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Kitchener, Ont. family demands justice after SIU clears police in fatal shooting

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The family of Kitchener, Ont. man said he was suffering from a schizophrenic episode, and desperately needed help, the night he was fatally shot by an officer with the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

They still have questions about what happened to Nicholas Nembhard and why the officer who pulled the trigger isn’t facing criminal charges.

Under the supervision of his doctor, Nembhard had recently stopped taking medication. His family said they were told that if he experienced a schizophrenic episode they should contact his doctor’s office, or police, to help get him to the hospital.

That was exactly what happened on Feb. 19.

Nembhard’s family called police on the advice of his medical team.

“[He was] a very, very sick person,” explained his brother Andre Nembhard. “I lived with him. I’ve been taking care of him. We tried to help him multiple times.”

When officers arrived at his home on Brybeck Crescent, they found Nembhard holding a machete. An officer yelled at him to drop the weapon, but he didn’t. Nembhard was then Tasered twice.

According to the Special Investigations Unit, Nembard tried to get back up. He was then shot twice in the torso and fell in front of one of the police cruisers. The machete ended up wedged between the vehicle’s push bars. Officers approached slowly, believing the weapon was still in Nembhard’s hand. It took about four minutes until he received medical attention.

Nembhard was later pronounced dead in hospital.

“I know that my brother was wrong to run out with the machete, but my brother was sick,” said his sister Anita Mason. “When someone is sick, in that state, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

It also wasn’t the first time police had been called in to deal with Nembhard.

“They Tased him before and took him to the hospital. So why couldn’t they do that again?” his father Cliff Nembhard asked.

Waterloo regional police at the scene of a police shooting on Brybeck Crescent in Kitchener on Feb. 19, 2024. (Hayden Phillips/CTV Kitchener)

Remembering Nicholas

Nembhard’s family is still grieving his loss more than four months later.

“He was like my best friend,” said Mason. “Every time he called me, he’d be like: ‘Hey sis, how are you? I love you so much.’ He’d tell me ‘I love you one million to one.’ I do not have him anymore to tell me that.”

His family said Nembhard was a hard worker who was always there for them.

“He’s the one who helped me with my school,” recalled Mason.

“[He would] make sure we could read and write and press our clothes and make food,” added his brother Andre Nembhard.

“Nicholas [would] see that everything was done, all my taxes,” Cliff Nembhard said.

The province's SIU says it has found no grounds to lay charges against a WRPS officer that fatally shot a man in February of 2024.

Nembhard’s dedicated extended beyond his immediate family.

“I’m his cousin,” said Joel Nembhard. “He take care of me and he take care of my child.”

He was very involved with his family despite being diagnosed with schizophrenia. The mental disorder is often characterized by disruptive thoughts, hallucinations and delusions, as well as disorganized thinking and behaviour.

“I have about seven kids right now,” his father Cliff Nembhard explained. “Nicholas used to take care of them all, though Nicholas was sick and Nicholas still worked.”

“That guy is a breadwinner, man. He’s the key for the family,” added his cousin Joel Nembhard.

An undated photo of Nicholas Nembhard. (Submitted)

SIU investigation

The SIU was called in to look at the circumstances leading up to Nembhard’s death.

According the agency director, the WRPS officer used “reasonable force” given Nembhard was holding a machete and moving towards police. The report also indicated Nembhard was about one metre away from one of the officers when the fatal shots were fired.

The officer who pulled the trigger will not face any further charges. The SIU said there were no reasonable ground to believe the officer criminal offense in this case.

Nembard’s family reacts

Nembhard’s family said the learned of the SIU’s decision to not lay charges on June 20 – what would have been his 32nd birthday. They were also shown some of the body camera footage that same day.

“I saw the video on his birthday,” Joel Nembhard explained. “I was shaking when I saw the cops could have done better.”

They also have many more questions.

“You don’t shoot the sick person. What I am saying is, I need justice for that. They can’t kill my son just like that and walk away free. That’s not right,” said Cliff Nembhard. “I’m really stressed about it right now, because I don’t know what else to do.”

“I have to get up every day, acting like I am OK. I am not,” Mason added, through tears. “I have to go on living without my brother and it’s very hard.”

An undated photo of Nicholas Nembhard. (Submitted)

Request for coroner’s inquest

In Ontario, a coroner’s inquest is mandatory whenever someone dies during an interaction with police involving use of force.

Nembhard’s family wants one to be held as soon as possible as memories can fade with time.

They worry it’s the only way they’ll get answers.

Despite their push, it could take years before a coroner’s inquest gets underway.

The Chief Coroner’s office said it takes time to investigate and schedule an inquest and they can share no timeline for when one might get the go ahead.

Response from WRPS

The Waterloo Regional Police Service shared the following statement with CTV News: “This incident was an immense tragedy for the individual involved, their family, our involved members, and the community at large. It is also a stark reminder of the dangers faced by our members each and every day.”

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