SIU Director’s Report - Case # 21-PFP-012
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Mandate of the SIU
Under the SIU Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence was committed. If such grounds exist, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the official. Alternatively, in cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director cannot lay charges. Where no charges are laid, a report of the investigation is prepared and released publicly, except in the case of reports dealing with allegations of sexual assault, in which case the SIU Director may consult with the affected person and exercise a discretion to not publicly release the report having regard to the affected person’s privacy interests.
Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019Pursuant to section 34, certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- The name of, and any information identifying, a subject official, witness official, civilian witness or affected person.
- Information that may result in the identity of a person who reported that they were sexually assaulted being revealed in connection with the sexual assault.
- Information that, in the opinion of the SIU Director, could lead to a risk of serious harm to a person.
- Information that discloses investigative techniques or procedures.
- Information, the release of which is prohibited or restricted by law.
- Information in which a person’s privacy interest in not having the information published clearly outweighs the public interest in having the information published.
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy ActPursuant to section14 (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 that 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 (i.e., personal privacy), protected personal information is not included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- The names of persons, including civilian witnesses, and subject and witness officials;
- 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, 2004Pursuant to this legislation, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.
Other proceedings, processes, and investigationsInformation may also have 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.
A person sustains a “serious injury” for purposes of the SIU’s jurisdiction if they: sustain an injury as a result of which they are admitted to hospital; suffer a fracture to the skull, or to a limb, rib or vertebra; suffer burns to a significant proportion of their body; lose any portion of their body; or, as a result of an injury, experience a loss of vision or hearing.
In addition, a “serious injury” means any other injury sustained by a person that is likely to interfere with the person’s health or comfort and is not transient or trifling in nature.
This report relates to the SIU’s investigation into the discharge of an Anti-Riot Weapon ENfield (ARWEN) at a 60-year-old man (the “Complainant”).
Notification of the SIUOn January 8, 2021, at 6:14 p.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported that OPP officers had deployed an ARWEN at the Complainant.
The OPP advised that, at 2:00 p.m., OPP police officers responded to a threatening with a knife call by a neighbour of the Complainant’s. The Complainant had made several threats in the previous days that he would like to die at the hands of the police. When OPP officers arrived, the Complainant barricaded himself in his home. OPP Emergency Response Team (ERT) officers arrived and set up on the residence. An OPP negotiator contacted the Complainant by phone and, a short time later, he came out of the residence. The Complainant approached his vehicle and a knife could be seen. At 5:22 p.m., the Complainant refused to drop the knife and the Subject Official (SO) discharged his ARWEN four times at the Complainant.
The Complainant refused medical treatment at the scene, and indicated that his chest and back hurt. One or more ARWEN rounds may have struck the Complainant.
The Complainant was transported to the Sault Area Hospital (SAH) for a Mental Health Act (MHA) assessment.
Three of the ARWEN cases had already been located and seized by the OPP. The ARWEN had been secured.
The TeamDate and time team dispatched: 01/09/2021 at 9:09 a.m.
Date and time SIU responded: 01/09/2021 at 9:49 a.m.
Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1
The SIU did not attend the scene.
The SIU requested from the OPP the cartridge cases, projectiles and photographs of the scene. The items were examined, processed and photographed.
The ARWEN was secured at the OPP detachment.
Affected Person (aka “Complainant”):60-year-old male interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed
The Complainant was interviewed on January 9, 2021.
Civilian WitnessesCW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
The CWs were interviewed on January 9, 2021.
Subject OfficialsSO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed
The SO was interviewed on January 28, 2021.
Witness OfficialsWO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
The WOs were interviewed on January 13, 2021.
The Scene The SIU entered into an agreement with the OPP in which they would photograph the scene and submit the ARWEN’s projectiles to the SIU.
The incident occurred on the driveway and rear deck of a residence in Sault Ste. Marie.
Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence The SIU obtained audio, video and/or photographic records of relevance, as set out below:
Summary of police communication recordingsOn January 14, 2021, the OPP provided the recorded audio communications for the incident. The format provided did not include all broadcast time stamps. The start and finish times were recorded:
A 911 caller reported the Complainant attending her family home and making threats to kill and burn their property. The Complainant was armed with a knife.
The OPP broadcast an alert regarding the Complainant.
The Complainant was located on Northern Avenue operating his pickup truck, and was stopped. The Complainant then fled the area armed with a knife. The police did not pursue the Complainant.
An unknown caller reported an erratic driving complaint north of Sault Ste. Marie. The vehicle belonged to the Complainant. The Complainant’s vehicle was located at his residence.
The first responding OPP officers were on the scene.
OPP communications called out ERT and K-9 police officers.
Sault Ste. Marie Police Service contacted OPP requesting welfare check at the Complainant’s residence. With respect to the Complainant, it was reported to police that he had a knife and was suicidal. WO #2 was on the scene calling the Complainant’s cellular telephone.
WO #3 requested the EMS to attend and remain on standby. ERT members established containment on the residence. K9 police officer was on the scene. WO #2 had an ongoing telephone conversation with the Complainant. The OPP officers on the scene switched to a tactical radio channel.
The Complainant exited the home briefly and then returned inside. The Complainant again exited the home wearing a black trench coat, and with a knife in hand. He was yelling at police officers. The SO, an ERT member with a less lethal force option, was directed to move up with an ARWEN. ARWEN rounds were deployed. The Complainant was reported in custody and a request was made for EMS to attend. The Complainant refused treatment from EMS and was escorted to hospital.
Summary of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footageA civilian witness provided video footage from the CCTV covering a nearby home relating to the incident involving the Complainant on January 8, 2021. The portion of CCTV footage covering the driveway area did not include audio. The positioning of the CCTV cameras did not allow for coverage of the Complainant’s property. The following is a summary of the CCTV footage:
The Complainant attended the home on foot with two dogs. He went to the front door and knocked. The Complainant left the property.
The Complainant drove into the driveway in a pickup truck. He got out of the truck and met CW #3 in the driveway.
CW #3 quickly backed away from the Complainant. The Complainant was waving his hands in the air.
CW #3 picked up a shovel from the ground.
CW #4 exited the front door and went to the driveway. He stood behind CW #3.
CW #3 went to the home and inside the front door.
CW #3 was on the front porch with a long rifle pointed to the sky. The Complainant was a distance away getting into his truck.
The Complainant exited his truck and went directly towards the porch area with a knife in his right hand.
CW #3 returned the long rifle to the home. He came back out to the porch and picked up the shovel again.
The Complainant returned to his truck and backed out the driveway.
The Complainant was escorted out to the street by OPP officers.
Materials Obtained from Police Service The SIU obtained the following records from the OPP Sault Ste. Marie Detachment between January 12, 2021, and January 22, 2021:
- Notes of WOs and SO;
- OPP ARWEN Photos;
- OPP Computer-assisted Dispatch;
- OPP Communication Recordings;
- OPP Daylight Scene Photo;
- OPP General Report;
- OPP Scene Photos;
- OPP Statement-CW #1;
- OPP Training Record-ARWEN-the SO; and
- OPP Training Record-the SO.
Materials Obtained from Other SourcesThe SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from the following other sources:
- Medical Record-SAH; and
- CCTV video footage from civilian witness.
Police officers were dispatched to investigate the incident and locate the Complainant. One of them came across the Complainant on Northern Avenue and pulled him over. However, the officer decided not to pursue as the Complainant waved a knife at the officer and fled in his truck.
The Complainant returned to his residence at about 1:30 p.m. By that time, the police were notified that the Complainant was intoxicated, suicidal, and wanted to be shot by officers. Police had also ascertained that there were warrants out for the Complainant’s arrest on a number of violent offences. OPP ERT officers were dispatched to the address and set up around the scene. Among them was the SO, equipped with an ARWEN.
In the course of the ensuing standoff, WO #2, a trained negotiator, took the lead in speaking with the Complainant. The officer contacted the Complainant by phone and explained that the police wanted a safe resolution of the situation and encouraged him to surrender peacefully. At about 5:00 p.m., the Complainant agreed he would give himself up in half-an-hour; he wanted to first take a shower, tend to his dogs and plug-in his truck’s block heater.
At about 5:20 p.m., the Complainant exited his home. He yelled and cursed at the officers in front of his home, telling them to put their weapons away. The SO, with his ARWEN at the ready, was positioned in the area of his cruiser at the end of the Complainant’s snow-covered driveway. The Complainant plugged-in his truck’s heater and returned inside the home, re-emerging shortly thereafter. WO #2 tried to calm him down, to no avail. The Complainant pulled out a knife and started walking towards the officers down the driveway, threatening them as he advanced.
The SO fired his ARWEN at the Complainant. The round hit the Complainant’s torso, but had no effect. Seconds later, with the Complainant still approaching, the SO discharged his weapon striking the Complainant. Again, the Complainant was undeterred. After the second shot, the Complainant turned and started to run back toward his backyard. A third ARWEN round was fired from about two to four metres. The Complainant still had possession of the knife.
WO #2, the SO and WO #1 (a dog handler) chased after the Complainant as he made his way onto a rear deck. The officers reached the Complainant and WO #1 pushed him into a sliding glass door. The Complainant fell to the deck with knife in hand. At close range, the SO fired the ARWEN a fourth time at the Complainant, after which the Complainant threw the knife away. WO #1 and WO #2 handcuffed the Complainant on the ground.
Following his arrest, the Complainant was taken to hospital and, then, to the detachment where he was lodged in cells.
Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority
(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,
Analysis and Director's Decision
Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are immune from criminal liability for force used in the course of their duties provided such force was reasonably necessary in the execution of an act that they were authorized or required to do by law. By the time of the ARWEN discharges in question, the police were aware of the Complainant’s threatening behaviour with a knife toward his neighbours. They had also learned that the Complainant was wanted on outstanding warrants for violent offences. He was clearly subject to arrest.
I am also satisfied that the use of the ARWEN by the SO fell within the range of reasonably necessary force in aid of the Complainant’s arrest. By the time those shots were fired, the OPP had done what they could to end the standoff without resort to violence. A trained negotiator had established a line of communication with the Complainant and seemed to be making progress when it appeared the Complainant had agreed to surrender. Though he was unable to reach him, the Complainant’s psychiatrist was also enlisted in an effort to get through to the Complainant. Regrettably, when the Complainant exited his home and advanced on the officers with a knife in hand, he left them little choice but to respond with a measure of force. WO #2 ordered the Complainant to stop and drop his weapon, but he failed to do so, instead goading the officers to shoot him as he neared. On this record, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the SO acted with excess when he fired his ARWEN from several metres away at the Complainant. At that moment of time, the officers were confronted with an imminent knife attack. In the circumstances, the SO was entitled to attempt to neutralize the threat from a distance with the use of the ARWEN. The same holds true with respect to the second and fourth shots, each discharged at a point in time when the Complainant had yet to be subdued and was still holding the knife in the vicinity of the officers.
Though the third discharge occurred as the Complainant was running away from the officers toward his home, I accept that it too was legally justified. The Complainant was less of an imminent threat at that moment, but he still had the knife and remained a threat. And the officers had good reason to want to prevent him from re-entering his home, which would have potentially prolonged the standoff and its attendant risks, including the danger that the Complainant might do himself harm left to his own devices. This was not the case of lethal force being brought to bear against a fleeing felon. Rather, it was an attempt to use less lethal force to disarm an individual of a dangerous weapon as he attempted to escape police apprehension. In my view, it fell within the latitude of legally permissible force in the circumstances.
In the result, as there are no reasonable grounds to believe for the foregoing reasons that the SO acted unlawfully in discharging his ARWEN, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges.
Date: May 3, 2021
Electronically approved by
Special Investigations Unit
- 1) The following records contain sensitive personal information and are not being released pursuant to section 34(2) of the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019. The material portions of the records are summarized below. [Back to text]
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.