree murder.

Hello, anyone out there??? Where r u father?

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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