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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-PCD-251

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 46-year-old man. (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On August 27, 2018, at 2:25 a.m., the West Nipissing Police Service (WNPS) [1] notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant.

According to the WNPS, on August 26, 2018, at 8:06 p.m., WNPS police officers responded to a call from Civilian Witness (CW) #4 [now known to have been made by CW #3] reporting that she had been shot and that her son had also been shot.  Police officers [now known to be WNPS police officers] and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel attended in the area of the 911 call that came from the vicinity of Leblanc Road, Sturgeon Falls.  

It was further reported that while police officers and EMS personnel were on-scene, a vehicle returned and a man [now known to be the Complainant] opened fire on EMS personnel and the WNPS police officers tending to CW #4. The Complainant ran into a wooded area. WNPS and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers [the latter now known to have been under the command and control of an OPP Critical Incident Commander (CIC), the subject officer (SO)] set up containment as directed by the SO. The Complainant was located in the wooded area by OPP officers and was already deceased from a gunshot wound. The Complainant was reported by the WNPS to be the ‘life-partner’ of CW #4. CW #4 was at the hospital in Sudbury receiving treatment at the time the SIU was notified of the incident.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 5
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned:  3
 

Complainant:

46-year-old male, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

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

Witness Officers [2]

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed
WO #6 Interviewed
WO #7 Interviewed
WO #8 Interviewed
WO #9 Interviewed
WO #10 Interviewed
WO #11 Interviewed
WO #12 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed



Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed


Evidence

The Scene

The scene was limited to a wooded area on the west side of Leblanc Road. When SIU forensic investigators arrived at the scene, the deceased and the rifle associated with him were under a tent that had been erected by OPP officers as a measure to protect evidence. The tented area was several metres west of the west ditch for Leblanc Road and several metres north of the private gravel road accessing the Complainant’s residence. The distance from Leblanc Road to the residence was measured and found to be approximately 500 metres. 

The Complainant’s residence where CW #4 and her son were shot was situated at the north edge of the loop forming the terminal end of the private gravel road. On Leblanc Road, near its intersection with the private gravel road was a red, Pontiac Sunfire sedan. This vehicle was the property of CW #4 and apparently driven to its position by the Complainant during his pursuit of CW #4 after he shot her.

The deceased was under the protective tent lying on his left side with his head orientated in an easterly direction. The deceased was clad in shorts only, and wearing sandals. A rifle was lying next to the deceased partially held by his hands with the muzzle orientated east and directed near the head.

The long gun recovered from the scene was a Ruger Model 10/22, .22 LR Calibre semi-automatic rifle. It had a black Neoprene stock and the barrel was 470 mm long. Once the deceased was removed for transport to the hospital in Sudbury, one, .22 calibre cartridge case was located underneath the body. One other .22 calibre cartridge case was found near the tented area on the gravel roadway.

The Ruger Model 10/22, .22 LR Calibre semi-automatic rifle found next to the Complainant's body.
Figure 1 - The Ruger Model 10/22, .22 LR Calibre semi-automatic rifle found next to the Complainant’s body.

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram

Communications Recordings


WNPS Communications Summary


On August 26, 2018, at 8:03 p.m., a woman [now known to be CW #3] spoke to an Ambulance Communications Officer (ACO) reporting that a woman [now known to be CW #4], who appeared to be in distress and bleeding on Leblanc Road, had waved at her to induce her to stop. CW #3 stopped a short distance beyond CW #4 and with viewing CW #4 through the rear window of her vehicle, she provided the ACO with her observation. When the conversation ended at about 8:04 p.m., the ACO called the WNPS dispatcher and requested police to respond as well.

At about the same time these telephone transactions occurred, the ACO received a call from CW #2 who relayed that CW #4 was at her residence on Leblanc Road. CW #4 could be heard in the background saying she had a fight with her boyfriend [now known to be the Complainant] and was leaving when the Complainant produced a gun and shot her after shooting her son.

Ambulance personnel and police officers were dispatched to CW #2’s residence, and a short time after the initial 911 call from CW #3, one of the paramedics reported that shots were being fired at CW #2’s house and described gunshots going off around her and her colleague.

There were radio transmissions relevant to the evacuation of Leblanc Road residents, further shots fired at first responders, the movements of the Pontiac Sunfire operated by the Complainant and for the deployment of more police resources to respond to the incident scene.

Nothing in the communications audio recordings reviewed, afforded any additional information of probative value that was not already obtained from civilian and police witnesses, and police documents and electronic data obtained during the investigation.

OPP Communications Summary


The communications audio recordings were relevant to the deployment of OPP officers and material in support of WNPS police officers tasked with the protection of civilians and police, the containment and safe arrest of the Complainant, and the OPP officers’ discovery of the bodies of CW #4’s son and the Complainant.

Nothing in the communications audio recordings reviewed, afforded any new information of probative value that was not already obtained from civilian and police witnesses, and police documents and electronic data obtained during the investigation.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the WNPS and the OPP:
  • WNPS Audio recordings including 911 calls and radio and telephone transmissions;
  • WNPS Background Event Chronology;
  • WNPS Duty Roster;
  • WNPS Event Details;
  • WNPS Google Map of Containment;
  • WNPS Interview Schedule;
  • WNPS Major Incident Command (MIC) Transfer of Command and Control;
  • WNPS Notes of all witness officers;
  • WNPS Occurrence Summary;
  • WNPS Procedure-Preliminary Perimeter Control and Containment;
  • WNPS Procedure-Major Incident Command;
  • WNPS Procedure-Preventing or Responding to Occurrences Involving Firearms;
  • WNPS Witness statements in writing by civilian witnesses;
  • WNPS Video-recorded interview of CW #2;
  • WNPS Video-recorded interview of CW #1;
  • OPP Provincial Communications Centre (OPP Provincial Communications Centre ">PCC) audio recordings;
  • OPP COMM Playlist;
  • OPP Email correspondence;
  • OPP Event Chronology;
  • OPP Forensic investigative work-product;
  • OPP Memo Emails;
  • OPP MIC Transfer of Command and Control;
  • OPP Notes of all witness officers and the subject officer;
  • OPP Occurrence [Person]-the Complainant;
  • OPP Occurrence Summary;
  • OPP OPP Provincial Communications Centre ">PCC Critical Incident Information Form;
  • OPP Photographs of the Complainant’s wallet contents;
  • OPP Property Report;
  • OPP Situation Mission Execution Administration Command (SMEAC) records;
  • OPP Sudden Death Report;
  • OPP Supplementary Occurrence Report;
  • OPP Unmanned Aerial Surveillance (UAS) photographs;
  • OPP Video-recorded and written statements of civilian witnesses; and
  • Private Owner Firearm Acquired – CFP.

Incident Narrative

A clear and compelling picture of the events in question emerges from the information gathered by the SIU in its investigation, which included statements from civilian and police witnesses (including the subject officer), police and ambulance communications recordings, and the report of the post-mortem examination performed on the Complainant’s body. Just after 8:00 p.m. of the day in question, 911 calls were made to police reporting that the Complainant had shot a woman and man, the latter, possibly, fatally. The woman was CW #4, the Complainant’s partner of about a month and a half. Returning to the Complainant’s home after an evening out with her sister and her partner, CW #4 found the Complainant inebriated and belligerent. The Complainant got even angrier when CW #4 told him she was leaving for the night and they would talk the following morning.

Accompanied by her son, CW #4 retrieved some of her clothes and made her way to her vehicle outside the home – a red Pontiac Sunfire. The Complainant emerged from the home holding a long gun. He proceeded to shoot CW #4’s son. He would die of his wound. The Complainant then took aim at CW #4 and shot her. Bleeding but still conscious, CW #4 was held hostage by the Complainant. He told her he would soon kill her and then shoot himself. CW #4 seized on a moment of the Complainant’s inattention to flee into the bush that ran alongside the driveway leading to the home from Leblanc Road. She made it onto the roadway and encountered a motorist before seeking refuge at a neighbouring residence on Leblanc Road, north and east of the Complainant’s home. The motorist and the residents of the home called 911 conveying what they had seen and heard from CW #4.

WNPS officers, including tactical officers, and paramedics responded quickly to the scene. While tending to CW #4, one of the paramedics reported that shots were being fired at the residence. CW #4 was loaded into the ambulance and transported to hospital as officers took up positions in their police vehicles north and south of the driveway leading to the mobile home. Their immediate objective was to contain the scene and evacuate neighbours along the roadway from harm’s way, which they did. CW #4’s Sunfire soon emerged traveling east along the driveway, coming to a stop facing east just west of Leblanc Road. The Complainant exited the vehicle armed with a rifle, which he proceeded to discharge multiple times until about 9:30 p.m. in the direction of officers in and around the scene.

OPP Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Tactics and Rescue Unit (TRU) officers were summoned to the scene and began to arrive around midnight. The SO assumed overall command of the ongoing police operation. The officers set about to execute their threefold mission: maintain containment of the scene; locate CW #4’s son to assess his condition; and, find the Complainant. At about 1:15 a.m., a team of TRU officers came upon CW #4’s son’s body outside the Complainant’s mobile home. They then entered the mobile home, searched it and satisfied themselves there was no one in it. The team continued down the driveway toward Leblanc Road and came upon the Pontiac Sunfire, which was empty. The TRU officers cleared the scene in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle and were joined by a police dog and its handler to continue the search for the Complainant. At about 2:00 a.m., the dog located the lifeless body of the Complainant. He was lying in tall grass north of the vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head. A rifle was positioned on the ground adjacent to his body. [3] 
 

Cause of Death


The post-mortem examination and autopsy of the Complainant were conducted by a forensic pathologist in Sudbury at the Health Sciences North Hospital on August 28, 2018.

During the external examination of the Complainant, eight viable .22 calibre rounds of long-rifle ammunition were collected by the SIU forensic investigator from the Complainant’s right front pants pocket.

The report of post-mortem examination dated May 7, 2019 and received by the SIU on July 12, 2019 attributed the Complainant’s death to a “close range gunshot wound to submentum perforating brain and penetrating head.” One deformed .22 calibre projectile was retrieved from the Complainant’s head during the procedure and retained by the SIU as an exhibit.

Analysis and Director's Decision

On August 26, 2018, the Complainant died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head near his home in Sturgeon Falls. Police officers with the WNPS were in and around the area at the time having responded to 911 calls about a woman and man who had been shot by the Complainant. Specialized OPP teams also made their way to the scene at the request of the WNPS. Under the command of the SO, OPP personnel located the Complainant’s lifeless body at about 2:00 a.m. on August 27, 2018. For the reasons that follow, there are no reasonable grounds in my view to believe any of the involved officers, including the SO, committed a criminal offence in connection with the circumstances surrounding the Complainant’s death.

There is nothing in the information collected by the SIU to suggest that any of the police officers involved in the events culminating in the Complainant’s death ran afoul of the criminal law. On the contrary, the evidence indicates they acted with professionalism and resolve in dealing with a situation that could well have escalated beyond its already tragic dimensions. The officers were in the lawful discharge of their duties as they responded to the scene. They had information that the Complainant had shot CW #4 and her son, likely killing him, and was intent on doing more harm. WNPS officers responded swiftly and took prompt action to block traffic and evacuate residents in the area. They contained the scene for more than three hours until the OPP’s ERT and TRU officers began to deploy, during which time the Complainant fired shots in their direction. With the arrival of the OPP and the tactical resources at their disposal, the police adopted a more aggressive posture as they moved in to search for CW #4’s son, and possibly render him medical assistance, and the Complainant. With the use of unmanned aerial surveillance equipment, night vision goggles and a police dog, they located the two individuals, both deceased, in fairly short order. At no point did any of the officers involved in the operation discharge a firearm. While the Complainant appears to have shot himself at about 9:30 p.m., [4] several hours before his body was discovered, I am satisfied that the involved officers moved with appropriate dispatch. The officers had good cause to approach the situation with extreme caution; the Complainant’s propensity for lethal violence was apparent and the officers had every reason to believe that he remained a lethal threat up to the point he was found.

In conclusion, there being no evidence to suggest that the conduct of the involved officers, including the SO, was anything other than reasonable throughout, much less that their conduct contributed to the Complainant’s self-inflicted death in any fashion that could attract criminal sanction, there are no grounds to proceed with charges and the file is closed.


Date: July 17, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) The WNPS has since been disbanded and policing in the area taken over by the OPP. [Back to text]
  • 2) WO #1 to WO #6 were officers with the WNPS, and WO #7 to WO #12 were officers with the OPP. [Back to text]
  • 3) The Complainant’s body had been moved shortly after its discovery by one of the TRU officers to allow its examination by a paramedic, following which it was repositioned with the firearm in the position, according to the officer, in which they had been found. [Back to text]
  • 4) The time at which officers last reported hearing a gunshot. [Back to text]