SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-PVI-315
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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 serious injuries a 41-year-old man (the “Complainant”) suffered during an interaction with police.
Notification of the SIUOn November 19, 2020, at 4:02 p.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported the following:
At around 6:00 a.m., Subject Officer (SO) #1 and SO #2 observed a vehicle at an address on 40 Line, Perth East, in which the driver, the Complainant, was found to be "passed out" in the driver's seat. When the police officers approached the vehicle, the Complainant drove off and into a corn field where he remained for some time. Additional police officers arrived and set up containment around the field. At around 8:00 a.m., the Complainant drove out of the field and struck several police cruisers that were unattended on the road. A spike belt was deployed, and the Complainant drove over it. As a result, tire damage was sustained and the Complainant's vehicle eventually became disabled a short distance away.
The Complainant was taken to the hospital because he was highly impaired. While at the hospital, the Complainant was diagnosed with rib fractures to the left side.
The Complainant was subsequently transported to the OPP Perth County Detachment.
The TeamNumber of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 0
Complainant:41-year-old male interviewed
Witness Officers (WO)WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed
Subject OfficersSO #1 Declined interview, as is the subject officer’s legal right. Notes received and reviewed.
SO #2 Interviewed, but declined to submit notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right.
The SceneThe Complainant is believed to have sustained his injury while operating his vehicle on 40 Line, east of 109 Road, Stratford. The area is a rural farming community.
Police Communications Recordings
Radio Communications/911 Communications911 Complainant
- On November 19, 2020, at 5:43 a.m., a man called 911 from a property on 40 Line to report a GMC Yukon parked by his barn;
- The driver [now known to be the Complainant] was roused momentarily when the caller knocked on the window, but then went back to sleep; and
- The Complainant appeared to be drunk.
- At 8:53 a.m., an automated voice advised there had been a crash and supplied the longitude and latitude;
- Voices were heard in the background and a horn began honking;
- The dispatcher called WO #4 on her telephone and she confirmed that her and WO #5’s police vehicles had been struck; and
- They were both out of their police vehicles at the time.
- At 5:47 a.m., a call was made to a detachment to make them aware of the suspicious vehicle call;
- The remainder of the calls recorded consisted of calls made to the Provincial Communications Centre Sergeant to make him aware of the call and updates. The last update received was that the vehicle went over a spike belt and returned to the field, followed by a request to use a drone; and
- Further calls consisted of notifying the Stratford Police Service (SPS), the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and the Fire Department, and a request for road closures and three tow trucks.
Dispatch - Sergeant Phone
- A sergeant was working in the London Communications Centre;
- At 7:14 a.m., a call was received from a man to make sure the sergeant was aware of the call in progress and that two police vehicles were totaled; and
- The sergeant was told that the Complainant was going to the Stratford General Hospital (SGH) for drug impairment.
- At 6:17 a.m., SO #1 and SO #2 were sent to, and the first to arrive at, the address on 40 Line for a suspicious vehicle;
- SO #2 reported that a man [now known to be the Complainant] was passed out with a folding style knife on his lap. He would later clarify SO #1 saw the knife;
- The next transmission was that the Complainant had taken off into the field and was driving very slowly;
- SO #2 and SO #1 remained at the barn;
- WO #2 took charge of the call;
- There were a lot of radio transmissions regarding securing the perimeter of the property and individual sightings of the Complainant driving in the field and possibly looking for a way out;
- Near the beginning of the call, SO #1 said the Complainant was shown a conducted energy weapon (CEW) and “freaked out”, returning into the field;
- SO #1 reported the Complainant was once again passed out behind the wheel;
- WO #1 was at the laneway of a neighbouring property when the Complainant drove over a deployed spike belt and stopped. The Complainant went over the spike belt a second time as he returned to the field;
- A radio transmission was heard that the Complainant was heading down the laneway, and WO #2 reported the Complainant was westbound on 40 Line and stated no one was to pursue him;
- WO #1 reported the Complainant drove by the laneway he was in and WO #4 reported 40 Line was blocked;
- An officer said he was 500 yards behind the Complainant and reported a speed of about 40 km/h;
- WO #4 reported the Complainant was driving on his rims and not slowing down as he came toward them;
- WO #4’s next transmission indicated that the Complainant was in a ditch and had struck both police vehicles. A siren was heard in the background;
- WO #2 requested that somebody get a visual on the Complainant;
- WO #1 reported the Complainant’s engine was smoking and he was southbound on 109 Road, which was a gravel road;
- WO #1 reported a speed of 39 km/h and that the Complainant was losing control of the Yukon as it was skidding on the roadway;
- An officer reported the GMC Yukon had turned into a field and was stuck;
- A request was made for the Fire Department as the Complainant refused to leave the GMC Yukon;
- An officer advised the Complainant was speaking to police officers as he stood on the driver’s door and within the sunroof;
- Shortly after, WO #2 advised that EMS needed to assess the Complainant; and
- SO #1 said he was in the back of the ambulance and the Complainant was going to the SGH.
Materials obtained from Police ServiceUpon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP:
- Collision Report;
- Intergraph Computer-assisted Dispatch Event Chronology;
- Notes-WO #2;
- Notes-WO #5;
- Notes-SO #1;
- Notes-WO #4;
- Notes-WO #3;
- Notes-WO #1;
- Scenes of Crime Officer (SOCO) photos;
- OCO Report;
- Witness Statement;
- 911/Communications Recordings; and
- Aerial Drone Footage.
Materials obtained from Other SourcesThe SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from non-police sources:
- Medical Records – the Complainant.
At about 5:45 a.m. of November 19, 2020, the OPP received a 911 call from a man at 40 Line, Stratford. The man was calling to report the presence of a GMC Yukon SUV on his property – a farm. He had found a male asleep in the driver’s seat, who roused temporarily when he knocked on the window before going back to sleep. The male – the Complainant – appeared to be drunk. Officers were dispatched to the address.
SO #1 and SO #2 were the first officers to arrive at the address at about 6:15 a.m. They located the SUV a few hundred metres down a laneway on the property a short distance in front of a barn. The engine was running and the Complainant was asleep in the driver’s seat. A knife was located on his lap. As the front door was locked, SO #1 climbed into the rear driver’s seat of the SUV armed with his CEW as SO #2 maintained a position outside the Yukon. SO #1 yelled at the Complainant that they were the police and to refrain from reaching for the knife, or he would be “tazed”. The Complainant woke, appeared confused and started to squirm. Within seconds, he placed the Yukon in gear and drove off into the open field, SO #1 exiting through the rear door just as the Yukon got going.
Other OPP officers began to arrive at the scene, including WO #2. At WO #2’s direction, and with the assistance of several SPS personnel as well, the officers began to position themselves in and around the field with a view to containing the SUV’s movements. A number of spike belts were deployed in the area and steps were taken to limit traffic on 40 Line.
The Complainant, aware of the increasing police presence around him, embarked over the next couple of hours in a course of reckless driving on the farmer’s field. He drove in circles, performed spin-outs and “donuts”, and propelled his vehicle into ditches and airborne on several occasions. On occasion, he intentionally drove in the direction of officers on the property, prompting them to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
Shortly after 8:00 a.m., the Complainant drove onto 40 Line and began to travel westbound. By this time, his vehicle having traversed police spike belts that had been laid in the field, most if not all of his tires were deflated. WO #3, west of the property on 40 Line, deployed a spike belt and watched as the SUV travelled over it. Several hundred metres further west, the SUV came upon a police roadblock just east of 109 Road that had been established by WO #5 and WO #4 with their cruisers. The Complainant picked up his speed and crashed through the cruisers, continuing westward. The heavily damaged SUV veered into the southwest ditch of the 40 Line and 109 Road intersection, thereafter, regaining the roadway traveling south on 109 Road.
Led by WO #1, several police cruisers followed the Complainant as it exited onto 40 Line, through the roadblock and then south on 109 Road. The cruisers took up positions beside the SUV as the heavily damaged Yukon came to a stop in the east side ditch of 109 Road a short distance south of 40 Line. With weapons drawn, the officers ordered the Complainant out of his vehicle. The Complainant delayed for a time, eventually exiting through the driver’s door window onto the vehicle’s roof where he lay on his back. SO #1 approached the Complainant and pulled him off of the vehicle’s roof onto the ground in a prone position, where he was handcuffed without further incident.
The Complainant was transported to hospital from the scene and diagnosed with two left-sided rib fractures.
Section 320.13, Criminal Code – Dangerous operation causing bodily harm
320.13 (1) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public.
(2) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public and, as a result, causes bodily harm to another person.
Sections 219 and 221, Criminal Code - Criminal negligence causing bodily harm
219 (1) Every one is criminally negligent who
(a) in doing anything, or
(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.
(2) For the purposes of this section, duty means a duty imposed by law.
221 Every one who by criminal negligence causes bodily harm to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
Analysis and Director's Decision
The offences that arise for consideration are dangerous driving causing bodily harm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm contrary to section 320.13(2) and 221 of the Criminal Code, respectively.  The former is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. The latter is a more serious offence meant to capture conduct that demonstrates a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of others. It is not made out unless the behaviour at issues constitutes a marked and substantial departure from a reasonable level of care. In the instant case, the issue is whether there was a want of care in the manner in which the officers, including the subject officers, approached the situation involving the Complainant that caused or contributed to the Complainant’s injuries and/or was sufficiently egregious as to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there was not.
The officers were acting in the discharge of their lawful duties as they responded to the scene and, eventually, placed the Complainant under arrest. Based on the information they had received at dispatch, and what they gathered personally as they approached the Complainant’s SUV, SO #1 and SO #2 had grounds to believe that the Complainant was operating a motor vehicle while impaired. He had been found trespassing, asleep in a running vehicle, and engaged in dangerous driving, at times driving directly at police officers stationed in the field.
With respect to the police operation that culminated in the Complainant’s arrest, I am unable to conclude that it fell short in any discernible degree. The objective seems to have been reasonable, namely, to establish a perimeter around the Complainant’s SUV and to attempt to contain it within the farmer’s field. In light of the Complainant’s erratic and dangerous behaviour, it might very well have been the case that a more proactive posture would unnecessarily have placed the lives and safety of the officers, and the Complainant’s well-being, at risk. As part of this game plan, the use of multiple spike belts placed in various locations in the field made sense. Indeed, the Complainant went over spike belts on more than one occasion, damaging his tires and hindering his ability to maneuver the SUV at speed. As this was happening, steps were also taken to block traffic in the area, an important consideration as school buses and school children had been seen on 40 Line. Part of these efforts included the positioning of cruisers to create a roadblock on 40 Line just east of 109 Road. Though the Complainant was able to crash through the roadblock, very likely sustaining his rib injuries in the process, the tactic was justified given the public safety considerations that prevailed at the time. On this record, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the subject officers, or any of the involved officers, transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law.
In the result, as I am satisfied that the subject officers comported themselves with due care and regard for public safety in their participation in the events resulting in the Complainant’s arrest, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case. The file is closed.
Date: May 25, 2021
Electronically approved by
Special Investigations Unit
- 1) Though SO #1 used a measure of force in removing the Complainant from the roof of his vehicle after it had come to a stop in the ditch by 109 Road, the force was by all accounts moderate in degree and necessary in the circumstances. Nor is there any question raised in the evidence of excessive force having been brought to bear while the Complainant was on the ground being handcuffed. [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.