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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OVD-161

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 the deaths of a 36-year-old man (“Complainant #1”) and a 62-year-old woman (“Complainant #2”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On July 7, 2019, at 2:32 p.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) notified the SIU of the following.

The OPP reported that on July 7, 2019, at 12:00 p.m., a woman called the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) to report that Complainant #1 had sexually assaulted her in a hotel. When the police officers arrived at the hotel, Complainant #1 had already left.

An OPS officer saw the vehicle Complainant #1 was driving on Highway (Hwy) 417. An OPS cruiser and an OPP cruiser attempted a rolling block of the vehicle, but they were unsuccessful, and the vehicle continued. The pursuit was terminated by the OPP.

A third OPP officer, who was travelling in the same direction as Complainant #1, came across a multi-vehicle collision on Hwy 417, near Panmure Road. The OPP confirmed that the vehicle Complainant #1 was driving was involved in the collision.

Complainant #1 and Complainant #2 were both found to be deceased, while two other civilians were severely injured. 

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 4
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2

SIU Forensic Investigators photographed the scene and videotaped the route which Complainant #1’s vehicle had traveled. The area was canvassed for surveillance cameras and witnesses.

Because the OPP had a fatal accident to investigate, the SIU turned the collision scene over to them. 

Complainants:

Complainant #1 36-year-old male, deceased
Complainant #2 62-year-old female, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed
CW #6 Interviewed
CW #7 Interviewed
CW #8 Interviewed
CW #9 Interviewed
CW #10 Interviewed
CW #11 Interviewed
CW #12 Interviewed
CW #13 Interviewed
CW #14 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 collision was located in the westbound lanes of Hwy 417, which is a two lane highway, about two kilometres west of Panmure Road. There were six civilian vehicles involved in the collision: a Honda Civic, a Ford Focus, a Mazda 3, a Dodge Durango, a Toyota Corolla, and a Mazda 3.

Figure 1- Scene of the fatal collision involving six vehicles on Highway 417.

Figure 1- Scene of the fatal collision involving six vehicles on Highway 417.

Forensic Evidence


Summary of Global Positioning System (GPS) Data:



Police Vehicle #1 (operated by the SO) travelled westbound on Hwy 417 at speeds ranging from 86.7 km/h to 147.2 km/h but maintained a speed close to the 100 km/h posted speed limit for 15.3 kilometres, arriving at Kinburn Side Road. Police Vehicle #1 exited Hwy 417, then traveled eastbound on Hwy 417 at speeds between 71.4 km/h and 157.1 km/h, before coming to a complete stop at 12:57 p.m. about 1.6 kilometres east of Kinburn Side Road. It remained stopped until 12:59 p.m., then accelerated continually to 170.2 km/h just east of Grant Side Road at 1:01 p.m. Police Vehicle #1 gradually decreased speed, coming to a complete stop at 1:03 p.m. at a point about 2.2 kilometres east of Grant Side Road or more east of the half-way point between Grant Side and Panmure Roads.

Police Vehicle #2 (operated by WO #2) was eastbound on Hwy 417, 271 metres west of Decosta Street in Arnprior, with speeds ranging from 92 to 111 km/h. It traveled 1.3 kilometres on Hwy 417 and stopped at the west shoulder of CR 29, just south of Shaw Road. Police Vehicle #2 then travelled 11.8 kilometres on CR 29, with speeds ranging from 98 to 61 km/h. Police Vehicle #2 travelled 3.7 kilometres northeast on Kinburn Side Road, with speeds ranging between 134-164 km/h. The top speed of 164 km/h was sustained for less than 2 seconds, northeast on Kinburn Side Road. Police Vehicle #2 stopped 441 metres west of Dwyer Hill Road and 1.2 kilometres east of Hwy 417.

Police Vehicle #3 (operated by WO #1) stopped in the westbound bullnose of Hwy 417, 211 metres west of Eagleson Road in Kanata. Police Vehicle #3 then travelled southwest on Hwy 417, with speeds ranging from 23 to 174 km/h. The top speed of 182 km/h was achieved at the beginning of the Hwy 7 southbound ramp. Police Vehicle #3 travelled northwest on Hwy 417, with speeds ranging from 138-182 km/h. The top speed of 196 km/h was achieved about half way between Vaughan Side and Panmure Roads. Police Vehicle #3 travelled south on Hwy 417 at 71 km/h and stopped in the centre median of Hwy 417, under the Panmure Road overpass. Police Vehicle #3 proceeded northwest on Hwy 417, with speeds ranging from 10 to 137 km/h and stopped on Hwy 417, 1.2 kilometres west of Panmure Road overpass, having travelled a total of 26.9 kilometres on Hwy 417.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


Summary of the Hotel’s Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV):


Complainant #1 walked through the hotel’s lobby towards the parking’s stairwell. He got in his Honda and drove off.


Summary of the Scene Video Recorded by a Civilian Witness’s Cell Phone:


The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Fire Department at the scene dealt with the wounded persons. The Ornge helicopter landed in the westbound lanes. The helicopter then took off.


Summary of Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Videos:


The 417 Panmure cameras were not working. The recordings had no evidentiary value. 

Communications Recordings


Summary of Communication Recordings:


CW #8 contacted the 911 operator, reporting Complainant #1 had sexually assaulted his daughter. CW #8’s children and Complainant #1 were at the Brookstreet Hotel. CW #8’s daughter was able to notify the family about the offence.

After CW #8’s underage daughter informed the family, Complainant #1 left the room and said he was going to commit suicide. The OPS “pinged” Complainant #1’s cellular phone in the area of Hwy 417. The SO reported he saw Complainant #1 travelling westbound on Hwy 417. OPP officers were dispatched to assist. A rolling block was considered. The police officers were unable to perform the maneuver and decided not to proceed. Complainant #1 exited the highway at Kinburn Side Road and returned to the highway, driving eastbound. The police officers reported that they had terminated the pursuit, and they provided their mileage and pulled over. The OPP officer reported he saw a collision in the distance but was unsure what had happened.


Summary of OPP and OPS Communication Recordings:


The OPP dispatcher informed members about the OPS investigation in the area of Hwys 7 & 417. A man, who had allegedly sexually assaulted a child, was stating he wanted to crash his car. The suspect’s vehicle was westbound on Hwy 417 and the OPS were trying to get the vehicle stopped. The OPS were not in pursuit and were approaching Panmure Road. The OPP was at Kinburn Side Road, in case the vehicle continued westbound.

The SO was going to attempt a rolling block with the OPP at Kinburn Side Road. WO #2 confirmed he was on the west side of the overpass. The SO informed the suspect vehicle had exited at Kinburn Side Road, turned around, and was now going eastbound from Kinburn Side Road. The SO advised that he was following at a distance of approximately 300 metres. An update from the SO indicated: “I’ve terminated the pursuit. I was just pushing him along.” WO #2 confirmed, “I’ve terminated as well. I’m behind OPS unit stopped on the shoulder, giving kilometres when ready.” The SO suggested, “Is there any way we can get stop sticks ahead of him on the 417, either OPP or OPS?”

The SO communicated, “Comm Centre, all units. I was just advised the Mazda head-on collision wrong way just to my west here. Just west of Panmure. It looks like it’s on the eastbound side.” Then, he added, “Actually correction. It’s a … looks like it’s on the westbound side there, right at the curve, westbound just west of Panmure. I’m just a … coming up to the scene here now. Extensive damage to one vehicle, debris all over the road. Looks like he would have come in, crossed over from the eastbound side.”

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP and the OPS:
  • Canadian Police Knowledge Network documents and training logs;
  • Detailed Call Summary;
  • Event Details;
  • OPS and OPP communication recordings;
  • GPS tracking and speed data;
  • Incident Report (x5)
  • Investigative Action-WO #3;
  • Notes of witness officers;
  • OPP Occurrence Computer-Assisted Data (CAD) Event Report;
  • OPP Reconstruction Report;
  • Policy-Traffic Investigations;
  • Total Station Raw Data (x2)
  • Will State-WO #3; and
  • Witness Statement-CW #1 and three additional witnesses.


Materials obtained from Other Sources

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following documents from the Ottawa EMS and Queensway Carleton Hospital:
  • Medical Record; and
  • Patient Call Report, Ambulance Call Report and Incident Report

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following photo/video/audio evidence from civilians:
  • Text message sent to CW #8 by his daughter;
  • Photo of Complainant #1;
  • Cell Phone Data;
  • Photos on Hwy 417 before accident; and
  • MTO CCTV.

Incident Narrative

With the assistance of 14 independent civilian witnesses, who corroborated the evidence of the subject officer and three witness officers, along with the 911 call logs, the police communications recordings, and the GPS data from the police vehicles, the following facts were established.

At approximately 12:45 p.m. on July 7, 2019, the SO spotted Complainant #1’s motor vehicle driving westbound on Hwy 417 west of March Road. The SO began to follow the vehicle at a distance and without the aid of his emergency lighting system or siren. WO #2, of the OPP, who was also in the area, coordinated with the SO to stop Complainant #1’s vehicle by use of a “rolling block”. This maneuver, however, was pre-empted when Complainant #1 exited the highway prior to reaching WO #2’s location, which was just west of the Kinburn Side Road.

At 12:54 p.m., Complainant #1 exited the highway by way of the Kinburn Side Road off ramp, with the SO following. The SO then turned on his emergency lighting system with the intent of pulling alongside Complainant #1’s vehicle and directing him to pull over. Complainant #1, however, took evasive measures to avoid the SO pulling alongside his vehicle, and the SO backed off. Complainant #1 sped up, failing to stop at a stop sign, and travelled south on the Kinburn Side Road with the SO in pursuit, now with lights and sirens activated. The SO contacted his dispatcher and advised that he was in a vehicular pursuit. Complainant #1 re-entered Highway 417 and drove in the eastbound lanes, accelerating away from the SO, who continued to pursue the vehicle with lights and sirens.

At 12:57 p.m., the SO, after pursuing Complainant #1’s motor vehicle for about 1.6 kilometres, pulled over to the south shoulder of Hwy 417 eastbound and stopped. The officer was recorded as reporting to the dispatcher that he had terminated the pursuit and the Honda was no longer in view. The GPS data from the SO’s police vehicle confirmed that he remained stationary at that location until 12:59 p.m.

After the SO had terminated the pursuit, however, Complainant #1 continued to travel eastbound on Hwy 417, following which he was observed to turn into the centre median and then begin to accelerate travelling eastbound in the westbound lanes of traffic at speeds estimated as high as 180 km/h. At a point about 1.2 kilometres west of Panmure Road, and some four kilometres east of where the SO had brought his vehicle to a stop, Complainant #1’s Honda drove directly at two motor vehicles driving westbound in the westbound lanes and collided with those two vehicles head-on. The Honda was observed to neither slow, alter its position, or make any attempt to avoid the head-on collision.

There were no police vehicles observed in the area of the westbound lanes of traffic on Hwy 417, immediately preceding or at the time of the collision.

Cause of Death


On January 29, 2020, the SIU received the Report of Post-mortem Examination completed in relation to Complainant #1. The cause of death of Complainant #1 was determined as “Multiple injuries.”

The SIU also received the Report of Post-mortem Examination completed in relation to Complainant #2. Her cause of death was listed as “Multiple injuries.”

Relevant Legislation

Section 128(13)(b), Highway Traffic Act – Police vehicles and speeding

128(13) The speed limits prescribed under this section or any regulation or by-law passed under this section do not apply to,

(b) a police department vehicle being used in the lawful performance of a police officer’s duties.

Section 320.13, Criminal Code – Dangerous operation causing bodily harm

320.13 (1) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public.

Analysis and Director's Decision

On July 7, 2019, following a police-issued notification to be on the lookout for a male person, Complainant #1, who had allegedly sexually assaulted a child, following which he had threatened to kill himself by driving his vehicle into another motor vehicle, the SO of the OPS spotted Complainant #1’s motor vehicle, a black Honda, and engaged in a police pursuit on the 417 Highway in the Ottawa area. Shortly thereafter, Complainant #1’s motor vehicle crashed head-on into two motor vehicles, killing the driver of one (Complainant #2) and seriously injuring the driver and passenger of another. Complainant #1 also died as a result of injuries sustained in the collision.

The offence that arises for consideration in this case is that of dangerous driving contrary to section 320.13(1) of the Criminal Code. The offence is predicated on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. I am satisfied on balance that the manner in which the SO operated his police vehicle fell within the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law. At a speed upwards of 157 km/h, the top speed reached by the SO during his aborted pursuit, the officer was traveling well over the speed limit. That said, it bears reiterating that the officer quickly pulled to the shoulder and terminated the pursuit, when it became clear to him that Complainant #1 was not going to stop for the officer. The SO’s velocity is also mitigated to an extent by section 128(13)(b) of the Highway Traffic Act, which, while it does not provide an officer free rein to exceed the speed limit without regard to public safety considerations, allows an officer to speed where he or she is in the lawful performance of duty. The SO was clearly in the exercise of his duty at the time. The same be said of the environmental conditions that prevailed at the time. These were favourable – the weather was clear, and the roads were dry with at most moderate vehicular traffic – and would not have exacerbated the inherent risks associated with the SO’s speed. Furthermore, it should be noted that there is no indication that the SO ever actually endangered, by the manner of his driving, any third-party motorists on Hwy 417. In fact, as soon as the SO determined that his pursuit may well have been “pushing” Complainant #1, he immediately terminated and pulled to the shoulder. Unfortunately, the fact that the SO abandoned his efforts and allowed Complainant #1 to flee, did not alter Complainant #1’s apparent goal of killing himself by intentionally causing a head-on collision with other motor vehicles, as evidenced by his deliberate action of entering into the westbound lanes of traffic and driving head-on into oncoming traffic.

In the final analysis, in the context of the SO’s short-lived engagement in this matter, notable for his brief pursuit of the Honda at high speeds which was quickly terminated when the SO determined that it was unsafe to continue, I have no reasonable grounds to believe that the officer either caused or contributed to the collision in question, or otherwise drove dangerously in violation of the Criminal Code.


Date: March 23, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit