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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-OCD-297

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 19-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On October 4, 2018 at 8:10 p.m., the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) notified the SIU that the Complainant had jumped to his death.

According to the NRPS, on October 4, 2018 at 7:23 p.m., the Complainant’s mother called police to report her son was suicidal. A NRPS officer found the Complainant on the Burgoyne Bridge, located in St. Catharines on St. Paul Street near Ontario Street. After an interaction with police, the Complainant went over the bridge and landed on Highway 406. He had been pronounced deceased and the coroner had been called. The body remained at the scene.

The Team

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

Complainant:

19-year-old male, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

CW Interviewed

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #4 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed


Subject Officers

SO Declined interview, as is the subject officer’s legal right. Notes received and reviewed.


Evidence

The Scene

The Burgoyne Bridge, also known as the St. Paul Street Bridge, spans a valley containing the Twelve Mile Creek Park and a section of Highway 406. The Complainant’s remains were located 23.5 m below the handrail of the Burgoyne Bridge, on the east shoulder of the northbound lanes of Highway 406. A hospital wristband from the St. Catharines General Hospital (SCGH), with the Complainant’s name on it, was found close to his body. A footwear impression was found on the bridge handrail, directly above the location of the Complainant’s remains. The footwear impression was consistent with the footwear worn by the Complainant at the time of his death. 

Communications Recordings

On October 4, 2018 at 10:17 a.m., the CW called 911 to report her house was on fire. Police officers and the fire department responded.

At 11:01 a.m., WO #3 asked the police dispatcher to query the Complainant. At 11:37 a.m., the Complainant was being taken to the SCGH.

At 7:22 p.m., the CW called 911 again and reported her son had been released from the hospital and he had once again expressed suicidal thoughts to her. The Complainant had told his mother she would never see him again. The CW told the dispatcher her son had mentioned several times that day his intention to jump from the Burgoyne Bridge.

Police officers were dispatched to meet with the CW and to search for the Complainant.

WO #1 reported he was heading to the Burgoyne Bridge. He asked the dispatcher to assign a canine handler to the search. Other police officers were also dispatched to the Burgoyne Bridge.

The SO asked the dispatcher to mark her as being in the area of the Burgoyne Bridge. She then reported she was “off with [the Complainant]” on the bridge. The SO, with a panicked voice, then reported the Complainant had just jumped off the bridge and was in the area of the northbound lanes (of Highway 406).

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the NRPS:
  • Detailed Call Summary (Mental Health Act (MHA) Apprehension);
  • Detailed Call Summary (Suicide);
  • Event Details Report;
  • List of all 2018 Calls Involving the Complainant;
  • List of Involved Officers;
  • NICE Inform Reconstruction Table (Radio Transmissions);
  • A copy of the related radio and telephone communications;
  • Notes of all designated witness officers and the subject officer;
  • NRPS Request for Communications (x2);
  • NRPS Witness Statement-the CW;
  • Procedure-Mentally Ill Persons; and
  • Recording from Master Logger (x2).

Incident Narrative

The circumstances surrounding the Complainant’s fateful act are clear and tragic on the information collected by the SIU in its investigation. In the morning of the day in question, NRPS officers had attended at the Complainant’s home where he lived with his mother. They were there with firefighters in response to a call from the CW reporting a fire. The Complainant was agitated and said he was going to jump off a bridge. The Complainant was apprehended under the authority of the MHA and taken to the SCGH.

Later that day, the Complainant returned home. The Complainant told the CW that she would never see him again. The CW contacted 911, explained the day’s events and what had just transpired, and stressed that her son had been saying all day that he was going to jump from the Burgoyne Bridge.

NRPS officers were promptly dispatched to locate the Complainant. At about 7:30 p.m., the SO was traveling in her cruiser west along St. Paul Street when she located the Complainant walking east along the Burgoyne Bridge. She stopped her cruiser curbside midway along the bridge and exited. The SO asked the Complainant to come speak with her, and he walked in her direction. When he was close enough, the officer placed her right hand on the Complainant’s left arm intending to handcuff him when he suddenly pulled away from her. The Complainant ran to the handrail at the side of the bridge, planted both hands on the rail and jumped over it. He landed on the east shoulder of the northbound lane of Highway 406.

WO #2 was the first officer to arrive at the Complainant’s body. He had sustained grievous injuries from the fall and was vital signs absent. Paramedics soon arrived and rendered emergency treatment, but the Complainant could not be saved. He was declared dead by the paramedics at 7:50 P.M.


Cause of Death

The Complainant suffered severe head wounds. The preliminary cause of death was determined to be “multiple blunt force injuries” due to “descent from height.”

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

The Complainant jumped from the Burgoyne Bridge in St. Catharines in the evening of October 4, 2018. He died as a result of the injuries incurred in the fall. Moments prior, the SO was on the bridge and had attempted to apprehend the Complainant. For the reasons that follow, there are no reasonable grounds in my view to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death.

It is clear and obvious that the SO bears no criminal responsibility in connection with the Complainant’s death. The only offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. The offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances. In the brief period that the SO dealt with the Complainant on the Burgoyne Bridge, it is apparent she did nothing that would transgress the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law. The officer would have been aware that the Complainant was suicidal and had intentions of jumping from the bridge. When the Complainant was within her reach, the SO attempted to apprehend him, presumably under the MHA. She would have been well within her rights in so doing given the exigencies of the situation. Regrettably, the Complainant was able to break free and quickly make his way to the handrail, over which he jumped. The officer could do no more than watch as he went over. Without the luxury of time, I am satisfied that the SO acted reasonably in adopting the course that she did. Consequently, there are no grounds to charge the officer in connection with the Complainant’s death and the file is closed.


Date: August 26, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit