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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-TCD-150

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 28-year-old female (the Complainant) during an interaction with police on May 20, 2018.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

At approximately 9:37 p.m. on May 20, 2018, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant. The TPS reported that on that same date, at 5:09 p.m., the Complainant had called the police threatening suicide at a residence in the City of Toronto. Police officers arrived at the apartment at the same time as paramedics and the fire department. The police officers had a conversation with the Complainant through the locked door, while they waited for the superintendent of the building to unlock the door. When the door was opened, the officers checked the apartment but the Complainant had already jumped. She was pronounced dead by the paramedics at 6:00 p.m.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1

SIU investigators attended and photographed the scenes and exhibits and interviewed witnesses.

On May 22, 2018, the SIU forensic investigator (FI) attended the post-mortem examination of the Complainant’s body and photographed the procedure.

Complainant:

28-year-old female, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

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

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #3 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #4 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #5 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

On May 20, 2018, WO #5 was designated as a witness officer (WO). When the initial witness officer interviews were conducted, WO #5 was not available, but the SIU received his notes as per the regular process. Once the paramedics and the subject officer (SO) were interviewed, it became apparent that WO #5’s statement was not required.


Subject Officers

The SO Interviewed, notes received and reviewed



Evidence

The Scene

On May 21, 2018, the SIU FI attended at the Complainant’s apartment building in the City of Toronto, where he located two scenes: scene one was the inside and balcony area of the Complainant’s apartment, and the second was the ground area 14 floors below the Complainant’s balcony. The FI observed that the area below the Complainant’s apartment had been taped off and that a TPS cruiser was securing the area.

Inside the Complainant’s apartment, the FI located and seized a cell phone which was located plugged into a wall socket. Papers were located on a dining room table, but nothing found was consistent with being a suicide note. The balcony was examined and found to have a black mesh netting hanging from the upper floor to the top of the railing, which had been pulled away from the railing at the left end of the balcony. There were unidentifiable hand and finger marks located on the top of the railing, but it was not possible to determine when those marks had been made.

The scene on the ground, 14 floors below the Complainant’s apartment balcony, was found to have a large indentation in the grass, consistent with a heavy object striking the ground. There were bloodstains located on the edge of a cement footing for the patio of the ground floor apartment, directly in line with the balcony of the Complainant’s apartment.

The scenes were photographed and the distance from the Complainant’s apartment to the ground was measured to be a distance of 33.91 m.

The blood stained indented area in the grass 14 floors below the Complainant’s balcony.
The blood stained indented area in the grass 14 floors below the Complainant’s balcony.

Physical Evidence


WhatsApp Group Chat Messages


On June 4, 2018, civilian witness (CW) #3 provided the SIU with two copies of the “WhatsApp” group chats in which he and the Complainant, along with several other persons, were chatting on May 20, 2018; the following are the salient portions of the chat involving the Complainant:

5:06 PM CW #3: Hey (Complainant’s first name), how's it going? Are you free tomorrow at all?
5:09 PM The Complainant: Honestly I hope I'm dead by tomorrow so no
5:16 PM CW #3: I hope not!
5:16 PM CW #3: What happened?
5:16 PM The Complainant: Bad day
5:16 PM The Complainant: (vetted out) is a bitch
5:16 PM The Complainant: I'm sick of being here
5:17 PM CW #3: What happened exactly?
5:17 PM The Complainant: Just
5:17 PM The Complainant: Another day
5:17 PM CW #3: Bad days aren't a good reason to not have a day tomorrow though
5:17 PM The Complainant: In this nightmare
5:17 PM CW #3: :( do you want to talk? What did she do?
5:18 PM The Complainant: No I want to fucking kill myself
5:19 PM CW #3: No, it's just a day
5:19 PM CW #3: Tomorrow will be different, and if it's not, the day after will be different
5:20 PM CW #3: If you decide that it will be though, and you can definitely decide that
5:28 PM The Complainant: Tomorrow
5:29 PM  Complainant: Hasn't been different
5:29 PM The Complainant: “Foe” a year
5:30 PM CW #3: Sometimes it takes longer :( I'm sorry that it's been like this
5:30 PM CW #3: But just because it's been bad doesn't mean it Wil (sic) be bad
5:31 PM CW #3: I mean things got better for me. There's a lot of stuff I wouldn't have done if I thought it was gonna be as shitty as it was for me at like 12
5:43 PM CW #3: I really wouldn't want you to give up. You've already come so far. Do you think you can promise me that you won't? 
 

Prescription Bottles


The TPS officers on scene turned over 3 vials of prescription medication to the SIU FI. The vials contained the following:
  • Quetiapine 100 mg;
  • Clonazepam 0.5 mg;
  • SDZ-Venlafxine XR 150mg

Forensic Evidence

No submissions were made to the Centre of Forensic Sciences.

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 communications recordings were not requested as the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD – notes of the 911 calls and police radio transmissions entered simultaneously by the call taker, with times as generated by a computer) contained a summary of what was being said over the police radio.

According to the CAD, on May 20, 2018:

At 5:07 p.m., a 911 caller reported that the Complainant had prescription pills for her anxiety and depression and that she may have intentionally taken them;
At 5:18 p.m., the SO and WO #5 were dispatched;
At 5:20 p.m., paramedics and firefighters were confirmed to attend;
At 5:24 p.m., paramedics arrived on scene;
At 5:28 p.m., the SO and WO #5 arrived on scene;
At 5:45 p.m., the SO reported over the police radio that he was speaking with the Complainant and that she said she didn’t take any pills and the officers were waiting for the superintendent to open her door;
At 5:49 p.m., the same 911 caller called again to report that the Complainant had texted her indicating that she was going to jump off the balcony if the police come in;
At 5:49 p.m., the SO requested the Emergency Task Force (ETF)’s assistance; and
At 5:51 p.m., the SO reported that the Complainant had jumped.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the TPS:

  • Event Details Report;
  • CAD Report;
  • Notes of WOs #1-5 and the SO; and
  • Witness List.

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

  • WhatsApp Group Chat messages of May 20, 2018;
  • Toronto Paramedic Services Ambulance Call Report;
  • Toronto EMS Incident Reports (x2); and
  • Toronto EMS Incident Summary Report.

Incident Narrative

The facts surrounding this tragic event are not in dispute. Shortly after 5:00 p.m. of the day in question, friends of the Complainant contacted the police concerned about the Complainant’s wellbeing. In the course of a group text conversation, the Complainant had suggested she wished to die and that she might do so by way of an overdose of prescription medication. The Complainant suffered from depression and anxiety, and had expressed suicidal ideations in the past. Paramedics were the first to arrive at the Complainant’s apartment door. CW #5 spoke with the Complainant through the door and indicated they were to check on her welfare. The Complainant told them she was fine, and refused to unlock and open her door. The paramedics were soon joined by the SO and his partner, WO #5, arriving at about 5:30 p.m. The SO took the lead in communicating with the Complainant. He assured her they were there to help and asked her to open the door so she could be assessed by the paramedics. Again, the Complainant assured them she was fine and refused to open the door. She explained that her friends were mistaken in their concern about her overdosing, and passed them her prescription medication through the mail slot to convince them all was in order. At about 5:50 p.m., while the SO was on the balcony of the room next to the Complainant’s apartment, he looked down and observed her body on the ground below.

Cause of Death

A forensic pathologist performed a post-mortem examination on the body of the Complainant on May 22, 2018; the pathologist determined that the cause of death was due to multiple trauma. [1]

Relevant Legislation

Section 219 and 220, 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

On May 20, 2018, the Complainant jumped to her death from the balcony of her 14th floor apartment in Toronto. The subject officer (SO) had been engaged in conversation with her in the moments prior to her fall from the hallway outside her door. For the reasons that follow, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges against the SO in connection with the Complainant’s death.

The offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. As an offence of penal negligence, a simple want of care will not suffice to ground criminal liability; what is required, in part, is conduct that amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. It is apparent on the record gathered in the SIU’s investigation that the SO’s conduct fell within the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law. In the short time that he dealt with the Complainant, the officer calmly engaged her in conversation, explaining the reasons for the police presence and their concern for her health and safety. He attempted to have the Complainant open the door, but was repeatedly rebuffed by a person who seemed to be in possession of her faculties and indicating she was fine. The SO properly considered whether he had a lawful basis for forcibly entering the apartment, and concluded that the Complainant’s behaviour coupled with the limited information at their disposal did not give rise to the necessary exigent circumstances. That said, the SO took steps to have the superintendent of the building contacted to bring the apartment’s key, but he was not readily available. Just before the Complainant fell to her death, the officer learned that she had been in touch with friends to say that she would jump if the police entered her apartment. With that information, the SO warned the emergency responders outside her door against taking any measure to gain access to the apartment. Regrettably, at about the same time, despite no such entry having been made, the Complainant scaled her balcony’s railing and leapt to her death. In all of this, I am satisfied that the SO conducted himself judiciously, and that he neither caused nor contributed to the Complainant’s death in any fashion that could ground criminal sanction.


Date: May 23, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit




Footnotes

  • 1) Verbal cause of death provided by the forensic pathologist. The final post-mortem report had not yet been received at the time of writing this report. [Back to text]