SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-PCD-326
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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 43-year-old man (the “Complainant”).
Notification of the SIUOn November 28, 2020 at 4:15 a.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) notified the SIU of the Complainant’s death.
The OPP reported that on November 27, 2020, at 10:50 p.m., members of the Tactical Response Unit (TRU) and other officers responded to a domestic incident which involved an armed barricaded male inside a residence at Sucker Creek, west of Little Current on Manitoulin Island. The area was contained by OPP TRU officers and, with the assistance of a negotiator, attempts were made to contact the male. No response was received from the male from inside the house. After numerous attempts to contact the male were unsuccessful, TRU officers entered the residence and found the male deceased with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. The male was later identified as the Complainant.
Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
On November 28, 2020, at 6:08 a.m., three SIU investigators and two forensic investigators were assigned to investigate the death. The SIU arrived on the scene at 11:16 a.m. of the same day, and immediately began an investigation.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, arrangements were made to interview the involved officers by telephone.
SIU investigators interviewed Civilian Witness (CW) #1 and CW #2.
The scene was forensically examined, photographed, and measured.
A physician had attended the scene and pronounced the Complainant deceased at 2:45 a.m. of November 28, 2020.
A .22 caliber bolt action rifle was found on the Complainant’s body, which was seized and forensically examined. Upon forensic examination, one cartridge case was found in the barrel chamber of the firearm and the magazine contained four cartridges. In addition, a can containing .22 caliber cartridges was found on the floor beside the complainant’s right leg.
On January 7, 2021, the Subject Officer (SO) provided a statement and copies of their notebook entries to the SIU.
43-year-old male, deceased
CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed
Subject OfficersSO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed
The SceneThe scene was a residence located at Sucker Creek, west of Little Current, Manitoulin Island.
In a bedroom was the deceased body of the Complainant laying on his back on the floor situated at the foot of a bed. He was holding a .22 caliber bolt action rifle, in his left hand, with the rifle resting on his body and the muzzle pointed at his chin. Under the Complainant’s chin there was evidence of a gunshot wound. A can containing .22 caliber cartridges was found beside the Complainant’s right leg. There were no other projectiles or shell cases located at the scene.
A summary of the communications recordings of the events on November 27, 2020 to November 28, 2020, leading to the Complainant’s death, is outlined below.
• Starting at 11:07:10 p.m., there were radio transmissions relating to police speaking with CW #1;
• Starting at 11:08 p.m., there were radio broadcasts relating to the address of the residence involved in this event, and officers confirming the target house;
• Starting at 11:26:10 p.m., there were radio broadcasts relating to the identity of the suspect, the Complainant, a 43-year-old male, whose criminal history involved previous charges for a different domestic incident and firearms;
• Starting at 11:28:06 p.m., there were radio transmissions in relation to inquiries about a pickup truck parked in the driveway of the target residence;
• Starting at 11:34:03 p.m., there were radio transmissions relating to tactical codes regarding their (officers) positions to the target residence;
• Starting at 11:34:40 p.m., there were radio transmissions relating to tactical officers’ positions and distance from the house. There was a request of the Critical Incident Commander (CIC) seeking permission to move forward;
• Starting at 11:35:21 p.m., there were radio transmissions relating to tactical strategies, and advising the sides of the house were completely blocked. There were reports of tactical officers at the back side of the residence, as well as communications describing the house;
• Starting at 11:37:27 p.m., there were radio transmissions relating to observations of the target residence and tactical strategies. Tactical officers advised the CIC that there were no movements inside the house. Tactical officers reported seeing through a window a male moving;
• Starting at 11:46:20 p.m., there were radio transmissions relating to tactical strategies, a request for an Anti-Riot ENfield gun, and the disabling of a streetlight. Discussions were had with tactical officers regarding the best way to approach the target residence. Further radio transmissions occurred relating to criminal charges committed by the Complainant. There were additional radio transmissions regarding tactical equipment and a request for a sniper;
• Starting at 11:56:27 p.m., there were radio transmissions confirming registered owner of the pickup truck parked in front of residence. A request to deploy a tire deflation device under a truck tire was approved;
• Starting at 11:59:45 p.m., there were radio transmissions regarding the tactical line in place, updates on team locations and discussions of a criminal arrest;
• Starting at 12:05:47 a.m., there were radio transmissions relating to the tactical scouting unit (RECCE) request to knock on the door. The CIC denied permission to perform door knocks;
• Starting at 12:12:29 a.m., there were radio transmissions from a RECCE unit reporting a dog inside the house and an open window;
• Starting at 12:52:14 a.m., there were radio transmissions about negotiators placing calls to the residence and receiving no response from the male; the calls were going to voicemail;
• Starting at 1:12:27 a.m., there were radio transmissions about deploying a camera and a distractionary device. Tactical officers confirmed they could hear a phone ringing, but no response or movement were detected inside the house;
• Starting at 1:15:07 a.m., there were radio transmissions regarding a loud hailing device, camera and ladder;
• Starting at 1:19:24 a.m., there were radio transmissions from tactical officers reporting no movement could be heard or seen inside the house. The CIC directed tactical officers not to approach the house;
• Starting at 1:26:33 a.m., there were radio transmissions from tactical officers reporting nothing was heard from inside the house, and requesting authorization from the CIC to utilize lights and sirens to wake up male. The CIC denied the request;
• Starting at 1:28:12 a.m., there were radio transmissions regarding the loud hailer and the camera, and directions from the CIC to tactical officers to approach the door to verify if it was unlocked;
• Starting at 1:29:48 a.m., there were radio transmissions from tactical officers reporting they had sights of the kitchen, the living room and a couch, but not the male. Tactical officers broadcast that the back door was unlocked, and the location of the dog was in the basement;
• Starting at 1:35:42 a.m., RECCE units reported to the CIC they could see a television on but could not see anybody inside the house. There were radio transmissions between tactical officers and the CIC about determining the location of the male;
• Starting at 1:43:15 a.m., there were radio communications about tactical strategies to open the back door to target deployment of a distractionary device and, thereafter, having the negotiator call the house;
• Starting at 2:01:29 a.m., the Tactical Mission Statement was broadcast, and tactical units acknowledged the mission statement. RECCE units acknowledged the sound of a phone ringing but no response from the male inside the house. There were tactical discussions about utilizing a camera in the house. Tactical officers reported a room was empty;
• Starting at 2:23:39 a.m., there were radio transmissions of tactical officers looking in a window, and the window blinds blocking the view inside a bedroom. The deployment of a second distractionary device at the front right side of house was discussed. Tactical permission was granted from the CIC to deploy distractionary device. After the distractionary device was detonated, there was an announcement by police directing the male to come out, reports of a phone ringing but not answered, and reports of no response from the male;
• Starting at 2:31:13 a.m., tactical officers broadcast there was no response from the male, and requested permission from the CIC to breach a window, believed to be the male’s bedroom;
• Starting at 2:33:23 a.m., there were radio transmissions from the CIC to tactical officers to continue to call out to the male to get the male’s attention;
• Starting at 2:41:46 a.m., the CIC directed tactical officers to put a ladder to the front left window of house to confirm it was unlocked. If unlocked, there was further direction to slide the widow open and use a camera to see if the male was in the bedroom;
• Starting at 2:43:41 a.m., tactical officers broadcast they found the male on floor with a gunshot wound. There was a request for paramedics to attend house, and radio transmissions from CIC asking if there were any signs of life, and for the location of the gunshot wound and the firearm. Tactical officers confirmed that the male had a hold of the barrel of the firearm and it was under his chin; and
• Starting at 2:46:16 a.m., permission was granted from the CIC to enter the house. Tactical officers radioed that they had reached the location of the male and requested the attendance of paramedics. It was noted that the male was vital signs absent.
Materials obtained from Police Service
The SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from the OPP Little Current Satellite Office (Manitoulin):
• Canadian Police Information Centre Response Report- the Complainant (x2);
• Emergency Response Team (ERT) [Supplementary] Operational Report;
• CW #1 - OPP Written Synopsis of Statement;
• Notes of SO and WOs;
• Event Chronology;
• Communication recordings;
• Occurrence Summary;
• Officer-Involved Report;
• OPP Training Documents;
• Person Details Report (x4);
• Supplementary report; and
• The SO’s Annual Maintenance Training Report.
Late in the evening of November 27, 2020, the OPP received a 911 call from a residence at Sucker Creek. The call was placed by CW #2. CW #2 reported that the Complainant and his mother were engaged in a heated argument. As the call continued, he further indicated that his mother had just informed him that the Complainant had possession of a firearm. The call-taker directed him, his mother and his siblings to leave the residence. Officers were dispatched to the address.
Officers with the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin (Anishnaabe) Police Service were the first officers to arrive at the scene, followed in short order by OPP uniform and tactical officers. A command post was set up a distance from the home. The SO first became aware of the incident shortly before 11:00 p.m., at which time the SO directed that a fully integrated response be undertaken. Such a response entailed the deployment of the ERT and TRU, as well as crisis negotiators and criminal investigators. In due course, a mission statement was developed and broadcast to all police officers, namely, to isolate, contain and evacuate the residence and negotiate the safe surrender of the Complainant, having at all times the utmost concern for the safety of the Complainant, the public and the officers.
TRU members began arriving at the command post at about 11:00 p.m. Led by WO #2, the team included four officers (of which WO #3 and WO #1 were a part), a dog handler, and his dog. At about 11:30 p.m., the officers began their approach to the home and neared to within about 40 metres. From their position, WO #2 observed the silhouette of a person through a window, which image then disappeared. Deciding they needed to get closer to make additional observations, a smaller reconnaissance team consisting of two officers was constituted and made their way toward the home. At about 11:50 p.m., two other officers, including WO #4, joined the operation and were also dispatched to approach the perimeter of the residence. From their vantage points, no one reported seeing the Complainant in the home through the windows, though they could hear the sound of a phone ringing. The ringing phone was a crisis negotiator trying to contact the Complainant inside the residence. Additional efforts to get a response from the Complainant, by using a loud hailer and deploying two detonation devices into the home, also proved futile.
Following the second detonation device at about 2:30 a.m., WO #4 was authorized to conduct a “sneak and peak” of the bedroom window at the front of the home. With the assistance of a ladder, WO #4 climbed to the window and, finding it unlocked, slid it open and pushed aside the curtain. Near the foot of the bed in the room lay the Complainant on his back. His left hand held the barrel of a firearm – a .22 caliber bolt action rifle. The muzzle of the gun was under the Complainant’s chin. The officer yelled out “gunshot wound” and stood watching from his ladder as other TRU members entered the bedroom.
After the house was searched and deemed safe by TRU officers, tactical paramedics were allowed into the home to assess the Complainant. At about 2:50 a.m., the paramedics confirmed that the Complainant was dead.
Cause of Death
The pathologist at autopsy removed a .22 caliber projectile from the Complainant’s head and concluded that the Complainant’s death was attributable to an inner oral gunshot wound to the head.
Section 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
The offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. The offence is reserved for serious cases of negligence amounting to a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of others. It is not made out unless the impugned conduct constitutes 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 a want of care by the SO in the manner in which she led the overall police operation that caused or contributed to the Complainant’s death and was sufficiently egregious as to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there was not.
The officers involved in the operation around the home were at all times lawfully placed and in the execution of their lawful duties. They had responded to the residence following an emergency call to police reporting that the Complainant had armed himself with a rifle in the course of a domestic dispute with his partner and her son. The police had cause to be concerned about the Complainant’s safety and the safety of others in the vicinity, and were duty bound to do what they could to resolve the situation as peacefully as possible. They also had information that the Complainant was in violation of the terms of a recognizance and, therefore, was subject to lawful arrest.
Once set up at the scene, I am satisfied that the SO’s decision-making as the officer with overall command of the operation, and the TRU officers’ conduct throughout the events in question, were sound and reasonable at all times. The officers were quick to arrive and mobilize at the scene. Once the residence was contained, and the officers were assured that the Complainant was the only person in the home, they did what they could to have him surrender himself safely into custody. A trained negotiator had been brought in to attempt to reach the Complainant. Regrettably, the Complainant chose not to answer the phone despite multiple attempts to reach him. Suspecting that the Complainant might be asleep, particularly as they had information that he was significantly inebriated, the SO authorized the use of detonation devices and a loud hailer, neither of which worked to elicit a response from inside the home. As time passed, and growing increasingly concerned with the Complainant’s well-being, the SO decided a more proactive posture was warranted notwithstanding the risks presented by an armed individual. With respect to the officer’s timing in this regard, I am unable to fault the SO for not having moved quicker. Confronted by an armed individual, the officers were entitled to approach the situation with great caution, and to exhaust measures that could be pursued from a distance before upping the ante with a more aggressive approach. Following the SO’s direction, a TRU officer approached a front window, peered inside and noted the Complainant’s lifeless body on a bedroom floor. Other TRU officers entered the home and were quickly followed by paramedics. Unfortunately, the Complainant had sustained a catastrophic head wound, was vital signs absent by the time of the paramedics’ arrival, and could not be resuscitated.
On the aforementioned-record, and for the foregoing reasons, I am satisfied that the SO and the officers under the SO’s command acted with due care and regard for the Complainant’s health and welfare throughout the police operation notwithstanding the fact they were unable to prevent him taking his own life. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.
Date: August 30, 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.