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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-TCD-155

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 37-year-old male (the Complainant) on May 27, 2018, during an interaction with police.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

At approximately 5:00 p.m. on May 27, 2018, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant.

The TPS reported that at approximately 4:00 p.m. on that same date, the TPS had received a call regarding a man standing on the 7th floor ledge of a building in the City of Toronto. Patrol officers and ETF members responded. As three patrol officers were on the roof speaking to the man, he jumped to his death. The Complainant was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead at 4:39 p.m.

TPS officers were holding the scene pending the arrival of the SIU investigators.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 5
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2

Complainant:

37-year-old male, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

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

Witness Officers

WO #1 Notes reviewed, unavailable to be interviewed for medical reasons
WO #2 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed


Subject Officers

The SO Interviewed, notes received and reviewed


Incident Narrative

On May 27, 2018, at approximately 3:25 p.m., the Complainant somehow managed to gain access to the roof top of a seven story building located on Yonge Street in the City of Toronto. The Complainant was not a resident of the building and the door to the roof was usually locked. A civilian witness, CW #3, saw the Complainant on the roof, thought something was not right, and called 911.

The TPS communications centre dispatched several officers, including the Emergency Task Force (ETF), in response to the call. At 3:44 p.m., the SO and WO #2 were the first officers to arrive on scene. The police officers went to the seventh floor and found the access door to the roof unlocked. The police officers went out onto the roof, and stood on a wooden walkway which surrounded the access area to the roof. The SO saw the Complainant sitting on a two foot high retaining wall, which ran along the edge of the building’s roof, and asked the Complainant if he could help. The Complainant never spoke to any of the police officers, but remained seated, with his head in his hands; he appeared to be speaking to himself.

At 4:06 p.m., the Complainant rocked backwards and jumped from the roof.

Cause of Death

On May 29, 2018, a forensic pathologist conducted a post-mortem examination of the body of the Complainant and determined that the immediate cause of death was multiple trauma consistent with descent from a great height.

Evidence

The Scene

The scene consisted of two locations: the roof area where the TPS officers attempted to communicate with the Complainant, and the ground below where the Complainant’s body ultimately landed. Both scenes were photographed and video-recorded. The roof scene was mapped with the use of a Total Station.

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram

Forensic Evidence

No submissions were made to the CFS by the SIU, but samples of the Complainant’s blood, obtained during the post-mortem examination, were forwarded to the CFS, by the forensic pathologist, for screening.

Expert Evidence

The forensic pathologist who performed the post-mortem examination determined that the immediate cause of death was due to multiple trauma. The Report of Post-Mortem Examination, which was received by the SIU on March 4, 2019, listed the serious injuries sustained by the Complainant as a result of the fall, as follows:

(1) extensive punctate (gravel) abrasions along the left side of the torso;
(2) contusions/abrasions over the left hand;
(3) contusion/abrasion, 5cm over the occiput;
(4) hemothoraces/flail chest; and,
(5) CT findings included fractures of:
(i) Ethmoid/Clivus, left;
(ii) Air in cranial cavity;
(iii) Ribs, multiple posterior, left;
(iv) Thoracic vertebra;
(v) Lumbar vertebrae;
(vi) Pelvis;
(vii) Tibia, distal, right;
(viii) Fibula, distal, left;
(ix) Calcaneus, bilateral.

The report also confirmed the cause of death as “Multiple trauma consistent with descent from a great height”. The toxicology report indicated that the Complainant’s blood was negative for drugs or alcohol.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

The SIU canvassed the area for any video or audio recordings, and photographic evidence, but none were located.

Communications Recordings

The salient sections of the communications tape are as follows:

CW #3 called 911 and reported that a guy was on the roof of a building on Yonge Street, and the man had been on the roof for some time; he was described as facing east and leaning back towards the ledge. Two TPS cruisers, with WO #1 in the first and the SO and WO #2 in the second, were dispatched to the building. At 3:44 p.m., WO #1’s cruiser was the first to arrive on scene, with the SO and WO #2 arriving at 3:45 p.m. At 4:06 p.m., an unknown female officer reported that the Complainant had jumped.


The Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) Report


The CAD report was received and reviewed; it contained the following summary of events:
At 3:40 p.m.: The SO and WO #2 were dispatched to a ‘jumper” event;

At 3:47 p.m.: The SO and WO #2 arrived on scene;

At 3:53 p.m.: The SO and WO #2 advised that they had eyes on the male;

At 3:58 p.m.: The SO and WO #2 advised that they were speaking to the male, who was sitting on the edge of a balcony and was not being communicative;

At 4:06 p.m.: It was reported that the male had just jumped; and

At 4:07 p.m.: Officers on the ground reported that the male was still breathing and that the ambulance was on scene.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the TPS:
  • Event Details (CAD) Report (x2);
  • 911 Call Recording;
  • Police Transmissions Recording;
  • MTP Vehicle Inquiry; and,
  • Notes of WO #s 1 and 2, and the SO.

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

  • The Post-Mortem Report dated October 3, 2018 and received by the SIU on March 4, 2019, with appended Toxicology Report dated June 28, 2018.

Relevant Legislation

Section 219, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing death

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.

220 Every person who by criminal negligence causes death to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(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

At 3:38:05 p.m. on May 27, 2018, a 911 call was received by the TPS communications centre. The caller, CW #3, reported seeing a male on top of a seven storey building located in the City of Toronto. The caller reported that the man had been on the roof for 10 – 15 minutes and was leaning back.

The dispatcher immediately dispatched two cruisers, with the SO and WO #2 in one, and WO #1 in the other, while the call taker continued to speak with CW #3, who described the man on the roof as taking off his backpack and setting it on the roof, then walking away from the edge before returning and looking down to the ground below. Finally, the caller described the man as sitting on the ledge with his back to the street.

The SO and WO #2 were the first to arrive at the building, at 3:47:09 p.m., only 11 minutes and four seconds after first being notified by the dispatcher. These two officers proceeded to the rooftop, where they gained access by way of an unlocked door. Upon entering onto the rooftop, they immediately observed the Complainant seated on the ledge near the northwest edge of the building. Both officers then attempted to engage the Complainant in conversation, as did WO #1, when he arrived three to four minutes later.

The officers introduced themselves to the Complainant and continually offered him assistance. They assured him that they were only there to help, and tried to dissuade him from jumping. The Complainant, who was mumbling to himself and holding his head in his hands, at no time directly responded to the officers, but appeared to be speaking to himself.

Each of the officers was positioned on a wooden pathway which was enclosed by a railing and which surrounded the access doors to the roof, and each was approximately 15 feet from the Complainant. When, at one point, WO #2 attempted to move closer to the Complainant by crossing beyond the railing of the wooden pathway, the Complainant appeared to become more distressed, so WO #2 again retreated to position herself inside of the railing in order not to escalate the situation and possibly inadvertently influence the Complainant to jump.

While the uniformed officers were the first to arrive at the building, the TPS acted quickly to also ensure that the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were notified and an ambulance and the Emergency Task Force (ETF) were dispatched, a supervisor was notified, additional police cruisers were dispatched, and arrangements were made for a command post to be set up in the area.

When the Complainant began to move backwards towards the edge of the roof, the SO told him that it was not worth it and that he should allow the police officers to help him. It was the intention of the SO to convince the Complainant to move away from the edge and to be taken to hospital, when the Complainant suddenly and deliberately leaned backwards and fell off the roof of the building to the paved driveway below. At the last second, as he was going over the edge, the Complainant appeared to momentarily hold onto the ledge with his legs and he reached up and grabbed the side of the wall for about two seconds, as if to stop himself falling, when he lost his grip and fully fell backwards. The Complainant did not say anything, and made no noise, as he let go of the ledge and fell to his death below.

When the SO moved to look over the edge of the roof to the ground below, he saw the Complainant lying on the pavement, with two police officers performing CPR on him.

The SO estimated that he was on the roof for approximately ten minutes attempting to communicate with the Complainant, before he jumped, and at no time did any police officer advance towards the Complainant.

This evidence is confirmed by the CAD report and the communications recording, wherein it is noted that the SO and WO #2 first set eyes on the Complainant at 3:53:38 p.m., they were speaking with the Complainant at 3:58:08 p.m., and it was reported at 4:06:54 p.m., that the Complainant had jumped.

A Report of Post-Mortem (PM) Examination, received by the SIU on March 4, 2019, determined that the cause of death was multiple trauma consistent with a descent from great height. The toxicology report, received as part of the PM report, indicated that there were no drugs or alcohol in the Complainant’s blood at the time of his fall.

On all of the evidence, it is clear that the Complainant was struggling with some issues which he found were insurmountable and he apparently came to the conclusion that his only recourse was to end his life. While it is unclear what exactly led the Complainant to the brink and caused him to resort to the drastic decision to end his own life, it is clear that he had made that decision on his own. The police officers who attended and tried to save the Complainant’s life, despite his wishes to the contrary, did all they could to try to save that life in the very short time available to them, before the Complainant took that last fatal step.

While the police officer who primarily attempted to communicate with the Complainant was designated as the subject officer, it is clear that all of the officers present acted together in order to attempt to save the life of the Complainant.

On these facts, the only charge even remotely relevant for consideration would be that of criminal negligence causing death, contrary to sections 219 and 220 of the Criminal Code. In order to find reasonable grounds to believe that the SO, or either of WO #2 or WO #1, committed the offence of Criminal Negligence Causing Death, one must first have reasonable grounds to believe that they had a duty toward the Complainant which they omitted to carry out, and that omission, pursuant to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. J.F. (2008), 3 S.C.R. 215, represented ‘a marked and substantial departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person in circumstances’ where they ‘either recognized and ran an obvious and serious risk to the life’ of the Complainant ‘or, alternatively, gave no thought to that risk’.

It is clear on the evidence that all of the police officers present fully appreciated the risk to the life of the Complainant, should he be allowed to carry out his intention of jumping from the rooftop. Each of the three officers made every effort to attempt to build a rapport with the Complainant and to convince him to move away from the ledge and to abandon his intentions. Rather than a marked and substantial departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person in the circumstances, each of these officers acted more than reasonably and prudently to save the Complainant’s life, despite the tragic outcome.

Additionally, immediately following the call from CW #3, the TPS acted quickly and efficiently to ensure that all necessary services were notified and present on scene to either rescue the Complainant, or to provide assistance should he succeed in jumping. It is clear from the coordinated response of the TPS, that they were taking the threat to the Complainant’s life extremely seriously and that they responded appropriately and with all due speed in order to prevent this tragic death.

On all of the evidence, it is clear that the Complainant took his own life despite the attempted intervention by police. It is further evident that the Complainant, while constantly perched on the edge of the rooftop of the seven storey building, left police with no options to which they could resort to attempt to safely bring him down, other than to try and convince him to abandon his plan. The SO followed all procedures as set out in the TPS policy guidelines and did all he could to assist the Complainant, and he cannot be held responsible for the Complainant’s actions in fulfilling his intention to end his own life. On all of the evidence, it is obvious that all three officers present attempted to engage the Complainant with both calm and compassion, and that they never abandoned their attempts to save his life, until he jumped from the building, when other officers immediately moved in to perform life-saving procedures.

On these facts, I find that the evidence fails to satisfy me either that the conduct of any responding police officer represented ‘a marked and substantial departure’ from that of a reasonably prudent person in these circumstances, or that there is any causal connection between the actions of the officers present and the tragic death of the Complainant. As such, there are no grounds here, reasonable or otherwise, for the consideration of criminal charges and even less so for the laying of same.


Original signed by Date: March 21, 2019
Tony Loparco
Director
Special Investigations Unit