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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-OCI-327

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 serious injuries sustained by an 18-year-old woman (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On November 5, 2018 at 4:13 a.m., the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) notified the SIU of the Complainant’s injury. The NRPS reported that on November 5, 2018 at 12:52 a.m., NRPS received a 911 call from a distressed female who was threatening to jump off the Burgoyne Bridge.

NRPS officers responded to the area and located the woman on the bridge. A female police officer attempted to intervene but could only grab a hold of the woman’s shirt which tore, causing the woman to fall about 30 feet down onto a grassy embankment. The unidentified woman was transported to the St. Catharines Site, Niagara Health System, where she was diagnosed with a possible spinal fracture, fractured ribs and a collapsed lung. 

The Team

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

On November 5, 2018 three SIU investigators and one forensic investigator were assigned. The SIU arrived on the scene at 5:40 a.m., and immediately began an investigation. Civilian witnesses were identified and interviewed. SIU investigators conducted a canvass of the area where the incident occurred in an attempt to locate video surveillance footage relevant to this incident. No video footage was discovered because the Burgoyne Bridge was not equipped with surveillance cameras. The scene was forensically examined and photographed. 
 

Complainant:

18-year-old female interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #3 Interviewed


Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

The Burgoyne Bridge or the St. Paul Street Bridge, is a new 333-metre structure that was built in 2017 over Highway 406 and the Twelve Mile Creek River in St. Catharines. The roadway on the bridge is St. Paul Street. The bridge accommodates eastbound and westbound lanes of traffic and a sidewalk. The distance from the top of the railing to the grassy embankment where the Complainant fell was measured at 7.62 to 9.1 metres.

Communications Recordings


Summary of NRPS Radio Communications Recordings


The CAD report and communications recordings were consistent with the information provided by the SO’s notebook entries, and information from witness officers and civilian witnesses. The first radio transmission from any of the involved officers was from the SO being dispatched to the Burgoyne Bridge at 12:56 a.m., on November 5, 2018 in search of a female threatening to jump. At the same time an undesignated officer interrupted and stated he believed the female to be the Complainant. Within 58 seconds of the undesignated officer’s transmission, the SO radioed she was near the bridge and saw a person running westbound on the opposite side of the bridge.

The SO transmitted that the Complainant was running towards the railings of the bridge. The SO continued to transmit she had a hold of the Complainant on the railings. The police dispatcher asked the SO if she had the Complainant. The SO responded that the Complainant’s shirt ripped and the Complainant fell to the ground below the bridge. The SO further transmitted that she could see the Complainant’s boyfriend near a restaurant and requested an officer to intercept the boyfriend before he reached the bridge. The SO gave a description of the boyfriend.

At the same time WO #1 responded on the radio that the Complainant was unconscious but breathing. He requested an ambulance to attend their location. WO #1 also requested officers to block opposite ends of the bridge to prevent traffic from travelling through the scene.

The remaining radio transmissions concerned the Complainant’s condition on how she was responding to officers, trying to stand. Other continuing segments of the radio transmissions involved locating the Complainant’s boyfriend. The remaining radio transmissions offered no new information to this investigation.

NRPS 911 Calls


SIU received and reviewed NRPS audio files relating to 911 calls that the Complainant and her boyfriend made to 911 operators on November 5, 2018.

At 12:52 a.m., a 911 operator received a telephone call from the Complainant. The Complainant sounded agitated on the telephone when she reported a guy was trying to hurt her. The 911 operator asked the Complainant several times for her name and address, which the Complainant did not immediately provide. She continuously told the 911 operator that she was beat up by a neighbour. Meanwhile a male voice (believed to be the Complainant’s boyfriend) can be heard cursing in the background that he wanted his things back.

The 911 operator again asked the Complainant for her name and her address, which the Complainant provided. After that the Complainant told the 911 operator that she was going to jump off the St. Paul Bridge. The Complainant ended the conversation by hanging up the telephone.

At 12:55 a.m., the Complainant’s boyfriend called a different 911 operator to report that a female (believed to be the Complainant) trapped him inside her house, attacked him, chased him down a flight of stairs and threatened suicide if he left. A female voice (believed to be the Complainant) can be heard shouting in the background during their telephone conversation. The Complainant’s boyfriend identified himself to the 911 operator and reported that the Complainant just ran outside, threatening to jump off the St. Paul Bridge. The 911 operator asked him for a description of the Complainant which he provided. The 911 operator instructed him to remain in front of his residence and an officer would arrive to speak with him.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the NRPS:
  • CAD Summary;
  • Call Detail Summary;
  • Communications Master Logger Transcript;
  • Communications transmissions;
  • General Occurrence Report (x2);
  • Notes of the witness officers and subject officer
  • Procedure-General Order-Mentally Ill Persons; and
  • Complainant’s file-email-Files attached.

Incident Narrative

The events in question are relatively clear based on the information collected by the SIU. Shortly before 1:00 a.m. of November 5, 2018, the Complainant called 911 and indicated she was going to jump off the Burgoyne Bridge. The bridge connects St. Paul Street over Highway 406 and a creek. Moments later, a person who was with the Complainant contacted 911 to report that the Complainant had just run outside threatening to jump off the bridge. Police were immediately dispatched to the area.

The SO was the first to arrive in her cruiser. She observed the Complainant on the bridge and called out to her. The Complainant ran away from the officer, and the SO gave chase on foot. The Complainant climbed over the bridge railing and was grabbed by the SO. The two struggled with each other: the Complainant attempting to free herself from the SO’s grasp; the SO trying to prevent the Complainant from jumping. Within seconds, the Complainant’s top ripped and she was able to push herself away from the officer, falling from the bridge onto a grassy area some seven to nine metres below. Paramedics responded to the scene and the Complainant was taken to hospital where she was diagnosed with multiple fractures and a lung injury.

Relevant Legislation

Sections 219 and 221, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing bodily harm

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.

221 Every one who by criminal negligence causes bodily harm to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

Analysis and Director's Decision

In the early morning of November 5, 2018, the Complainant fell from the Burgoyne Bridge in St. Catharines. She suffered serious injuries as a result of the impact with the ground. The SO had attempted to prevent her from falling off the bridge. For the reasons that follow, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s injuries.

The offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing bodily harm contrary to section 221 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 exercised in the circumstances. The SO was in the lawful execution of her duty to preserve and protect life when she responded to the Burgoyne Bridge and attempted to prevent the Complainant from jumping. The officer arrived at the bridge immediately following a call from the Complainant threatening suicide. Once there, and observing the Complainant running toward the bridge railing, the SO acted quickly and with resolve; she ran after the Complainant and managed to take hold of her as she was perched on the railing. There followed a struggle during which, I am satisfied, the officer did all she could to force the Complainant safely back onto the bridge. Regrettably, the Complainant’s top ripped during the struggle, the officer lost her hold and the Complainant fell. On this record, there is no basis to reasonably conclude that the SO ran afoul of the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law. Indeed, the evidence indicates the officer’s swift action prevented the Complainant from reaching a point on the bridge over Highway 406, from which location a descent would have been much more perilous.



Date: September 13, 2019



Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit