When Anthony Marriott was 17 years old he fell from the 11th story balcony of a Scarborough apartment during a police operation. The police officers involved were investigated by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) which investigates potential wrongdoing by police. The officers were all cleared of wrongdoing, but Anthony Marriott has always maintained that a police officer threw him. He is not the only person to fall from a balcony during a police call.
During a police visit to her West End Toronto apartment on May 27, 2020 Regis Korchinski Paquette fell to her death from her 24th floor balcony. Police say that Regis climbed over the balcony railing herself and fell, but Regis’ family does not buy that. Regis’ death sparked mass demonstrations in Toronto’s downtown core. When Toronto’s proposed $50 million police budget increase was announced, Regis’s family helped organize and host an event called “Who Dies While Police Budgets Rise”. At this event, on January 16, I met Anthony Marriott.
“How many skeletons do you think the cops have in their closet? How many people do you think went off the balcony before Regis?” asked Regis’ father, Peter Korchinski, before Anthony took the stage.
Korchinski listed people who died in this way, with only police surviving to tell the story of how it occurred. “Anthony,” he said, “He lived. He lived to tell it.”
Following an introduction by Desmond Cole, Anthony Marriott shared his story of what transpired. I asked him after the event if he would do an interview for Spring Magazine and he agreed.
Tell us a little bit about yourself as a 17-year-old, before your encounter with police.
Anthony Marriott: When I was 17, I was a young, outgoing, optimistic, ambitious teen with a big heart. I worked at Eaton’s for a while in the Eaton’s Centre and I loved reading and writing in my spare time. Though I was a kid growing up in Toronto in the early 90s, I had a naive positive view of the world.
What do you remember most about the incident?
Early evening Saturday, November 29, 1997 in a building I lived in at Markham and Eglinton, I disarmed a kid in my group who was pursuing and attacking me in an argument that had escalated then gotten out of control. I ended up injuring my attacker, and facing charges as a result. I fought the case in trial and won, with my lawyer, the late great Charles Roach, civil rights lawyer and community activist.
I was found not guilty and the criminal case against me was thrown out.
But back to that early evening, the cops were called after the fight and came to the 11th floor apartment, which belonged to one of my friends from my group, where we would hang out. The police came to the door and banged really loud while yelling for us to open up.
I was scared. When the door opened I saw two cops staring and yelling at me. One of them had a baton in hand, so I panicked and ran. The cops chased me as I ran all through the front of the apartment until I ran regrettably on to the balcony and stopped. Seconds later a cop ran up behind me and next thing I knew, I was being tossed.
Do you remember that moment?
Yes. I was in total shock. I remember feeling “Why me? What did I do to this guy?” I remember needing to look him in his eyes and meeting eye to eye briefly before I looked down to see the ground coming up to me so fast and me realizing, I am about to die. I closed my eyes at the final moment and said “O, God”. I woke up three days later from a coma in Sunnybrook Hospital.
What do you remember happening when you regained consciousness?
MARRIOTT: I thought I was still on the ground. I hadn’t realized three days had passed. When I woke up I was angry and upset. I remember screaming to my mother and family in the room,
“Why me? What did I do to that guy?”
My family, upon hearing this, was baffled and asked me to explain. I said to them,
”Why did he do that to me? What did I do to him? Y’all don’t know? That cop pushed me!”
I also spoke of an Angel “that caught me” before I was sedated by the head nurse. She rushed in with some other nurses and staff, and whisked me into another room.
What physical injuries did you sustain?
My right hip bone was fractured and causes me discomfort to this day. I landed on my back, a small fracture of the bone also occurred around the base of my skull where my brain sits. The doctors said to my parents, they had to put my insides back together like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a miracle I am still alive, able to walk and talk.
Shortly after the incident, the police tried to remove you from the hospital. Is that correct?
Yes. At least twice. Two or three times, the police physically tried to take me out of the hospital, into custody. They wanted to put me in, I don’t know what it’s called, “jail hospital”. In retrospect now, I’m pretty sure that I would not have survived.
Talk about the nurse’s response.
The head nurse was so wonderful. She told all the staff that under no circumstances should I be taken out of the hospital. And she needed to be called if the police arrived. The first time they were like, “Hi, we’re coming to pick you up.” And this was only a week into my recovery. And the nurse ran and said, “You can’t take him. He’s still recovering. I refuse to let him go.”
The second time, they got me up and one cop said “should we handcuff him?”
The other cop joked, “Yah because we gotta keep an eye on him. He might try to jump out a window.”
They were mocking me. I could barely walk. I was skin and bones. Also, I was on heavy pain killers and I didn’t have my parents with me. I would have followed the cops anywhere, just because of my state of mind.
Again the head nurse came down. She was no joke. She came down. She was very upset, yelling at them. “I’m telling you for the last time. He’s staying.”
She said, “I’m not going to authorize it. He’s in no condition to leave the hospital.”
If I’d died in “jail hospital” the public wouldn’t have been surprised. As far as they were concerned, I wasn’t supposed to survive that fall anyway. It would have been “case closed”.
You told me that while you were walking outside near your building, a neighbour approached you to deliver a message from the police. Would you share that story?
This was around the time the case was getting attention in the news. A neighbour in my building saw me one night a few weeks after being released from the hospital. He told me he had a message for me. He explained his mother was in the same senior’s home where a cop visits his parents. The man said the officer gave him a message for me.
He said they told him to tell me “The way we’re going to come after you, you better have more money than OJ Simpson.” And I remember that his face looked satisfied that he could give me the message.
You told me about watching a police officer testify against you in court. Would you describe that?
The police came to court with what looked like more than a dozen officers in uniform. When he got to the stand, I was practically face to face staring at the cop who tried to kill me. Eye to eye, again, but this time I was sitting in a courtroom.
When he was asked to recount the sequence of events in which I, the defendant at the time, fell from 11 stories, he gave a bogus scenario.
I remember his face turned so red his voice even trembled at times as he recounted his version of the night. The cop said he was chasing me in the apartment then onto the balcony. When he ran out onto the balcony that I was over the balcony hanging so he tried to grab my one arm to pull me up but with my other arm and that I was trying to pull his arm off potentially stopping him from hurting or killing myself. He said that I consequently removed his hand and plummeted 11 stories pretty much of my own accord.
It’s not easy to describe the multitude of emotions I felt at the time or the level of anger to hear someone blatantly lie to you and pretty much the world right to your face. It took a lot of control for me at the time. I wanted to throw my chair at him so bad. I wasn’t or haven’t ever been suicidal especially then as a 17 year old teenager. If I have any depression or any mental issues, it wasn’t then, it’s now because of all of this. Almost losing my life in such an insidious way, made out to be my own fault, yet the truth is blatantly screaming otherwise. It was a traumatic experience. What I had to go through. How I had to grow up as well as heal inside and out.
Back then it’s worth noting the balconies in the building were done in a single flat sheet metal design. There were no steel bars on the balconies of 215 Markham Rd. where I could “swing” or “rappel”. The balconies there at the time had the flat wide single metal sheet design.
The police involved in your case approached you when the court was in recess.
Yes, it was that same officer. This was before he spoke. It was around the end of recess time when my lawyer, family, friends and I were making our way back into the courthouse to return to the courtroom. Right after we passed the metal detectors a group of cops beelined toward us. One of them, the cop in particular that tried to kill me, approached me quite forwardly in a “you need to do this” type of way and asked if I wanted to speak to them. It was clear that they had some sort of message for me, they wanted to tell me something again. I politely declined and made my way back to the courtroom.
How did the news coverage of the incident impact your relationships in the community?
It was very difficult at first. I became more withdrawn, I had to grow up fast. My face and full name was plastered all over the news on tv and the newspapers for weeks. That was wrong because I was underage. I didn’t need that kind of attention. The media was wrong to be too quick to publish the identities of some of the people in their stories. It can have a negative effect on that person’s life. The media also made a lot of assumptions about my situation that night. I figure it’s to make the story their way, because during that time not once did they ever try to contact me.
What would you like to see happen in the future?
I would like to see so much more done to put a stop to and hold accountable police for police brutality. I would like to see improvements and revisions on how the SIU operates. I would like the public to keep a more active eye on the new police budget and what they plan to do with all that money. I would like to see training for officers to best handle cases where mental health is an issue. I would like to see the end of discrimination in the system, in the schools, in the healthcare, in the workplace and in society on a whole, on all sides. I would like to see more services improved in the city to help the youths and families suffering.
I am in the process of writing my book. It will be an autobiography as I’ve overcome so much in life plus as a youth the police threw me off the 11th floor balcony and I am still here, I survived. I believe there’s still work for me to do here, my book would resonate with and help many others. My writing has begun and it has proven to be a therapeutic journey also for me and I strongly feel the need to complete and share it one day with the world.
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