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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-PCD-097

Contents:

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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 69-year-old man.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On May 3, 2019, at 8:22 a.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) notified the SIU of the death of an unidentified man.

The OPP reported that on May 3, 2019, at 6:00 a.m., the OPP received several calls regarding a possible impaired driver on the 401 Highway (Hwy 401) in the collector lanes. The vehicle may have struck several transport trucks. OPP police officers responded and located a vehicle in the ditch near Kennedy Road in Toronto. An OPP police officer observed a man [now known to be the Complainant] on the overpass and approached him. The police officer tried to engage the man in a conversation, but the man climbed over the railing and jumped onto the highway below. The man was taken to the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre where he was pronounced dead.

The man also met the description of a suicidal male reported by a civilian to the Toronto Police Service (TPS). The civilian reported that her husband was having mental health issues last night and when she awoke this morning he was missing. She feared that her husband was suicidal and had taken their vehicle. 
 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 4
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1

Complainant:

69-year-old male, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

Additionally, the notes from eight other officers were received and reviewed.



Evidence

The Scene

The scene was the south side of the Hwy 401 overpass/bridge at Kennedy Road. The front end of a Toyota Corolla was in contact with the south side base of the overpass. The vehicle had extensive front end damage. The vehicle was resting on the west side of Kennedy Road. An OPP cruiser was resting in the southbound passing lane of Kennedy Road. A pair of running shoes, a grey/green coat hood, and black glove were visible on the northbound curb lane of Kennedy Road. A pool of blood was covered by a yellow bag.

An overhead Hwy 401 (west) sign was suspended from the south side of the overpass/bridge. The sign had a metal, grated platform that allowed for maintenance and safety. The platform was slightly below the sign. The sign and platform were attached to the concrete overpass/bridge. The measurements were: top safety rail (eastbound Hwy 401) to sidewalk (east side of Kennedy Road): 7.5 metres, and top safety rail (eastbound Hwy 401) to roadway (east side of Kennedy Road): 7.6 metres.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


Summary of the MTO CCTV


The Complainant drove into the south bridge’s pier of the eastbound lanes. The Complainant exited his car, climbed up the hill towards the eastbound lanes and walked to the middle of the bridge. He climbed over the railing. An OPP police officer hastily walked towards the Complainant and waved her hands. The Complainant stood on a platform and the officer stood at some distance from the railing. The Complainant was hanging on the sign’s holders. Then, he fell down to the ground and landed on the northbound lane of Kennedy Road. 
 

Summary of the WO’s In-Car Camera System (ICCS) Footage


The WO arrived in the northbound lanes of Kennedy Road, under the Highway 401 overpass. The WO made a telephone call and explained the Complainant was involved in several collisions along Hwy 401 and an OPP officer made contact prior to him jumping. He continued by explaining the OPP officer either tried to “light him up or whatever”, and believed the matter would be an SIU investigation. He explained there was no evidence of a pursuit. The Complainant was pronounced dead and the OPP was presently awaiting a telephone call to the SIU.

The OPP officer and the WO had a conversation about the protocol for officers involved in SIU investigations and strategies for handling traumatic situations. The WO then made multiple telephone calls to other police officers describing the OPP officer’s attempted negotiation with the Complainant prior to him jumping of the Hwy 401 overpass.

Communications Recordings

The OPP Communications Operator reported a possible impaired driver in the Hwy 401 westbound express lanes that hit the guardrails and was involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer truck. The vehicle, a small car, was falling apart and was still mobile, travelling in the eastbound express lanes at Kennedy Road and was swerving. An OPP police officer acknowledged the call for service. She subsequently broadcast that a man [now known to be the Complainant] was in the Hwy 401 eastbound lanes, just after Brimley Road, overlooking the barrier. The officer shouted, “He’s over the barrier.” Then, the officer transmitted, “He’s standing over the barrier, he’s on the side, I need (inaudible) here please.” The officer shouted, “Ambulance right away.” The officer updated there was no response (from the Complainant).

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP Toronto Detachment and TPS:
  • Communications Recordings
  • ICCS video for the WO’s vehicle;
  • Medical Record-Sunnybrook HSC;
  • Ministry of Transportation CCTV;
  • Motor Vehicle Collision Report;
  • Notes of the WO and eight other officers
  • Sudden Death Report;
  • Witness Statements of five civilians.

Incident Narrative

The story that emerges from the weight of the evidence collected by the SIU is clear. Moments before he fell from the overpass, the Complainant was traveling north in his wife’s vehicle in the southbound lanes of Kennedy Road when he crashed into the western wall of the highway overpass. The Complainant exited his car and made his way up the grassy embankment onto the highway, whereupon he walked east along the southern most guardrail. An OPP officer was driving east past the scene when she observed the Complainant on the highway. She maneuvered onto the highway shoulder, stopped and reversed her cruiser in order to provide assistance to the Complainant. The officer parked on the shoulder and approached the Complainant on foot. As she got closer, the Complainant scaled the guardrail and eventually found himself on the metal platform of the highway sign affixed to the overpass over the northbound lanes of Kennedy Road. The OPP officer pleaded with the Complainant throughout to stop what he was doing. She warned him that he was in danger of falling and stressed that she was there to help him. At about 6:13 a.m., the Complainant fell from the platform and landed on the ground below. He suffered head, neck and spine injuries, resulting in his death.

Cause of Death

On May 6, 2019, a forensic pathologist determined the Complainant’s cause of death was trauma to the head, neck and spine.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant died as the result of massive injuries he suffered when he fell from the Highway 401 overpass at Kennedy Road in the morning of May 3, 2019. An OPP officer was on the same overpass at the time, attempting to talk him away from the edge of the bridge. For the reasons that follow, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that she or any police officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death.

The officer was in a difficult position: approach the Complainant and risk a further escalation in his behaviour, or stand back and watch as the Complainant increasingly placed himself in a precarious position. In my view, the OPP officer cannot be faulted for adopting the course she did. She approached the Complainant carefully and spoke to him in measured tones. Regrettably, the Complainant could not be dissuaded. There is a discrepancy in the evidence as to whether the Complainant fell from the highway sign platform intentionally or accidentally. Regardless, I am satisfied that the Complainant is responsible for the perilous situation in which he found himself and that the OPP officer, in the short time she engaged the Complainant, acted reasonably in doing what she could to prevent the fall that ultimately took his life. Accordingly, this file is closed.


Date: June 4, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit