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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OCD-120

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 40-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On June 4, 2019, at 12:55 p.m., the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant
The WRPS advised that on June 4, 2019, at 12:20 p.m., WRPS received information about a suicidal man [now determined to be the Complainant] on the overpass at Highway 86 and Northfield Drive. WRPS police officers responded and one police officer began speaking to the Complainant. As the Complainant was about to jump, the police officer tried to grab him but was unsuccessful. The Complainant fell to his death and was transported to the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener. The scene was held.

The Team

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

Complainant:

40-year-old male deceased


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 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

The scene was at Highway 85 North at the Northfield Drive overpass, Waterloo. Highway 85 northbound lanes were closed to traffic and the scene was properly protected. The Northfield Drive overpass was closed-off and properly protected. On the exit ramp from the northbound lanes to the Northfield Drive overpass there was an area of debris and a large pooling of suspected blood on the roadway. This area was situated directly underneath the southern edge of the overpass.

The scene was photographed showing overall views of the roadway, location of evidence and the overpass bridge. The following items were collected as exhibits: “Fireball” cinnamon whiskey bottle 375ml (empty), a piece of plastic decoration, an “Underarmor” sandal (left), a black baseball hat, an “Underarmor” sandal (right), a cell phone, a swab of suspected blood, a “Coolpix” camera and a photograph.

At the upper scene, there were three police cruisers present within the confines of the scene. All three cruisers were parked and orientated east near the southern edge of the overpass in close proximity above the point of impact.

The bridge railing directly above the point of impact was examined and it was determined the surface of the railing was unsuitable for latent fingerprint development. The scene was photographed showing overall views and locations of the police cruisers. Views were also taken of the railing above the point of impact. The bridge distance to the point of impact was measured to be 8.17 metres and the height of the railing was measured at 1 metre.

Communications Recordings

Communications recordings were reviewed, and it was determined they were not integral to this investigation since they failed to address how or why the Complainant jumped from the overpass.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the WRPS:
  • Communication recordings;
  • Computer-Assisted Dispatch;
  • Notes of witness officers;
  • Procedure-Arrest and Release;
  • Procedure-Use of Force; and
  • WRPS Occurrence Report.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are evident on the information collected by the SIU in its investigation, including statements from the subject officer, two witness officers who were present in the area and three civilian eyewitnesses. Shortly before noon of June 4, 2019, the SO arrived in his marked cruiser on the Northfield Drive overpass atop Highway 85. He was there following a 911 call from a concerned citizen reporting that a male – the Complainant – was lingering near the guardrail of the bridge and looking like he might jump. The Complainant was distraught and suicidal. He drank from a bottle of whiskey and smoked a cigarette.

The SO, soon joined by WO #1 and WO #2, approached the Complainant on the south sidewalk of the overpass. The officer called out to the Complainant and told him he was there to help. The Complainant rebuffed the SO, telling the officer no one could help him and to go away. The SO maintained his distance but persisted in trying to win the Complainant’s trust. These efforts proved in vain. Several minutes after the officers’ arrival, the Complainant suddenly grabbed the overpass guardrail, leapt over the railing and briefly stood on the outer ledge before jumping to the highway below. The SO and WO #2 ran to try and save him. The SO made brief contact with the Complainant’s upper body but was unable to maintain any type of grip as the Complainant fell from the bridge.

The Complainant landed some eight metres below on the northbound Highway 85 exit ramp. WO #1 and WO #2 rushed to his body and rendered emergency first-aid, including CPR, until the arrival of firefighters and paramedics. The Complainant was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Cause of Death

The pathologist at the Complainant’s autopsy determined the cause of his death to be blunt force injuries to the head.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant fell to his death from the Northfield Drive bridge over Highway 85 in Waterloo on June 4, 2019. Three WRPS police officers were present with him on the bridge at the time, including the SO, who was identified as the subject officer for purposes of the SIU investigation. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death.

The SO was acting in pursuit of an officer’s foremost duty to protect and preserve life when he approached the Complainant on the Northfield Drive overpass and attempted to prevent him for harming himself. Realizing that the Complainant was extremely agitated and standing by the guardrail, the officer maintained a comfortable distance from the Complainant, reasonably in my view, so as to not provoke him into drastic action. From that location, the SO spoke to the Complainant in calm and compassionate tones. Regrettably, the Complainant was completely unreceptive. He paced back and forth on the sidewalk along the guardrail and repeatedly told the SO to leave in no uncertain terms. As the incident unfolded, WO #1 continuously updated the police dispatcher with what was happening. A call was made to have a trained negotiator brought to the scene and traffic on Highway 85 in the area of the bridge was cleared. Each of the officers was equipped with a CEW but, as one of them explained, it does not appear their use was advisable in the circumstances given the officers’ distance from the Complainant and the amount of wind present on the bridge. When the Complainant hopped over the guardrail, the SO rushed to grab him but was unable to prevent his descent to the roadway below.

On the aforementioned record, I am satisfied that the SO did what he reasonably could to save the Complainant, was professional throughout the incident as it unfolded, and in no way contributed to the Complainant’s self-inflicted death in any fashion that could attract criminal sanction. Accordingly, there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: December 9, 2019

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Interim Director
Special Investigations Unit