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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-TCD-291

Contents:

News Releases for this Case:

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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 28-year-old woman (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On September 28, 2018, at 6:00 p.m., officers responded to a call regarding a female, now known to be the Complainant, sitting on a balcony ledge of a condominium unit at 68 Shuter Street, Toronto. 

Toronto Police Service (TPS) police officers arrived, entered the unit where the Complainant was reportedly seen, and saw the Complainant on the balcony standing on a chair. An officer tried to reach out and grab the woman before she went over the rail.
The Complainant was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2

Complainant:

28-year-old female, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Not interviewed (Next-of-kin)
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Not interviewed, but notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO #1 Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right
SO #2 Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed


Evidence

The Scene

The scene was located at 68 Shuter Street and it had two areas that required examination.
Shuter Street was located in a commercial residential area of downtown Toronto. 68 Shuter Street was a multi-level (29 story condominium) located on the northeast corner of Shuter Street and Dalhousie Street.

Shuter Street ran in a general east west direction. There was one paved and marked lane in each direction, with marked bicycle lanes and raised concrete sidewalks on either side of the roadway. 

The main entrance door to 68 Shuter Street was located on the south side of the building. The door is access controlled. Upon entry to the condominium complex there was a security area that was staffed by security personnel.

The condominium was a two bedroom unit with a main bathroom and an ensuite bathroom off the main bedroom. There was a combination kitchen seating area that has been converted to an office with a desk in the southwest corner. The unit was sparsely furnished and relatively tidy. 

On top of the desk was a ¼ full bottle of whiskey (750 ml). There was also a woman’s wallet with Ontario driver’s licence in the name of the Complainant and a male’s wallet with an Ontario driver’s licence with the same address.

Underneath a passport was a yellow-coloured sticky note pad with an apology and instructions to call a specific telephone number. 

There was an outdoor balcony accessible from the unit. The balcony had a wood chair (similar to chairs in the unit) in front of the railing. The railings have clear Plexiglas bottoms topped with a vinyl handrail.

There were visible footwear impressions on the seat of the chair – similar to the tread impressions on the two Nike shoes found on the roadway.

Examination of the hand rail revealed finger impression (no ridge detail) on the balcony side of the railing and detail similar to someone seated on the railing.

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram

Forensic Evidence

A post-mortem examination was conducted on the Complainant. The examination was performed on October 1, 2018. The Report of Postmortem Examination Report was received from the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service on March 4, 2019. Toxicology and histology revealed there was a presence of Ethanol in the Complainant’s blood. The amount, 16 mg/100ml, was determined to be non-contributory.

It was determined that the Complainant’s death was attributed to multiple blunt impact trauma. The mechanism of death was determined to be physical disruption of vital organs. All of the injuries could be attributed to a descent from height.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


CCTV – 68 Shuter Street


On October 3, 2018, the SIU received a Universal Serial Bus (USB) drive that contained CCTV footage and pictures from 68 Shuter Street, Toronto. The footage and pictures were date stamped September 29, 2018. The following is a summary of that footage:
  • The camera view was the northern curb and sidewalk near the main entrance for 68 Shuter Street. There was a yellow fire hydrant on the sidewalk close to the curb.
  • At 6:17:37 p.m., the Complainant landed face down on the sidewalk.
  • At 6:17:38 p.m., both of the Complainant’s shoes flew off her feet towards the roadway.
  • At 6:17:40 p.m., a dark article of clothing landed on the roadway.
  • At 6:17:49 p.m., a small piece of dark clothing consistent with the article of clothing on the roadway landed on the sidewalk east of the fire hydrant.
  • At 6:19:08 p.m., a male uniform police officer arrived on foot.
  • At 6:19:28 p.m., the officer stood to the left side of the Complainant and he reached to her right shoulder rolling her slightly to her left side. A second police officer wearing a police hat walked to the area writing notes. The first police officer appeared to check the Complainant for a pulse on her left arm.
  • At 6:19:57 p.m., the first police officer pulled the Complainant to her left side and checked her pulse at her neck.
  • At 6:20:55 p.m., the Complainant was placed on her back and the police officer performed chest compressions on the Complainant.
  • At 6:21:19 p.m., Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived. Paramedics assessed the Complainant while the police officer performed chest compressions.
  • At 6:23:10 p.m., paramedics cut the Complainant’s shirt and placed Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) pads and an airway on her.
  • At 6:24:30 p.m., an orange blanket was spread out to cover the activity of EMS personnel from the public as paramedics performed chest compressions.
  • At 6:30:55 p.m., the Complainant was covered with the orange blanket. Paramedics packed up their gear.

Police Communications Recordings

The communications audio and telephone call recordings were obtained and reviewed. The following is a summary of the relevant communications. 

At about 6:10 p.m., police receive information about a male sitting on the edge of a balcony railing, leaning forward and swinging his legs back and forth.

At about 6:11 p.m., police receive information that the male has been out there for about 15 minutes.

At about 6:18 p.m., police officers are on the floor and the male is still on balcony ledge looking down.

At about 6:19 p.m., the male went over the balcony.

Nothing was heard that caused concern for this investigation.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the TPS:
  • Event Details Report;
  • Notes of the witness officers and SO #2;
  • Parade Sheet Report;
  • TPS Internal Checks; and
  • Communication Tape.

Incident Narrative

The circumstances surrounding the Complainant’s death are clear on the evidence collected by the SIU. At about 6:10 p.m., a 911 call was placed to TPS reporting a “man” sitting on the railing of a balcony unit at 68 Shuter Street several stories up. The call was made by one of the residents of a neighbouring condominium building who had observed the “male” in that position for about 15 minutes. The “male” was, in fact, the Complainant. She was seated on the railing of her balcony with her feet dangling over the edge of the building.

Police officers rushed to the scene. Among the first to arrive in separate cruisers were SO #1 and SO #2. They entered the building and made their way to the Complainant’s unit. The door to the unit was not fully closed. The officers entered and announced their presence as police officers. Hearing nothing, they proceeded to quickly search the small unit and found nothing of any consequence.

The door to the balcony was open and the officers could see the Complainant sitting on the railing with her back to them. As the balcony was small, SO #2 followed as SO #1 made his way toward the Complainant. Believing he had an opportunity to safely return the Complainant onto the balcony, SO #1 placed his right hand over the Complainant’s right shoulder and took hold of her collar. The Complainant reacted by turning to face SO #1, pulling the officer in toward her, and then pushing off against the officer over the railing. SO #1 kept hold of the Complainant momentarily as she fell over the railing, but the sweater he had a grip of slid off the Complainant. The Complainant landed on the ground below. The time was about 6:20 p.m.

WO #4, who was on the ground next to the building managing vehicular and pedestrian traffic, saw the Complainant land. He approached the body, checked for a pulse and started to perform CPR. Paramedics arrived soon after and took over the Complainant’s care. She had sustained grievous injuries from the fall and could not be saved. The Complainant was declared deceased at the scene.

Cause of Death

The pathologist at post-mortem attributed the Complainant’s death to “multiple blunt impact trauma”.

Relevant Legislation

Sections 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 died in the evening of September 29, 2018 after falling several floors from the balcony of her condominium unit. Two TPS police officers were in and around the balcony at the time of the fall, SO #1 and SO #2. For the reasons that follow, there are no reasonable grounds in my view to believe that either officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death.

Once notified of the incident, the police responded promptly to the scene. The situation was an emergency and the officers did what they could to abort what clearly was an intention on the part of the Complainant to end her life. Based on their observations of the Complainant from ground level, the officers correctly deduced the location of the Complainant’s unit and wasted no time in making their way there. Once on the balcony and sensing an opportunity to safely take hold of the Complainant, SO #1 grabbed her collar and attempted to rein her in. I am satisfied that action, while precipitating the chain of events culminating in the Complainant’s jump, was a reasonable tactic in the circumstances. The Complainant reacted by pulling him toward her and then pushing off against the officer. That sequence placed SO #1’s life in danger as he struggled to maintain his grip on the Complainant and was dragged toward the railing, his balance secured by SO #2 from behind. All told, SO #1 was on the balcony with the Complainant for a matter of seconds before she jumped. On this record, I am satisfied the subject officers acted at all times with due care and regard for the Complainant, and in pursuit of their foremost duty – the protection and preservation of life. Consequently, there are no grounds to believe that either officer is criminally implicated in the Complainant’s self-inflicted death, and the file is closed.


Date: September 6, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit