SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-PCD-035
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Mandate of the SIU
Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation. If, after an investigation, there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the officer. Alternatively, in all cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director does not lay criminal charges but files a report with the Attorney General communicating the results of an investigation.
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”)Pursuant to section 14 of FIPPA (i.e., law enforcement), certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Confidential investigative techniques and procedures used by law enforcement agencies; and
- Information whose release could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter or an investigation undertaken with a view to a law enforcement proceeding.
- Subject Officer name(s);
- Witness Officer name(s);
- Civilian Witness name(s);
- Location information;
- Witness statements and evidence gathered in the course of the investigation provided to the SIU in confidence; and
- Other identifiers which are likely to reveal personal information about individuals involved in the investigation.
Pursuant to PHIPA, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.
Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (“PHIPA”)
Other proceedings, processes, and investigationsInformation may have also been excluded from this report because its release could undermine the integrity of other proceedings involving the same incident, such as criminal proceedings, coroner’s inquests, other public proceedings and/or other law enforcement investigations.
“Serious injuries” shall include those that are likely to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim and are more than merely transient or trifling in nature and will include serious injury resulting from sexual assault. “Serious Injury” shall initially be presumed when the victim is admitted to hospital, suffers a fracture to a limb, rib or vertebrae or to the skull, suffers burns to a major portion of the body or loses any portion of the body or suffers loss of vision or hearing, or alleges sexual assault. Where a prolonged delay is likely before the seriousness of the injury can be assessed, the Unit should be notified so that it can monitor the situation and decide on the extent of its involvement.
This report relates to the SIU’s investigation into the death of a 50-year-old man (the “Complainant”).
Notification of the SIUOn February 11, 2020, at 2:10 p.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant. The OPP advised that, earlier in the day, an OPP police officer had responded to a residence on Devista Boulevard in the town of Alfred to assist a Sheriff with the repossession of a home. When the OPP police officer arrived, he spoke to the occupant of the house [now determined to be the Complainant], who told the police officer he had guns. The Complainant told the police officer to leave the property.
The police officer retreated and was in the process of arranging to contain the residence when the house erupted in flames. When the fire was extinguished, the body of the Complainant was found in the basement.
The Ontario Fire Marshal was notified. The body of the Complainant remained in the residence and it was anticipated that efforts to extract the body would not take place until the following day.
The TeamNumber of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
Complainant:50-year-old male, deceased
Civilian Witnesses (CW)CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
Witness Officers (WO)WO #1 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed
Subject Officer (SO)SO Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right
The SceneThe scene was located at a residence on Devista Boulevard in Alfred. It was a single-family dwelling consisting of a raised bungalow with an attached garage. There was considerable fire damage to the structure, including a collapsed roof. There was a vehicle in the driveway. The scene exterior was photographed.
Forensic investigators obtained a sealed paper bag containing documents the Complainant had thrown out of a window during the incident. The documents were examined for a suicide note. There were only court and financial documents in the bag.
The body of the Complainant was found in the basement of the residence in a room at the northeast corner. He was lying supine with a hunting rifle on top of his body. There was extensive damage to the Complainant’s head from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. There was another rifle leaning against a wall several feet from the body. The body and firearms were photographed.
Forensic investigators cleared the rifle found on the Complainant’s body, which was a Remington Model 6 pump action 30.06 rifle. The rifle contained one fired 30.06 calibre round in the chamber and two unfired rounds in the magazine. Forensic investigators collected the rifle.
Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) Results
Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence The SIU canvassed the area for any video or audio recordings, and photographic evidence, and was able to locate the following sources:
- Video footage from the iPhone of CW #1.
iPhone Recordings from CW #1
Scene Video One
The recording was two minutes and 24 seconds long. It was focused on a house [known to be the Complainant’s residence] from which smoke was emanating. Two police cruisers, an SUV (believed to be a Ford Explorer) and a sedan, flanked the left side of the roadway in front of the residence and another cruiser (believed to be a Ford Explorer) flanked the right side of the roadway in front of the residence. A dark SUV was parked in the driveway of the Complainant’s residence. One police officer was stationed at the sedan cruiser and another police officer walked off camera. This police officer carried a rifle pointed at the ground.
Scene Video Two
This recording was eight seconds in length and had no evidentiary value.
The recording was one minute and 19 seconds in length. It showed smoke emanating from the Complainant’s residence. Two police officers were positioned in the neighbour’s driveway to the left.
Scene Video Four
The recording was ten seconds in length and had no evidentiary value.
Scene Video Five
The recording was 36 seconds long. Large flames emanated from the roof of the Complainant’s residence and a fire truck was spraying water on the home from a distance.
Police Communications Recordings
OPP Communications Recordings Summary
At 10:15:47 a.m., the police received a call from a Sheriff [now determined to be CW #2] advising he was executing an eviction and needed police assistance. He explained that a bank was taking possession of a residence;
At 11:11:49 a.m., the SO was at the scene and reported that he was on the phone with a man [now determined to be the Complainant];
At 11:11:57 a.m., it was reported that the Complainant was inside his home and refusing to come out;
At 11:33:57 a.m., the SO reported telling the sheriff, CW #2, and the bank trustee to leave the scene;
At 11:34:18 a.m., the Complainant no longer wished to talk to police;
At 12:03:37 p.m., the Complainant was talking to police once more;
At 12:16:21 p.m., WO #2 reported he was en route to the scene;
At 12:22:03 p.m., the SO had been talking to the Complainant by phone for more than 15 minutes;
At 12:25:32 p.m., the Complainant was considering coming out of the house;
At 12:26:23 p.m., the Complainant had firearms in the residence, a shotgun and two rifles;
At 12:27:40 p.m., the Complainant was close to coming out of the house and proposed placing the firearms on his deck;
At 12:33:22 p.m., the Complainant was seen opening a window at the front of the house and then closing the blinds to cover the window;
At 12:38:40 p.m., the Complainant had set his house on fire and the fire department was requested;
At 12:38:49 p.m., smoke was coming out of the Complainant’s house and police officers were screaming for the Complainant to come out of the house;
At 12:39:40 p.m., the police officers lost sight of the Complainant;
At 12:41:23 p.m., an ambulance was requested;
At 12:41:42 p.m., a police officer reported he believed he saw the Complainant in the house;
At 12:42:40 p.m., the SO reported that he heard noises inside the home, but he could not see the Complainant;
At 12:43:26 p.m., police officers reported that a lot more smoke was coming out of the residence and no movement was seen inside;
At 12:48:29 p.m., firefighters were told about the firearms in the residence and to stage away from the property until the perimeter was contained;
At 12:49:16 p.m., police tried to contact the Complainant via loud hailer;
At 12:49:29 p.m., last contact with the Complainant was 15 minutes ago;
At 12:50:13 p.m., the Tactical Response Team and crisis negotiators were being called;
At 12:51:23 p.m., police reported the Complainant was still inside his residence and believed to be unconscious or dead;
At 12:52:09 p.m., flames were reported coming out of the back window of the home;
At 1:01:52 p.m., fire department setting up hose to spray the burning house;
At 1:09:41 p.m., firefighters were directing water into the home through the open window;
At 1:13:00 p.m., the roof of the residence was beginning to cave in;
At 1:15:03 p.m., police tried to contact the Complainant again via telephone, and then again at 1:16:09 p.m. and at 1:16:30 p.m.;
At 1:24:34 p.m., police checked a shed found on the property and reported the Complainant was not located inside;
At 1:27:13 p.m., after police attempted to ping the Complainant’s cell they determined it was turned off;
At 1:53:10 p.m., police reported finding the Complainant’s dead body on the north side of the basement; and
At 1:55:34 p.m., the SIU liaison was notified.
Materials obtained from Police ServiceUpon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP:
- Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) – Global Positioning System (GPS) data for the SO’s OPP police cruiser;
- Civilian Witness List;
- Event Details;
- General Report-Sudden Death;
- Notes – WO #2;
- Notes – WO #1;
- Occurrence Summary;
- OPP Scene Photos;
- Communications Recordings; and
- Private Firearm Acquired Report.
Materials obtained from Other SourcesIn addition, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from non-police sources:
- Chemistry Report, dated March 24, 2020, from the Centre of Forensic Sciences;
- Enforcement Officer Notes – CW #2;
- Photographs and video recordings – CW #1;
- Preliminary Autopsy Report dated February 13, 2020; and
- Report of Postmortem Examination, received by SIU November 5, 2020.
The SO was the first to arrive at the scene at about 10:30 a.m. He spoke with CW #2, satisfied himself that the eviction was in order, and approached the front door. The Complainant refused to open the door but, in time, the officer was able to contact him via his cell phone. The SO attempted to re-assure the Complainant. He explained that he could contest the eviction through various avenues. The Complainant, however, was undeterred and indicated that he would rather die than leave his home. He would go on to explain that he had several firearms in the house.
WO #1 joined the SO at the property at approximately 11:00 a.m. The SO updated him on the situation. Given the information they had about the Complainant’s firearms, the officers decided that they would back-off and set up containment around the property in the event they lose sight of the Complainant through the front windows.
At about 11:30 a.m., the Complainant broke off communications with the SO and disappeared from view inside the house. The SO and WO #1 proceeded to move their cruisers onto Devista Boulevard so as to prevent traffic from using the roadway in the area of the home. CW #2 and a representative from the bank were also advised to vacate the area and they did so, leaving at about 11:45 a.m.
Shortly after 12:00 p.m., the SO was able to re-establish communication with the Complainant via his cell phone. They spoke for about 25 minutes. The Complainant indicated he would relinquish his firearms, setting them outside on his deck, after which he would surrender himself to police.
At about 12:30 p.m., the Complainant was seen opening a front window and closing the blinds to the same window. Within minutes, flames were seen within the home and smoke was billowing from the window. The officers yelled at the Complainant to exit the house but to no avail.
The fire department was summoned to the scene but was held back from fighting the fire by the officers. They were concerned for the firefighters’ safety given the Complainant’s state of mind and his possession of firearms. Beginning at about 1:00 p.m., the firefighters began to douse the fire.
Further attempts made at 1:15 p.m. and 1:16 p.m. to contact the Complainant by phone went unanswered. He was subsequently discovered deceased in the basement of the home at about 1:53 p.m. A rifle was found lying across his supine body; he had massive head injuries.
Cause of Death
Sections 219 and 220, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing death
(a) in doing anything, or(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.
Analysis and Director's Decision
True to his word, the Complainant decided to take his life rather than vacate his home. The only issue is whether there was any want of care on the part of the police which contributed to the Complainant’s death and was so egregious as to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there was not.
The offence that rises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. Liability for the offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances.
The Complainant had frustrated the sheriff’s lawful eviction efforts. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the SO and, shortly after, WO #1, were lawfully at the address to assist with the eviction.
Once there, and given the Complainant’s behaviour, the officers had cause to remain at the scene to deal with what had developed into a potential threat to public safety, including the Complainant’s health and well-being. The Complainant indicated that he would rather die than leave his home and mentioned the presence of firearms in the house. The officers conducted themselves professionally as they attempted to keep the lines of communication open with the Complainant and subsequently withdrew from the scene once they lost sight of him. They were also wise to prevent traffic from flowing in the area and to keep the firefighters at bay for a period in light of the dangers presented by the firearms in the home. Indeed, as events unfolded, the Complainant did arm himself with a rifle, which he used to shoot himself in the basement.
In the final analysis, there is insufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that either of the SO and WO #1 contributed to the Complainant’s death by any neglect on their part. On the contrary, the evidence establishes, in my view, that the officers acted reasonably throughout the incident in their attempts to dissuade the Complainant from any harmful behaviour. Consequently, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.
Date: January 18, 2021
Electronically approved by
Special Investigations Unit
The signed English original report is authoritative, and any discrepancy between that report and the French and English online versions should be resolved in favour of the original English report.