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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-OCD-033

Contents:

News Releases for this Case:

French:

Mandate of the SIU

The Special Investigations Unit is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving police officers where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. The Unit’s jurisdiction covers more than 50 municipal, regional and provincial police services across Ontario.

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.

Information restrictions

Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal 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. 
Pursuant to section 21 of FIPPA (i.e., personal privacy), protected personal information is not included in this document. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
  • 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.


Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (“PHIPA”)

Pursuant to PHIPA, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.

Other proceedings, processes, and investigations

Information 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.

Mandate engaged

The Unit’s investigative jurisdiction is limited to those incidents where there is a serious injury (including sexual assault allegations) or death in cases involving the police.

“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 62-year-old female (the Complainant) following her interaction with police on February 3, 2018.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

At approximately 9:34 a.m. on February 5, 2018, the Timmins Police Service (TPS) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant following an interaction with police on February 3, 2018.

The TPS reported that on February 3, 2018 at 2:41 p.m., hospital staff called the police for assistance regarding an unwanted female, the Complainant. The Complainant was a diabetic and one of her legs had been previously amputated. When the police officers arrived, they asked the Complainant to leave and she got into a taxi and left. The police officers followed the taxi to a Women’s Shelter in the City of Timmins. At the shelter, the Complainant became upset and told shelter staff that the police had raped her. She also threatened the officers in the presence of shelter staff, after which the police officers eventually arrested the Complainant for uttering threats.

At 3:29 p.m., the Complainant arrived at the police station and was lodged in a cell. At some point, the Complainant said she was not feeling well and an ambulance was called. The Complainant was taken to hospital and released from police custody.

On February 4, 2018 at 9:05 p.m., the TPS was notified that the Complainant had died.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 6
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1
 
On Wednesday, February 7, 2018, at 8:45 a.m., the SIU Forensic Investigator (FI) attended the Northeastern Regional Forensic Pathology Unit, in the City of Sudbury, to witness and assist at the post-mortem examination of the Complainant’s body. At the commencement of the autopsy, the Pathologist requested that a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK) be completed due to the nature of the allegation. Personal clothing of the deceased was also found in a hospital bag, located inside the body bag. The FI photographed the post-mortem examination as directed by the Pathologist and his assistant, and also collected personal effects, and the SAEK evidence.

Complainant:

62-year-old female deceased, medical records obtained and reviewed

Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed
CW #6 Interviewed
CW #7 Interviewed
CW #8 Interviewed

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #3 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #4 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed

Subject Officers

SO Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right


Incident Narrative

At the time of her death, the Complainant was 62 years of age and a member of the Fort Albany First Nation. Just prior to her death, she had been living at a women’s shelter located in the City of Timmins, due to multiple health issues for which she required treatment which was unavailable to her in Fort Albany. The Complainant had been receiving kidney dialysis at the Timmins Hospital, but had refused to continue her dialysis treatment as of February 2, 2018. 
 
On the morning of February 3, 2018, the Complainant woke up at the shelter and began to experience chest pains. An ambulance was called and the Complainant was transported to the hospital, arriving at approximately 8:57 a.m. The Complainant was examined and advised by the doctor to undergo her dialysis treatment. The Complainant again refused her dialysis treatment and she told the hospital staff she wanted to go back to Fort Albany to die, as she was tired of living. The Complainant was placed on a Form 1 under the Mental Health Act (MHA) and was involuntarily committed to hospital on the basis that she was incapable of caring for herself. 
 
The Complainant was then examined by the on-call psychiatrist, who assessed her as being competent to make decisions regarding her medical care, and she was removed from the Form 1 and allowed to leave the hospital. Hospital staff told the Complainant that both the hospital and the shelter would assist her in obtaining transportation back to Fort Albany, but as it was the weekend, nothing could be done until the following Monday, February 5, 2018. 
 
The Complainant was asked to leave the hospital at that point, whereupon she became belligerent with staff. At 2:41 p.m., CW #7, a crisis service worker at the hospital, called the TPS to request assistance in removing the Complainant from the hospital. At approximately 2:47 p.m., WO #2 and the SO arrived at the hospital and instructed the Complainant to go back to the shelter and wait for arrangements to be made for her return to Fort Albany. The officers did not arrest the Complainant and she was not transported in their police vehicle, but a taxi was called to take her to the shelter. 

CW #2 arrived at the hospital with his taxi and transported the Complainant to the shelter. At approximately 3:04 p.m., the Complainant arrived at the shelter in the taxi, with WO #2 and the SO following in their police vehicle. CW #8, a shelter worker, came out to meet the Complainant with a wheelchair. The Complainant was still being belligerent and threatened the officers, as a result of which CW #8 did not allow the Complainant entry into the shelter. The officers then arrested the Complainant for uttering threats and she eventually got out of the taxi and sat in the wheelchair. The officers requested that a police vehicle with a protective screen be dispatched to transport the Complainant to the police station. While waiting for that police vehicle to arrive, the Complainant manoeuvred herself out of the wheelchair and sat on the snow covered and icy ground. When WO #1 arrived at the shelter in a TPS cruiser equipped with a protective screen, the officers had a protracted discussion with the Complainant, after which, when she refused to get back into the wheelchair, the officers picked up the Complainant and partially carried/partially dragged her to the police cruiser and placed her inside. She was then transported to the TPS station and lodged in the cells. 

At approximately 9:00 p.m., when WO #4 was doing a cell check, the Complainant requested to go to the hospital to speak to a psychiatrist. An ambulance was requested, and at approximately 9:33 p.m., paramedics arrived at the TPS and the Complainant was again transported to the hospital, arriving at approximately 10:07 p.m. The Complainant was examined in the emergency department and then transferred to the Hospice Centre.
On February 4, 2018, at approximately 8:15 p.m., the Complainant was pronounced dead.

Prior Medical Records of the Complainant

The medical records revealed that on February 3, 2018, at approximately 9:38 a.m., the Complainant was examined by a doctor at the hospital as a result of her complaints of chest pain. After her examination, however, the Complainant refused any further medical treatment. Medical staff had concerns about the Complainant’s mental health, and she was committed to hospital on a Form 1 of the MHA on the basis that she was unable to care for herself. The Complainant was then assessed by the hospital psychiatrist, who determined that she was of sound mind and therefore capable of making her own decisions regarding her medical care and/or refusal of medical treatment. The Complainant was then discharged from the hospital at approximately 2:55 p.m.

At approximately 10:07 p.m., the Complainant was transported back to the hospital by paramedics and was again examined and again refused all medical treatment. There was no medical intervention performed on the Complainant, at her request, as the Complainant’s only wish was to be taken to Fort Albany to die. The Complainant was then admitted to the Hospice Centre at the hospital.

On February 4, 2018, a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) order was placed on the Complainant’s medical file following consultations with the Complainant. The Complainant also signed a ‘Patient Decisions Against Medical Advice’ form indicating that she was refusing dialysis treatment because she simply wanted to go home to Fort Albany to die. The form indicated that the Complainant had been assessed by a psychiatrist and was competent to make medical decisions. Throughout the day, the Complainant received medical supervision and her family was at her bedside. At approximately 1:00 p.m., the Complainant requested to speak with a priest and one was summoned. At approximately 8:15 p.m., a family member noticed the Complainant’s hand felt cold and when a nurse checked on her, it was determined that she had passed away.

The cause of the Complainant’s death was determined by the forensic pathologist at the post-mortem examination to have been “complications of ENDSTAGE DIABETIC NEPHROPATHY in a woman with ISCHEMIC HEART DISEASE.”

Evidence

The Scene

There were a few scenes related to the TPS’s interaction with the Complainant: the hospital, the shelter parking lot, and the TPS station. As there was no allegation that any force was applied at the hospital, the hospital scene was not examined. The interaction between the Complainant and the TPS at the shelter parking lot was video recorded. The video revealed that the officers appear to carry/drag the Complainant approximately eight feet to the police cruiser, after she had removed herself from her wheelchair, and she was placed inside the back seat of the cruiser. No untoward force was seen to have been applied, thus the parking lot was not examined.

The TPS cells, the last place where the Complainant had any contact with the TPS, was examined and photographed, and a scale diagram completed. There was nothing of evidentiary value identified in the cell.

Forensic Evidence

Due to the fact that the Complainant had made utterances of having been sexually assaulted, the SIU submitted the Complainant’s underwear, an oral swab, an external genitalia swab, a vaginal swab, and a rectal swab, to the Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) for examination and analysis on February 26, 2018. These items were collected at the time of the Complainant’s post-mortem examination.

On March 29, 2018, a forensic scientist with the CFS produced a report related to the items the SIU had submitted. According to the report, there was no semen or amylase (an enzyme chiefly found in saliva) detected on any of the items submitted by the SIU.  

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

The SIU obtained 40 video files from the TPS related to the Complainant’s detention on February 3, 2018. The video files are recordings of the following areas of the station:
  • Sally Port East Wall, 
  • Cell Block Hallway, 
  • Cell Block Bench, 
  • Booking Room Desk, 
  • Cell A1. 

There are eight files per area that span from approximately 1535 (3:35 p.m.) until 2202 hrs (10:02 p.m.). The video files do not have a time stamp on the recordings; there is an external counter on the video player. The following is a summary of the pertinent parts of the videos with the counter number as a reference.


Sally Port East Wall video (1) – no audio

23:53 WO #1’s cruiser enters the sally port, and a second officer walks into the sally port with the Complainant’s wheelchair;
26:01 The Complainant is out of the cruiser;
27:01 The Complainant is wheeled inside the station to the booking area;
27:40 WO #1 drives his cruiser out of the sally port.

Sally Port East Wall video (7) - no audio

32:23 A female police officer goes into the sally port area to open the overhead door;
32:52 An ambulance drives into the sally port;
51:39 Three EMS personnel go into the sally port with the Complainant on a stretcher.

Sally Port East Wall video (8) – no audio

01:27 The ambulance departs the TPS.

Cell Block Hallway video (1) – has audio

27:12 A TPS constable brings the Complainant to the booking desk;
the Complainant says she has given up and wants to go home and die, and she wants her lawyer. The TPS officer has the Complainant remove her sweater;
30:12 An officer wheels the Complainant towards the cells.

Cell Block Hallway video (6) – has audio

46:25 A TPS police woman walks to the cell area and speaks to the Complainant, who is in cell A1; the officer asks the Complainant how she is doing and if she wants something warm;
48:01 The police woman is out of the cell area.

Cell Block Hallway video (6) – video and audio recorded

32:23 TPS police woman goes out to the sally port through the hallway;
34:09 Three EMS personnel and the police woman walk towards the cells;
42:30 A stretcher is taken through the hallway heading towards the sally port with the Complainant strapped in.

Cell Block Bench videos (1 to 8) – no audio

These video files mirror the Cell Block Hallway video files.

Booking Room Desk Video (1-8) – audio recorded

These video files mirror the Cell Block Hallway and Cell Block Bench video files.

Cell A1 – (1) audio recorded

30:32 TPS officers and the Complainant arrive at cell A1; the booking officer and the SO put the Complainant into the cell, and place her in a seated position on the bench;
35:42 The booking officer, WO #3, returns to cell A1 with the SO. The Complainant is on the floor and she crawls to her wheelchair, which is outside the cell and the two officers and the Complainant then leave the cell area;
46:29 WO #3 and the SO return the Complainant to the cell.

Cell A1 – (2) audio recorded

19:37 A male voice is heard talking to the Complainant;
20:32 The officer asks the Complainant if she is warm;
20:58 WO #3 provides the Complainant with a blanket as she is sitting on the cell floor;
21:38 The Complainant covers herself.

Cell A1 – (3) audio recorded

00:33 WO #3 provides the Complainant with the cushion from her wheelchair;
03:19 The Complainant crushes the meal with which she has been provided and throws it about the floor of the cell;
09:02 The Complainant takes the cover off the wheelchair cushion;
26:01 The Complainant lays down on the floor using the cushion as a pillow;
37:48 WO #3 comes to the cell;
48:20 The Complainant covers herself with the blanket.

Cell A1 – (4) audio recorded

00:01 The Complainant is lying down and is yelling and crying throughout the video.

Cell A1 – (5) audio recorded

14:47 The Complainant is sitting on the floor and takes off her sock and then appears to drink a juice box that was provided;
27:48 The Complainant lies down;
30:08 The Complainant sits up and is yelling;
50:27 The Complainant lies down.

Cell A1 – (6) audio recorded

00:01 The Complainant is lying down and is quiet and appears to be sleeping;
34:24 The Complainant sits up and begins to yell;
38:50 The Complainant is asking for soup and something to drink with sugar in it as she is a diabetic;
46:24 A female officer attends the cells and talks to the Complainant about her release; the officer inquires about where the Complainant will go;
55:05 The Complainant yells that she wants to go to the washroom and she cannot do it on her own … and she needs help.

Cell A1 – (7) audio recorded

34:30 EMS arrives at the cell;
42:17 A stretcher is brought into the cell. The Complainant has difficulty getting up and it takes some time to load her onto the stretcher;
51:00 The Complainant is seated on the stretcher and she is covered with a blanket and blanketed in;
52:30 The Complainant is removed from the cell on the stretcher.

Cell A1 – (8) audio recorded

Recording is of the empty cell. 

Communications Recordings

The TPS provided the SIU with a CD-ROM containing an audio file from February 3, 2018, in relation to this case. The following is a summary of the salient sections of the recording:

  • At 2:41:11 p.m., CW #7, a crisis worker from the hospital, called the TPS dispatcher. CW #7 reported that the Complainant had been brought to the hospital by EMS and had been discharged from “psych and medical” and was refusing to leave the emergency department. CW #7 asked for assistance in removing the Complainant from the hospital and returning her to the (women’s) shelter; 
  • At 2:41:34 p.m., WO #2 was dispatched and, at 2:42:04 p.m., the SO was dispatched. The SO asked if the Complainant was violent and the dispatcher advised that the Complainant was just “uncooperative”;
  • At 2:52:50 p.m., the SO advised everything is “10-4”;
  • At 3:02:10 p.m., the SO asked the dispatcher to call the women’s shelter in order to have a wheelchair ready for the Complainant;
  • At 3:02:33 p.m., the SO advised that he and WO #2 were leaving and following a taxi to the shelter;
  • At approximately 3:03 p.m., the dispatcher called the women’s shelter and spoke to a female, CW #8, in French. The dispatcher advised that the Complainant was arriving and asked CW #8 to prepare a wheelchair, as requested by the police officers;
  • At 3:08:55 p.m., the SO told the dispatcher he needed WO #1 and a “caged car”. He said, “She’s under arrest for threats,” and the Complainant had been placed in custody;
  • At 3:09:40 p.m., WO #1 was dispatched;
  • At 3:17:33 p.m., the SO said “everything is 10-4” and “(inaudible)…to the car”;
  • At 3:19:01 p.m., WO #1 reported that the Complainant was “on board”, and he was returning to the police station with a “92” [prisoner] and provided his starting mileage; and,
  • At 3:22:39 p.m., WO #1 arrived at the police station, reported his ending mileage and requested the supervisor and the officers to come to the north door.  

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the TPS:
  • Police Transmissions Communication Recording;
  • Recording of Call from hospital requesting police assistance in removing the Complainant from hospital property;
  • In-Car-Camera (ICC) video from WO #1’s police cruiser;
  • Cell Video from police station;
  • Assignment Equipment Issuance Control Form;
  • Contact Information;
  • Custody Arrest Details;
  • Custody Detention Log;
  • Custody Events Report;
  • Custody Prisoner Detail;
  • Custody Property;
  • Custody Release;
  • Custody Rights;
  • Custody Risk Assessment;
  • Custody-Booking in;
  • Detention Logs (x13);
  • Event Details Reports (x2);
  • Notes of WO #s 1-4;
  • Occurrence Reports involving the Complainant;
  • Procedure: Prisoner Care and Control;
  • Procedure: Prisoner Transportation; and
  • TPS Receipt for the Meal ordered for the Complainant.

The SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from other sources:

  • Medical Records of the Complainant;
  • Ambulance Call Reports (x3);
  • CCTV footage from the women’s shelter parking lot;
  • Letter from Regional Supervising Coroner, North Region, dated February 16, 2018, indicating that the investigation was ongoing and that the Coroner’s Investigation Report, the Toxicology Report, and the Post-Mortem Report were not yet ready for release to the SIU
  • FS Biology Report analyzing the SAEK provided from the post-mortem examination for DNA, dated and received by the SIU on March 29, 2018; and,
  • The Post-Mortem Report of the examination of the Complainant’s body dated and received by the SIU on November 15, 2018.

Relevant Legislation

Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority

25 (1) Every one who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law
(a) as a private person,
(b) as a peace officer or public officer,
(c) in aid of a peace officer or public officer, or
(d) by virtue of his office,
is, if he acts on reasonable grounds, justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do and in using as much force as is necessary for that purpose.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant was pronounced dead at 8:15 p.m. on February 4, 2018. She was in palliative care at the time at the hospital having instructed the medical professionals around her that she wished no medical interventions and no resuscitative efforts as her health continued to deteriorate. The Complainant died of natural causes associated with her diabetes and heart disease. [1] The day before, the Complainant had been arrested by TPS officers and spent some time in police custody. For the reasons that follow, I am satisfied that none of the TPS officers who had dealings with the Complainant on these occasions, including one of the arresting officers and the SO in this investigation, committed a criminal offence in connection with the circumstances culminating in the Complainant’s death.

The material events in question are clear and are based on the information collected in the investigation, which included interviews with eight civilian and four police witnesses, and video recordings of the Complainant’s time in police custody and the parking lot of the women’s shelter where she was arrested. Investigators also had access to, and reviewed, the Complainant’s medical records, police communication recordings, and the memorandum book notes of all police witnesses, with the exception of the subject officer, who declined both to be interviewed and to provide his notes for review, as was his legal right.

The Complainant was a 62-year-old woman and a member of the Fort Albany First Nation. She had several serious medical health issues, including kidney failure (for which she required dialysis three times per week), diabetes (which contributed to the amputation of one of her legs) and heart disease. The Complainant’s family and friends resided in Fort Albany, where she too had lived until coming to the City of Timmins for dialysis treatments, which were unavailable to her in Fort Albany. The Complainant was aware that without the dialysis treatments, she would go into renal failure and die, leaving her with the dilemma of either remaining in Timmins and receiving the medical treatment that she required to survive, or returning to her loved ones in Fort Albany and foregoing the medical treatments. On the day prior to her death, it was apparent that the Complainant had decided on the latter course, repeatedly stating to all those who would listen that she simply wished to return home to die peacefully.

On the morning of February 3, 2018, after experiencing some chest pain, the Complainant was transported to the hospital from the shelter (the purpose of which was to assist women in crisis or otherwise in need) where she had recently been residing. Upon her arrival at the hospital, the Complainant advised medical staff that she was withdrawing her consent for medical treatment, as was her legal right. While the Complainant was initially involuntarily committed to hospital under a Form 1 under the MHA on the basis that she was not competent to care for herself, after being cleared by a psychiatrist and found to be of both sound mind and capable of making her own informed decisions about her medical treatment, the Complainant was discharged from the hospital.

At about 2:40 p.m. on February 3, 2018, CW #7, a crisis worker at the hospital, contacted the TPS to request police assistance in removing the Complainant as she was refusing to leave the emergency department and was causing a disturbance, including being verbally abusive to staff and having thrown a garbage can at one staff member.

The staff from both the hospital and the women’s shelter had agreed to assist the Complainant in fulfilling her wish to return to Fort Albany but, as it was the weekend, no arrangements could be made until the following Monday. As such, it was determined that the Complainant should return to the women’s shelter until the necessary travel arrangements could be made and she could fly back home.

The SO and WO #2 were both dispatched to the hospital in response to the call to the TPS. Upon their arrival, the Complainant was calm and cooperative. She agreed to accompany the officers to the ambulance bay to await a taxi that had been called to return her to the women’s shelter. When the taxi attended, WO #2 wheeled the Complainant to the front passenger door of the taxi and she made her way into the front passenger seat. Given the reports of the Complainant’s belligerence at points during her stay in hospital that morning, the officers decided to follow the taxi to the women’s shelter.

Upon arrival at the shelter a few minutes later, the Complainant’s open hostility returned and she repeatedly indicated that she wanted to return home. After some discussion, and repeated profanities by the Complainant towards the shelter worker, CW #8, CW #8 advised police that she could not accept the Complainant into the shelter because her behaviour would be disruptive to a woman currently staying at the shelter with her child. The SO and WO #2 tried to convince the Complainant to behave so she could enter the shelter; alternatively, the officers explained to the Complainant, she would be taken to the police station. The Complainant was adamant that she did not want to stay at the shelter or go to the police station. She told the officers to drop her off on the streets and leave her to die. When the Complainant next threatened to “kill” the SO and WO #2 if they did not leave her on the streets, the officers decided to arrest her for uttering threats.

WO #2, in his statement to SIU investigators, advised that although he did not believe that the Complainant could act upon her threat, after having been denied access to the shelter and not being able to stay at the hospital, the only alternative to transporting the Complainant to the cells was to leave her out in the cold where she was. WO #2 rejected this as a viable option as it was cold outside and the Complainant was not appropriately dressed for the weather, with nothing more than a single layer of clothing, including a pair of pajama pants and a T-shirt.

Having been advised of her arrest, cautioned, and read her rights to counsel, the Complainant made her way from the front passenger seat of the taxi, onto a wheelchair that had been brought out from the shelter. The police officers then called for the attendance of another police cruiser, one with a protective screen between the rear and front seats for the safe transportation of persons under arrest. It was the officers’ intention to take the Complainant over to their cruiser, which was parked nearby in the shelter parking lot, and to have her wait inside the vehicle pending the arrival of the other cruiser. The Complainant continued to yell that she wanted to go back to Fort Albany and left to die. She eventually manoeuvred herself out of the wheelchair and slid down onto the snow-covered ground, refusing the officers’ requests that she return to the wheelchair.

WO #1, who had been dispatched following the request for a second cruiser, arrived at the shelter parking lot at approximately 3:15 p.m. and observed the Complainant on the ground, in the snow, swearing and yelling. The SO and WO #2 took up positions on either side of the Complainant and, with a hold of her arms and shoulders, pulled her along the ground toward the open rear passenger door of WO #1’s cruiser just a few feet away and assisted her into the vehicle with the use of a wheelchair. [2] In the process, the Complainant accused the officers of sexually assaulting her when her pants slid down her legs. The SO pulled the Complainant’s pants back up for her. WO #1 then proceeded to transport the Complainant to the police station about two kilometres away.

Upon arrival at the police station at about 3:20 p.m., it was determined that the criminal charge against the Complainant would not be pursued in the circumstances, but that she would eventually be released unconditionally. The duty officer, WO #3, while indicating that he felt uncomfortable keeping the Complainant in the cells when no charges were going to be pursued, indicated he felt even more uncomfortable putting her outside, as she had nowhere to go and it was cold out. Moreover, there were additional concerns in that, throughout the Complainant’s stay at the police station, she was agitated and repeatedly made known her desire to die.

While at the police station, the Complainant was checked regularly in her cell, provided a cushion and blanket when she said she was cold and sore, and given her diabetic condition, offered a meal earlier than scheduled when she indicated that she was hungry. When the Complainant’s dinner arrived and was taken to her cell at approximately 5:00 p.m., WO #3 observed that the Complainant had calmed and thought that she might be ready to leave after she finished her meal. At 5:30 p.m., however, when WO #3 did a cell check, the Complainant’s food was scattered all over the floor. WO #4 relieved WO #3 as duty officer at the end of his shift and observed not only that the meal had been scattered about, but that the cushion provided to the Complainant had been destroyed and the stuffing scattered everywhere in the cell.

WO #4 spoke with the Complainant and discovered that she had nowhere to go and wanted to speak with a psychiatrist, as a result of which an ambulance was called to transport the Complainant back to hospital. The paramedics arrived at the police station at about 9:30 p.m. and the Complainant was released from police custody and taken in the ambulance to the hospital, arriving shortly after 10:00 p.m. At the hospital, the Complainant was transferred to the hospice care unit, and, on February 4, 2018, a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ (DNR) order was placed on her medical chart pursuant to her wishes. During the day on February 4, 2018, the Complainant had family and a friend at her bedside, and a cleric attended at her request. At approximately 8:15 p.m., when the Complainant appeared to be cold to the touch, a nurse checked on her and it was determined that she had passed away.

It is evident to me on the aforementioned record that there are no reasonable grounds for proceeding with criminal charges against any of the officers in connection with the events commencing on February 3, 2018 and culminating in the Complainant’s death the following day. At the outset, it should be noted that there is no causal nexus in my view between anything the subject officer or other officers did, or did not do, during their interactions with the Complainant and the Complainant’s death. By the time she died at about 8:15 p.m. on February 4, 2018, the Complainant had been out of police custody and in the care of health professionals at the hospital for about a full day. The Complainant had made her wishes clear that she wished no further medical intervention and wanted to die, preferably in the company of her family in Fort Albany. Having been declared fit to make that determination, there was little if anything the officers could do, while the Complainant was in their charge, to avert her unfortunate demise.

On the other hand, with the power and resources they did have at their disposal, the officers endeavoured to make the Complainant as comfortable as possible in light of her failing health and precarious circumstances. In my view, the SO and WO #2 demonstrated as much, in their dealings with the Complainant at the hospital and the arrangements they made to escort her to the women’s shelter. Thereafter, the officers acted prudently when they decided to arrest the Complainant for uttering threats. Though it appears that WO #2, at least, did not take the Complainant’s threat to kill them as a feasible threat, I am persuaded that the officers acted with the requisite legal grounds and out of concern for the Complainant’s well-being by taking her into custody and out of the cold. With respect to the Complainant’s time in custody at the police station, there is nothing in the evidence to indicate any want of care in the treatment she was afforded. As soon as the Complainant expressed a desire to speak with a psychiatrist, arrangements were made quickly to have her released unconditionally and taken to hospital. Consequently, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the care received by the Complainant at the hands of the officers fell at all times within the limits prescribed by the criminal law.

Turning to the Complainant’s allegation of sexual assault against the SO and WO #2 in the parking lot of the women’s shelter, the evidence is clear that no such assault occurred. [3] The claim was prompted by the Complainant’s momentary exposure when the pants she was wearing slid down her legs as she was being pulled along the ground and assisted into WO #1’s cruiser. The accounts of the witnesses present at the time, the video footage that captured this sequence of events, and the results of the SAEK that was administered, do not indicate that anything untoward occurred to the Complainant. Rather, it simply appears that the Complainant’s pants were inadvertently and temporarily displaced in the physical process of placing her in the backseat of WO #1’s cruiser.

Lastly, there is the force that was used by the SO and WO #2 in the course of dragging the Complainant along the ground and placing her into WO #1’s cruiser. Pursuant to section 25 (1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are protected from prosecution if they act on reasonable grounds and use only as much force as is necessary in the execution of a lawful duty. In view of the Complainant’s threat to the officers and her refusal to cooperate in her relocation to WO #1’s cruiser, I am satisfied that the officers used minimal and reasonably necessary force in the course of the Complainant’s lawful arrest and detention when they took hold of her upper body and pulled her along the ground a very short distance. [4] Consequently, there is no basis for believing that either the SO or WO #2 committed an offence in so doing.

In summary, given the absence of any evidence which would indicate that the Complainant was mistreated by police, or that any unnecessary force was used against her, I lack the basis for the laying of criminal charges and none shall issue.


Date: November 30, 2018

Original signed by

Tony Loparco
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) The Post-Mortem Report, received by the SIU on November 15, 2018, concluded that the cause of the Complainant’s death was due to, “complications of endstage diabetic nephropathy in a woman with ischemic heart disease”. [Back to text]
  • 2) The Complainant weighed 180.6 lbs., so moving her entire limp body weight would not have been particularly easy when she chose not to cooperate with the officers in going to the cruiser. [Back to text]
  • 3) The Post-Mortem Report indicated, in the “Internal Examination” section at page 3, that no anal injury was found and, at page 5 in the “Summary of Findings,” that no anogenital injuries were identified. The SAEK evidence established that no semen or amylase was found on her body. Thus, there was absolutely no physical evidence of the Complainant being “raped”. [Back to text]
  • 4) As indicated earlier, the Complainant weighed 180.6 lbs., so moving her entire limp body weight would not have been particularly easy when she did not cooperate with the officers in going to the cruiser. [Back to text]