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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-OVD-196

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 death of a 25-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On August 16, 2019, at 1:00 p.m., the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant.

The NRPS advised that on August 16, 2019, a NRPS police officer was at the Seaway Mall on Woodlawn Road and Niagara Street in Welland. The police officer saw a motorcycle pass by him going in the opposite direction at a very high speed. The police officer activated the emergency lights on his police cruiser and made a U-turn to go after the motorcycle. The police officer turned off his emergency equipment and pulled his cruiser to the side of the road in short order.

A short distance away, at the intersection of Woodlawn Road and River Road, the motorcycle collided with a civilian vehicle. The motorcycle rider [now determined to be the Complainant] died from his injuries at the scene.

The Team

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

Complainant:

25-year-old male, 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 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed


Evidence

The Scene

The scene had been properly secured and guarded by NRPS. No traffic was allowed to contaminate the scene. Woodlawn Road travelled in an east/west direction with River Road intersecting in a north/south direction. Both roadways were paved asphalt and dry at the time of arrival. Woodlawn Road was a four-lane roadway with an ascending grade as you travel east towards the intersection from the west side. River Road was a two-lane roadway with a level grade. This intersection was controlled by a traffic light that appeared functional at the time of arrival.

There was one visible tire mark that could be attributed to this incident in the eastbound curb lane of Woodlawn Road, which commenced west of the intersection and travelled eastbound to an apparent area of impact in the intersection. There were three vehicles within the confines of the intersection as follows:

Vehicle 1


1999 Kawasaki motorcycle, blue. This vehicle was oriented south, lying on its left side in the south/west quadrant of the intersection. There was collision damage to the entire vehicle.


Figure 1 - The Kawasaki motorcycle with damage to the entire vehicle.

Figure 1 - The Kawasaki motorcycle with damage to the entire vehicle.

Vehicle 2


2016 Hyundai Tucson, black. This vehicle was oriented southeast, in the mid-south crosswalk of the intersection. There was collision damage to the passenger side and driver’s side front corner of the vehicle.


Figure 2 - The Hyundai Tucson with damage to its front side.

Figure 2 - The Hyundai Tucson with damage to its front side.


Vehicle 3


2011 Dodge Caravan, silver. This vehicle was oriented northwest, in the southwest quadrant of the intersection. There was collision damage to the driver’s side of the vehicle.


Figure 3 - The Dodge Caravan with damage to its driver’s side.

Figure 3 - The Dodge Caravan with damage to its driver’s side.


The deceased, the Complainant, was positioned on the roadway lying on his back near Vehicle 1 and Vehicle 2. The deceased’s head was oriented west, with feet oriented east. There was major trauma to the body. The coroner had arrived at the scene and pronounced the Complainant dead. Arrangements were made for body removal at this time.

On August 16, 2019, at 6:00 p.m., Forensic Investigative Services (FIS) completed a pursuit route video commencing approximately 1 kilometre west of the intersection at Seaway Drive and travelling east to the intersection. The posted speed limit on this roadway was 60 km/h. At 6:15 p.m., FIS released the scene and vehicles to the NRPS.

Scene Diagram

Physical Evidence

On August 16, 2019, at 6:33 p.m., FIS attended a NRPS station in Welland to examine the police cruiser involved in this incident. 

Vehicle 4 (police vehicle)


2017 Ford SUV, police interceptor. This vehicle was a marked police cruiser displaying graphics as designed by the NRPS. This cruiser was equipped with emergency lighting and siren that were functional at the time of this examination. There was no collision damage to this vehicle that could be attributed to this incident.

Forensic Evidence


NRPS Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL)/Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) Data for the SO’s Police Cruiser


NRPS provided the above-noted data for August 16, 2019, from 11:42:47 a.m. to 12:54:29 p.m. The data is captured in 10 second intervals and showed the following:

  • At 12:02:53 p.m., the SO was at 844 Niagara Street, the Seaway Mall, in Welland;
  • At 12:03:13 p.m., the SO was driving past 21 Seaway Drive at a speed of 33.9 km/h;
  • At 12:03:33 p.m., the SO was driving westbound on Woodlawn Road at a speed of 43.3 km/h. Then at 12:04:00 p.m., he began to slow his speed to 15 km/h and shortly thereafter he made a U-turn heading east on Woodlawn Road;
  • At 12:04:09 p.m., the SO increased his speed to 69.5 km/h and then at 12:04:20 p.m., he stopped his police cruiser registering a speed of 0.0 km/h;
  • At 12:04:30 p.m., the SO continued east on Woodlawn Road reaching a speed of 71.3 km/h at 12:05:19 p.m. [1];
  • At 12:05:43 p.m., the SO came upon the collision at the intersection of Woodlawn and River Road; and
  • At 12:06:12 p.m., the SO’s police cruiser was stopped at the location and remained stopped until 12:31:05 p.m.

Communications Recordings


NRPS Communications Recordings


Recordings made on August 16, 2019 between 12:04:56 p.m. and 1:28:29 p.m. with respect to this incident were reviewed. The pertinent details are listed below:

  • At 12:05:15 p.m., an unknown 911 caller notified NRPS of a motor vehicle collision at Woodlawn Road and River Road, an intersection in Welland. The caller stated a motorcyclist [now determined to be the Complainant] struck another vehicle. Upon striking the vehicle, the Complainant was catapulted into the air. The caller believed the Complainant was deceased at the scene;
  • At 12:06:25 p.m., the SO reported over the police radio that he had arrived on scene;
  • At 12:08:42 p.m., the SO reported to the dispatcher that he was doing CPR on the Complainant;
  • At 12:11:03 p.m., the SO requested the fire department attend the scene as well;
  • At 12:13:45 p.m., the dispatcher advised that the fire department was on scene and had taken over CPR; and
  • At 12:17:13 p.m., a request was made to have the NRPS reconstruction specialist attend the scene.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the NRPS:
  • Computer-Assisted Dispatch for incident;
  • Communications Recordings;
  • Incoming 911 calls;
  • Occurrence Report;
  • Notes of the witness officers and SO;
  • NRPS General Order– Suspect Apprehension Pursuit;
  • NRPS AVL/GPS Data;
  • NRPS Reconstruction Report;
  • NRPS Scene Photos; and,
  • NRPS Vehicle Examination Photos.

Incident Narrative

On August 16, 2019, at approximately 12:04 p.m., the subject officer, the SO of the NRPS, was in the area of the Seaway Mall at Woodlawn Road and Niagara Street in Welland, when he decided to return to the station for his lunch. The SO drove westbound on Woodlawn Road toward the intersection of Niagara Street; the traffic light was amber and he slowed and stopped his cruiser behind other traffic. He observed a motorcycle, which was being operated by the Complainant, travelling eastbound on Woodlawn Road, enter the intersection on the amber light at a high rate of speed and drive through the intersection. The motorcycle registered on his radar device at a speed of 115 km/h.

The SO, with the intention of stopping the motorcycle for speeding, turned on his emergency lighting system and made a U-turn to follow. As soon as he completed his U-turn, however, he looked ahead and saw the motorcycle pass a car, enter the bend in the road about 400 metres ahead, and go out of sight. The SO concluded that it would be too dangerous to try to catch up to the motorcycle, and he immediately turned off his emergency lights, abandoning any possible vehicular pursuit before it had even started.

A 911 caller later notified the NRPS that the Complainant had struck another vehicle and was thrown into the air. There was no evidence that the SO’s police vehicle was behind the motorcycle at the time of the collision.

The SO drove eastbound on Woodlawn Road towards River Road, where he came upon the collision and immediately approached the Complainant. The SO initiated CPR on the Complainant. The fire department and ambulance then arrived on the scene and continued life saving measures.

The Complainant was pronounced dead at the scene.

The evidence of the AVL/GPS data obtained from the SO’s police cruiser confirmed that the SO made a U-turn shortly after 12:04 p.m., following which he stopped his police cruiser at 12:04:20 p.m. on Woodlawn Road. The collision occurred shortly before 12:05:15 p.m., based on the time when the first 911 call was received from a motorist reporting that a collision had just occurred, and the SO arrived at the collision scene at 12:05:43 p.m.

Cause of Death


On August 17, 2019, at 8:30 a.m., FIS investigators arrived at the Hamilton Forensic Pathology Unit to witness and assist at the post-mortem examination of the deceased.

At 9:52 a.m., the forensic pathologist declared the post-mortem examination complete, indicating the cause of death of the Complainant as, “Multiple blunt force injuries of the head and torso.”

Relevant Legislation

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 the aforementioned record, it is clear that at no time did the SO engage the Complainant in a vehicular pursuit, doing no more than engaging his emergency lighting system and making a U-turn, with the intent of stopping the motorcycle, before quickly determining that to do so would be unsafe and not in the public interest, wherein he turned off his lights and terminated any pursuit before it had even begun. Thereafter, the SO was seen to obey all controlled traffic intersections and comply with the requirements of the Highway Traffic Act, coincidentally coming upon the collision scene while en route to the police station for his lunch, moments after the collision had occurred.

The only potential offence remotely relevant to this investigation would be one of dangerous driving contrary to s. 320.13(1) of the Criminal Code. Liability for the offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. I can find nothing in the manner in which the SO operated his cruiser that is subject to criticism. On the contrary, his conduct appears at all times to have been prudent, well-considered, and in the best interests of the public and the safety of all users of the roadway, including the Complainant himself. While the Complainant continued to operate his motorcycle in the same manner which had initially drawn the SO’s attention, there is no evidence that the driving of the Complainant was in any way influenced by the actions of the SO. In fact, I am unable to determine if the Complainant was ever even aware that the SO had engaged his emergency lighting system and made a U-turn with the intent of performing a vehicle stop.

In conclusion, as there is no reason to suspect that the SO drove his cruiser other than responsibly with due care and regard for traffic around him, including the Complainant, there is no basis to proceed with criminal charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: April 6, 2020

Electronically approved by


Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Endnotes

  • 1) At 12:05:15 p.m., the NRPS police dispatcher made a broadcast of a motor vehicle collision at Woodlawn Road. [Back to text]