RunnersCruiser and motorbikeCruiser accident
thick blue gradient line

SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCI-053

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 serious injuries sustained by a 29-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On March 11, 2019, at 9:45 a.m., the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) notified the SIU of an injury to the Complainant.

The OPS reported that on March 10, 2019, at about 1:00 a.m., police officers were flagged down by a woman [now known to be Civilian Witness (CW) #4] in the Byward Market area of Ottawa. The woman pointed out the man [now known to be the Complainant] to the police officers, advising she had just been assaulted by him. As police officers approached the Complainant, he fled on foot. The police officers gave chase and took him to the ground in the area of 247 Dalhousie Street, where the Complainant struggled with police officers. A Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) was deployed in the ‘drive stun’ mode, which allowed police officers to handcuff the Complainant. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) was contacted and transported the Complainant to the Ottawa General Hospital (OGH) for assessment. The Complainant was diagnosed with a fractured rib and a displaced sternum. 
 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 4
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1

Complainant:

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


Civilian Witnesses

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

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed


Subject Officers

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


Evidence

The Scene

The intersection of Dalhousie and Murray Streets.

Communications Recordings

The SO requested the Communications Centre put him and WO #1 on a call at a bar on Dalhousie Street.

The SO requested an ambulance at Dalhousie and Murray Streets for an arrested man, who was highly intoxicated and unconscious, but breathing, in the back seat.

WO #1 was en route to the OGH with the SO riding in the ambulance.

Forensic Evidence


Summary of the CEW Discharge

The CEW was deployed on March 10, 2019 at 1:05:27 a.m. for a duration of five seconds.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPS:
  • Computer Aided Dispatch;
  • Call Hardcopy;
  • Radio transmissions;
  • Duty Roster;
  • Investigative Action-WO #1;
  • Involved Officer List;
  • Notes of witness officers;
  • Policy-Arrest;
  • Policy-Use of Force;
  • Training Record-the SO (redacted);
  • Training Record-WO #1 (redacted);
  • Witness Statement of CW #2; and
  • Witness Statement of CW #4. 

Materials obtained from Other Sources

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following documents from other sources:
  • Ambulance Call Report from Ottawa EMS; and
  • Medical records from OGH.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are not in dispute and may be summarized in short order. At about 1:00 a.m. on March 10, 2019, the SO and his partner, WO #1, were on patrol near Dalhousie Street in Ottawa in their marked cruiser when they were flagged by an individual pointing at the Complainant and indicating that he had assaulted several people. As WO #1 turned onto Dalhousie Street, the Complainant picked up his pace northward, falling several times in the process. The cruiser pulled ahead of the Complainant and came to a stop at the southeast corner of Dalhousie and Murray Streets. The SO exited the front passenger door and confronted the Complainant, running toward him. The officer advised the Complainant he was under arrest and ordered him to stop. The Complainant maneuvered past the SO and ran diagonally across the intersection. The SO, with WO #1 behind him on foot, gave chase and caught up with the Complainant, taking him to the ground on the sidewalk at the northwest corner of the Dalhousie and Murray Streets intersection.

While on the ground, the Complainant physically resisted the officers’ efforts to take him into custody. He flailed his body and refused to release his hands, which he kept tucked underneath his torso face-first on the ground, to be handcuffed. To no avail, the officers repeatedly ordered the Complainant to stop resisting and tried to pry his arms free. As the struggle continued, the SO delivered two right-knee-strikes to the right side of the Complainant’s torso. The strikes having done little to subdue the Complainant, the SO drew his CEW and deployed it against the Complainant in drive-stun mode. Though the SO believed he did so twice, the data downloaded from his weapon indicated the CEW was discharged once for five seconds at 1:05:27 a.m. Following the use of the CEW, the SO and WO #1 were able to wrestle control of the Complainant’s arms and secure them in handcuffs.

After the arrest, the Complainant was escorted to the officers’ cruiser and lodged in the backseat, where he lapsed in and out of consciousness. Paramedics were summoned to the scene and took the Complainant to hospital, where his injuries were diagnosed.

Relevant Legislation

Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority

25 (1) Every one who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law
(a) as a private person,
(b) as a peace officer or public officer,
(c) in aid of a peace officer or public officer, or
(d) by virtue of his office,
is, if he acts on reasonable grounds, justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do and in using as much force as is necessary for that purpose.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant was arrested by OPS officers on March 10, 2019. He was subsequently taken from the scene of the arrest to hospital and diagnosed with a fractured rib and sternum. Among the two arresting officers, the SO was identified as the one most likely to have caused or contributed to the Complainant’s injuries. For the reasons that follow, I am satisfied there are no reasonable grounds to believe the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s arrest and injuries.

Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are immune from criminal liability for force used in the course of their duties provided the force was reasonably necessary in the execution of an act they were authorized or required to do by law. The Complainant, in a state of severe intoxication and belligerence, had assaulted a number of people prior to the officers’ arrival on scene. Alerted to the Complainant’s behaviour by witnesses in the area, the SO and WO #1 were within their rights in pursuing the Complainant with the intention of arresting him. When the Complainant resisted his arrest by fleeing from the officers and then refusing to be handcuffed without a struggle, the officers were entitled to respond with force of their own to effect their purpose. Starting with the SO’s takedown of the Complainant, I am satisfied the tactic was a reasonable one in the circumstances. The Complainant was running away from a scene in which he had reportedly just assaulted several individuals. Bringing the Complainant to the ground would effectively end his escape ambitions and place him in a position where the officers could better deal with any continuing violence on his part. I am further of the view that the knee-strikes and CEW discharge did not cross the line into excessive force. The physical blows were struck after a period of grappling with the Complainant, during which he refused multiple requests by the officers that he desist. When the strikes proved ineffective, resort was made by the SO to his CEW, following which the officers were able to handcuff the Complainant’s arms. On this record, I am satisfied that the force used by the officers progressed incrementally in a measured and proportionate fashion to meet the physical challenges posed by the Complainant to his arrest.

In the result, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the force used by the SO ran afoul of what was reasonably necessary in aid of the Complainant’s lawful arrest. Consequently, though it may be one or more of the Complainant’s injuries were inflicted in the course of his arrest, [1] there are no grounds for proceeding with charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: October 21, 2019



Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) The evidence gives rise to the distinct possibility that the Complainant’s fractured rib and/or sternum occurred when he struck a parking sign and/or fell to the ground during his flight from police. [Back to text]