SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-TCD-207
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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 66-year-old man (the “Complainant’).
Notification of the SIUOn August 21, 2020, at 5:49 p.m., the Toronto Police Service (TPS) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant. TPS advised that officers had responded to a man hanging from a balcony at an apartment building on Outlook Avenue. A sergeant and two constables arrived at the apartment but it was barricaded. They went to the neighbour’s apartment, were allowed in and went onto the balcony. The Complainant was hanging from the balcony and the officers started to speak to him. The sergeant went onto the Complainant’s balcony and got a hold of his arm. The Complainant pushed the sergeant away and fell to the ground. He was pronounced deceased at 4:51 p.m.
The TeamNumber of SIU Investigators assigned: 4
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
Complainant:66-year-old male, deceased
Civilian Witnesses (CW)CW #1 Not interviewed (Next-of-kin)
CW #2 Not interviewed (Next-of-kin)
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed
CW #6 Interviewed
Witness Officers (WO)WO #1 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #3 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #4 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
Subject Officer (SO)SO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed
The SceneThe scene was located at an apartment building on Outlook Avenue. The Complainant’s body was lying on the asphalt at the side of the building below the balcony of the Complainant’s 9th floor apartment. The height of the balcony railing at his apartment was 1.1 metres and the distance from the ground to the top of the railing of the balcony was 28.4 metres.
The Complainant’s apartment was small and there was a door to the balcony on the east wall of the room. The balcony ran north to south on the east side of the apartment. There was a metal divider on both ends of the balcony that led to neighboring balconies. There was a small header at the top of the divider that was open at the ceiling. The guard rail on the east side had a metal bottom panel with a handrail that was about 1.1 metres from the floor. There was a vehicle rim (.14 metres in height) on the floor in front of the guard rail. There was a safety line attached to the north side of the railing with an open belt lying on the balcony floor. There was visual evidence of hand impressions on the handrailing and the north side metal barrier.
WO #2 and WO #1’s In-car Camera (ICC) Audio
The SO’s ICC Audio
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 source:
- Closed-circuit Television (CCTV) from the Complainant’s apartment building.
CCTV from the Complainant’s Apartment Building
Camera two had a view along the rear ground floor of the apartment building from the south end to the north. At 10:11 minutes into the recording, the Complainant fell to the ground. He landed on his feet first on a stone retaining wall and came to rest against the concrete wall of the parking garage. At 10:28 minutes, WO #3 walked to the Complainant, viewed his body and walked southbound. At 11:16 hrs, WO #3 returned to look at the Complainant and walked away. At 12:14 hrs, a Toronto Fire Services (TFS) officer and a police officer arrived and, at 13:00 minutes, Emergency Medical Services arrived with a stretcher. A TFS officer conducted chest compressions on the Complainant. At 22:25 minutes, a TFS officer covered the Complainant with a blanket.
Camera three had a view of the parking lot. There was nothing of evidentiary value seen in this video footage.
Police Communication RecordingsTPS provided a copy of the communication recordings of the incident.
On August 21, 2020, at 4:21 p.m., CW #3 called the 911 operator and was transferred to TFS. He reported that his neighbour [known to be the Complainant] on the 9th floor was on the outside of the balcony and wanted to jump. At 4:24 p.m., WO #2 and WO #1 were dispatched for an unknown problem at the Complainant’s apartment on Outlook Avenue. The Complainant was trying to jump. At 4:32 p.m., WO #2 arrived at the Outlook Avenue apartment building and advised that a firetruck was also on scene. At 4:33 p.m., WO #2 said that the Complainant was on the outside of the balcony and they were attempting to enter the building. At 4:34 p.m., WO #2 said they were going to the apartment door. At 4:35 p.m., WO #3 asked the dispatcher to dispatch the Emergency Task Force (ETF) and ETF was dispatched at 4:36 p.m.
At 4:38 p.m., WO #2 said they were inside the neighbouring apartment and going to talk to the Complainant to see what was going on. At 4:42 p.m., WO #3 said WO #2 and WO #1 were trying to talk to the Complainant from the apartment next door. WO #3 advised that the Complainant jumped. At 4:44 p.m., the SO asked the dispatcher to mark him at the scene because he did not have a chance to note himself on scene and he was on the balcony with WO #2 and WO #1. At 4:47 p.m., the SO said the Complainant’s apartment was barricaded from the inside but no one else was inside the apartment. He was still on the balcony with WO #1.
Materials obtained from Police ServiceUpon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the TPS:
- Computer-assisted Dispatch-Event Details Reports (x5);
- Complainant's Prior TPS Contacts;
- Email regarding civilian witness information;
- Email explanation regarding video;
- Email regarding subject officer consent to notes and interview;
- General Occurrence;
- Notes-WO #3;
- Notes-WO #2;
- Notes-the SO;
- Notes-WO #4;
- Notes-WO #1;
- Photographs from WO #1;
- Audio ICC Recording – the SO;
- Audio ICC Recording – WO #1 and WO #2;
- Communication Recordings;
- Procedure 06-04 -Emotionally Disturbed Persons-Appendix B;
- Procedure 06-04- Emotionally Disturbed Persons;
- Procedure 06-04- Emotionally Disturbed Persons-Appendix A;
- TPS Civilian Witness List;
- TPS Police Witness List;
- TPS Property Receipt; and
- Training Record-Use of Force-the SO;
Materials obtained from Other SourcesThe SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from non-police sources:
- CCTV from the Complainant’s apartment building; and
- Photographs from CW #3.
Police officers and firefighters were dispatched to the address. WO #2 and WO #1 were the first officers to arrive on scene. They quickly made their way to the 9th floor and found the door to the Complainant’s unit locked. At about 4:38 p.m., CW #3 allowed them entry into his apartment and showed them to his balcony, which was separated from the Complainant’s balcony by a metal divider. From CW #3’s balcony, both officers spoke with the Complainant encouraging him to not jump. They stressed they wanted to help the Complainant and tried to elicit a response from him, but to no avail. The Complainant remained perched on the outside ledge of his balcony railing holding onto the railing with his hands.
The SO had heard the call about the situation at the address over the radio and drove to the location to be of assistance. He too made his way to the 9th floor and entered through CW #3’s apartment to join the other officers on the balcony. The Complainant was shaking and his hands were sweaty on the railing; it was a hot and humid day. Believing the Complainant to be at imminent risk of falling, the SO climbed onto a table on the balcony and scaled over the metal divider across an opening at the top to reach the Complainant’s balcony. WO #1 did the same. Within seconds, the SO grabbed hold of the Complainant’s left forearm with both hands. The Complainant reacted by using his right hand to push the SO’s hands away, whereupon he fell off the ledge.
Firefighters on scene attempted life-saving measures on the Complainant but he could not be saved.
Cause of Death
Section 219, 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
The offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. The offence is premised, 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. In the instant case, the issue is whether there was any want of care on the part of the SO which caused or contributed to the Complainant’s death and was sufficiently derelict to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there was not.
The SO, and WO #2 and WO #1, were clearly engaged in the exercise of their duty – their foremost duty to protect and preserve life – when they attended at the address in an effort to prevent the Complainant from hurting himself. The Complainant had given every indication that he was troubled and about to jump from his 9th floor balcony and the officers were within their rights in attempting to prevent that from happening.
I am also satisfied that the SO approached the situation with due care and regard for the Complainant’s well-being. As WO #2 and WO #1 had done before his arrival, the SO attempted to reassure the Complainant and talk him down from the danger in which he had placed himself. He was aware that ETF officers, specifically trained for these high risk incidents, were on their way but decided he could not wait for their arrival as it appeared the Complainant was on the precipice of falling. He had observed the Complainant with sweaty hands and crouched below the top of the railing tenuously holding on. In view of the exigencies of the situation, the SO acted reasonably, in my view, in attempting a physical intervention to secure the Complainant. Regrettably, through no fault of the SO, the Complainant was able to break free of the officer’s grasp and fell nine storeys to his death.
It appears on the evidence collected by the SIU that the Complainant was distraught with recent bouts of poor health, which might explain why he took the drastic action he did on the day in question. Be that as it may, as I am satisfied that the SO conducted himself within the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law throughout his engagement with the Complainant, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges against the officer. The file is closed.
Date: March 1, 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.