Alex Wettlaufer was working toward joining the army before he was shot dead by Toronto police, brother says

was waiting for a phone call that would allow him to fulfill his dream of becoming a soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces, just like his father, his brother said. Instead, the 21-year-old was shot dead by police in a ravine behind his family’s uptown home Sunday night.

Aileen Donnelly / National PostAileen Donnelly / National PostPolice tape blocks an entrance to Villaways Park off Leslie Street.

Ontario’s police watchdog is investigating the fatal shooting. The said police received a call about two men fighting at the Leslie subway station in North York around 11 p.m. One of the men fled into Villaways Park, where there was a “confrontation” involving officers, the SIU said.

A 21-year-old man was shot by a police firearm and rushed to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he was later pronounced dead.

The SIU has not released the identity of the young man, but Michael Wettlaufer confirmed it was his younger brother, Alex.

“He was a great person,” Michael said. “He was willing to help you if you’re down.”

He said the family has lived in the Toronto Community Housing neighbourhood for more than 30 years. Alex was the second-youngest of 10 siblings. Their father, who Michael says served in the Canadian army, died in 2011, and Alex was eager to follow in his footsteps.

Since graduating high school, he had focused on working out, had recently completed the army’s required aptitude tests and was “just waiting for the call,” Michael said.

He was willing to help you if you’re down

“He was happy he was going to (become a soldier).”

At 11.15 p.m. Sunday night, tweeted a warning that one of the men fighting at Leslie station was armed with a gun. His family say Alex was just carrying a cellphone.

Leslie St and Sheppard Ave E, on scene investigating two people fighting, one armed with a gun. ^cb

Toronto Police OPS (@TPSOperations) March 14, 2016

“Why the hell would he need to carry a gun?” Michael said, adding that his brother was in peak physical condition. “He doesn’t even own any (guns). None of us do.”

Wendy Wettlaufer, Alex’s mother, told CP24 that someone from the family was on the phone with him moments before he was shot.

“He was crying, saying that he’s being surrounded,” she said. “They kept telling him to put the weapon down, and he kept hollering, telling them he didn’t have a weapon.”

It was an officer from the force’s Emergency Task Force, the unit most highly trained in hostage negotiations, barricaded suspects and the like, who shot the man, the Post has learned.

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Wettlaufer’s sister, Melissa, also told CP24 that her brother does not own any weapons.

“He is not really a fighter and he wouldn’t have turned around and ruined everything because he was going into the army,” she said.

“We hope it’s not going to be another Sammy (Yatim) thing again because that was his best friend in school,” she told 680 NEWS.

Aileen Donnelly / National PostAileen Donnelly / National PostThe entrance to Villaways Park opposite Leslie subway station in North York.

Sammy Yatim was shot dead by Toronto police Const. James Forcillo on a streetcar in 2012. Forcillo was found guilty on Jan. 25 of attempted murder.

Residents of the Toronto Community Housing neighbourhood where the family lives were shocked to hear that Alex had died.

I never heard anybody say anything bad about him

A former next-door neighbour of many years, who had returned to the area to offer his condolences, described Alex as a “good kid” who was very close with his mother and “never got into any altercations with police.”

Another resident who has lived in the neighbourhood for more than a decade, and is close with Alex’s mother, said the young man was quiet and polite and kept to himself, but would always smile when they passed each other in the street.

“I’m so sorry about Alex,” said the woman, who didn’t want to be named out of respect for the family. “I never heard anybody say anything bad about him.”

National Post, with files from Christie Blatchford

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