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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-049

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 a serious injury sustained by a 19-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On March 7, 2019 at 4:00 p.m., the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) reported an injury to the Complainant.

The OPS reported that on March 7, 2019, at 11:00 a.m., OPS police officers were dispatched to the Herongate Mall at 1670 Heron Road in Ottawa regarding a man (later identified as the Complainant) attempting to pass counterfeit currency. On arrival of police, the Complainant fled from the premises and a short foot chase followed. The Complainant attempted to evade the police officers by running over the top of a large snowbank but he fell on the back side of the snowbank. Police officers took the Complainant into custody and he was taken to the Ottawa General Hospital (OGH) complaining of severe leg pain. He was released from police custody at the scene on an Appearance Notice. At OGH, he was diagnosed with a fractured left femur.

No scene was held by police. The OPS reported there were several civilian witnesses to this event and police obtained their contact information but did not interview them.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 2

Complainant:

19-year-old male interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, but declined to submit notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right


Evidence

The Scene

Herongate Mall at 1670 Heron Road in Ottawa is a large open concept 16-acre shopping mall with 1,100 parking spaces, numerous big box stores and other commercial premises.

It is bordered on the north by Heron Road and on the south by Walkley Road. Heron Road was a four lane paved roadway running east and west and Walkley Road was a four lane paved roadway running north east and south west. March 7, 2019 was a clear, sunny day.

The sidewalks, parking lot and road surfaces were wet and slushy as a result of a recent heavy snowfall. As a result of the parking lot being plowed, there were numerous three to four foot snowbanks at the south edge of the parking lot where it bordered the north sidewalk of Walkley Road. The top and sides of these snowbanks were icy and slippery.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


Summary of CCTV Footage from Herongate Mall


A DVD with CCTV footage from four different cameras located at the front entrance/exit, the customer service desk, cash register 2, and an entire store overview was provided to SIU investigators. There was no audio on this footage. The footage depicted the following:

At 11:14:12 a.m., the SO entered the store. The Complainant immediately and quickly walked to the exit, located very close to the entrance doors that the SO had entered the store by. Once outside the store, the Complainant ran out into the parking lot outside the main doors of the store and out of camera view. There were no external cameras monitoring the parking lot.

Communications Recordings


Summary of 911 call from 1670 Heron Road


Operator: I have an officer that’s about to pull up on the scene any second now.
The CW: I see the officer now. Do you want me to go to the officer?
Operator: Sure as long as it doesn’t alert the subject.
The CW: Actually ya, he’s leaving. He’s walking now. I’ve just alerted him. Ya, the officer is running after him right now he’s making a run for it. They are on Walkley Road right now. I did not see where they ended up, sorry, they were running really fast. I think they caught him now. Yep they caught him, they arrested him right now. Thank you.


Summary of OPS Communications Recording


11:09:53 a.m., Dispatch to the SO: 10-47 in progress at 1670 Heron Road. A male there is trying to pay with fake money. It’s the fourth time this week. A white male, 20’s wearing black hoodie and black jacket. Still at the customer service desk.
11:10:10 a.m., (WO #2): WO #2 attending, will assist.
11:14:29 a.m., (The SO): We’re in foot pursuit-male running across [indechiperable].
11:14:44 a.m., (WO #2): I’m with him. He’s got him already. He’s 10-4.
11:16:24 a.m., (WO #2): Can we get OAC rolling. He jumped off the sidewalk.
11:56:58 a.m., (WO #2): Male is being released from our custody on an appearance notice for fraud. OAC is tending to him now.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPS:
  • Detailed Call Summary;
  • Duty Roster;
  • Investigative Actions of witness officers;
  • Mobile Data Terminal Messages of subject officer and witness officers;
  • Notes of witness officers;
  • Photographs of scene;
  • Policy-Fraud Investigations;
  • Policy-Photographic Imaging;
  • Policy-Arrest;
  • Policy-Prisoner Care and Control;
  • Policy-Use of Force;
  • Policy-Release of Person;
  • Policy-Special investigation Unit Engagement;
  • Records Management System (RMS) background (Person Hardcopy)-the Complainant;
  • Training Record-the SO (redacted);
  • Will State of witness officers; and
  • Witness Statement.

Materials from Other Sources

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following items from sources other than the involved police service:
  • Patient health records of the Complainant from the OGH; and
  • Ambulance Call Reports from Ottawa Paramedic Service.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are apparent on the weight of the reliable evidence and may be summarized in short order. Just after 11:00 a.m., the SO was dispatched to attend the Herongate Mall following a 911 call. The CW called to report that a male – the Complainant – had attempted to purchase merchandise with counterfeit money. The CW further indicated that the same male had in the previous week done the same on multiple occasions. The SO entered the store at about 11:15 a.m. and was quickly alerted to the presence of the Complainant by the CW. The Complainant panicked at the sight of the officer and exited the store, thereafter running in a southerly direction toward Walkley Road. The SO pursued the Complainant out the doors and through the store’s parking lot. As he neared the southern edge of the store’s parking lot, the Complainant scaled a snowbank about a metre in height and collapsed to the ground onto the Walkley Road sidewalk on the other side of the snowbank. The SO arrived within seconds to find the Complainant laying on the sidewalk. The officer handcuffed the Complainant without incident. Together with WO #2, arriving at the scene in response to the same 911 call, the SO picked the Complainant up off the ground and assisted him to a bus shelter bench when it was apparent that he had injured his left leg. An ambulance was summoned and transported the Complainant to hospital where his injury was diagnosed and treated.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant fractured his left femur in the morning of March 7, 2019. The injury occurred as the result of a fall to the ground on the north sidewalk of Walkley Road just south of 1670 Heron Road. The SO had been chasing the Complainant and arrested him after his fall to the ground. For the reasons that follow, I am satisfied there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s arrest and injury.

I am cognizant that the SIU’s investigation gathered some evidence suggesting that the SO pushed the Complainant off the snowbank and then tackled him to the ground, breaking his leg in the process. However, I do not believe this evidence on these points because its source was proven dishonest in recounting other material facts related to the Complainant’s involvement in the incident. In the result, it would be unwise and unsafe to place any weight on the suggestion that the SO physically engaged the Complainant on the snowbank.

I am satisfied that the SO was proceeding to lawfully arrest the Complainant for trying to pass counterfeit money. When the Complainant ran in an effort to evade apprehension, the SO was entitled to chase after him. Regrettably, the Complainant fractured his left leg when he fell coming off a metre-high snowbank, but he has only himself to blame for that. The SO was a distance behind the Complainant at the time and could only watch as the Complainant tumbled to the ground. Arriving to find the Complainant on the ground, the officer handcuffed him without need for any force, and then did what he could to comfort the Complainant while they waited for an ambulance to arrive at the scene. On this record, there is simply no basis to reasonably conclude that the SO acted other than lawfully and professionally at all times in his dealings with the Complainant. Accordingly, there are no grounds to proceed with charges in this case.



Date: October 15, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit