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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 19-PVD-229

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 36-year-old woman (“Complainant #1”) and the injuries that a 23-year-old woman (“Complainant #2”) suffered.

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On September 17, 2019, at 8:55 a.m., the Ontario Provincial Police Service (OPP) notified the SIU of the following.

On September 16, 2019, at 11:40 p.m., a police officer was travelling west on 6th Line in New Tecumseth, Alliston. A Pontiac G6, travelling eastbound, drove by the police officer at a low rate of speed. The police officer noticed that the licence plate light was out on the vehicle and made a U-turn to stop it; no lights or siren were activated on the police cruiser and the police officer lost sight of the vehicle.

When the police officer arrived at 20 Sideroad, he saw the Pontiac travelling at high speeds. The police officer again lost sight of the vehicle. No lights or siren were activated.

When the police officer arrived at 20 Sideroad and 5th Line, he noticed that the Pontiac was involved in a collision with a Volkswagen (VW).

The VW was being driven by Complainant #2 with Complainant #1 as a passenger; Complainant #1 was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The Pontiac was being driven by Civilian (CW) #1 with CW #2 as a passenger; CW #2 was reportedly diagnosed with a broken leg.

The scene was processed by the OPP and not held for the SIU.

The Team

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

Complainants

Complainant #1 36-year-old female deceased
Complainant #2 23-year-old female interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Declined to be interviewed

Subject Officers

SO Interviewed. Notes received and reviewed



Evidence

The Scene

The scene was at the intersection of 20 Sideroad and 5th Line. 20 Sideroad is a gravel roadway and has a slight washboard texture due to vehicular traffic. It runs in a north - south direction; north of the intersection with 5th Line, the roadway is gravel with a posted speed limit of 60 km/h. When travelling southbound on 20 Sideroad, there is a stop sign at the intersection with 5th Line. 5th Line runs in an east-west direction. The roadway is paved with one lane in each direction, and road markings are in good repair.

A Pontiac was situated on its left side facing in a westerly direction; it had heavy collision damage to the front, to the sides, and to the rear of the vehicle from tumbling after the collision.

A VW Jetta was situated in a northwest direction in the southeast quadrant and in a farmer’s field; this vehicle had heavy collision damage to the front left. There was a dash camera on the driver’s side floor of the vehicle.

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram

Communications Recordings

The SO reported that a serious motor vehicle collision involving two vehicles had just occurred. One occupant in the VW was conscious and a second occupant was moaning. The SO learned that CW #1 was on a conditional discharge for mischief and had conditions not to be with CW #2. An ambulance arrived and CW #1 would be transported to the detachment.

The ambulance was at the Southlake Regional Health Centre (SRHC) and the patient was vital signs absent; it was a “sudden death.” The passenger was pronounced deceased at 1:06 a.m. [1] The driver’s injuries were non-life threatening.

The OPP discussed if the SIU should be notified, since the SO did not chase the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle passed the SO. The SO saw the taillights in his mirror and decided to turn around. The SO lost sight of the taillights and continued travelling on the road to see what was going on. When the SO arrived at the intersection, he saw that a collision had occurred. The SO did not see it happen and he did not cause it. A couple of minutes passed from when the SO turned around until he arrived at the intersection. There were no attempts to stop the vehicle and no lights were activated.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

The SIU canvassed the area for any video or audio recordings, and photographic evidence, and was able to locate the following source:
  • Dash Cam Video from Complainant #2’s Vehicle.

Dash Cam Video from Complainant #2’s Vehicle


There were no stop signs for drivers travelling eastbound on 5th Line. At 11:48:50 p.m., the video went black, there was a loud sound of a collision, and the VW left the roadway.

Expert Evidence


The SIU Reconstructionist’s Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) Data Analysis:


  • 11:41.07 to 11:41.41 p.m.: the SO’s police vehicle traveled west on 6th Line for 329 metres then turned around to go east. The speeds ranged from 0 to 48 km/h;
  • 11:41.43 to 11:42.50 p.m.: the SO’s police vehicle traveled east on 6th Line for 1.3 kilometres to 20 Sideroad; the speeds ranged from 2 to 118 km/h;
  • 11:42.52 to 11:44.08 p.m.: the SO’s police vehicle traveled south on 20 Sideroad to 5th Line for 1.5 kilometres; the speeds ranged from 0 to 101 km/h.
  • 11:44.10 to 11:44.25 p.m.: the SO’s police vehicle traveled south on 5th Line for 20 metres then stopped; the speeds ranged from 0 to 11 km/h; and
  • 11:44.29 to 12:50.16 a.m.: the SO’s police vehicle was on 5th Line; the speed was 0 km/h.


The OPP Reconstructionist’s Analysis:


The Pontiac was travelling southbound on 20 Sideroad, a posted 60 km/h zone. Approximately five seconds prior to the airbag deployment command, the Pontiac was travelling approximately 154 km/h. The Pontiac was approaching the intersection between 20 Sideroad and 5th Line; which was a controlled intersection with a stop sign for traffic on 20 Sideroad.

The Volkswagen was travelling eastbound on 5th Line at approximately 59 km/h at impact. 5th Line was a posted 60 km/h zone. There were no traffic control devices for traffic on 5th Line.

The Pontiac impacted the Volkswagen, in the intersection, at the left front of the vehicle and in the eastbound lane; at impact, the Pontiac was travelling approximately 101 km/h.

There was a secondary impact between the two vehicles, when the left rear of the Volkswagen and the right rear of the Pontiac made contact. The Pontiac then continued south, impacting a street sign and a Bell box. The Pontiac rolled over and came to rest on its left side, facing west.

The Volkswagen continued south, impacting the stop sign for northbound traffic on 20 Sideroad.

The Volkswagen, while travelling down the embankment, rotated counterclockwise, coming to rest in the east ditch, facing north.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP Nottawasaga Detachment (Alliston):
  • CW #2’s Statement;
  • Arrest Report;
  • Computer-Assisted Dispatch Report;
  • Communication recordings;
  • OPP Photos-Scene;
  • Email from OPP re AVL Analysis- 2019-09-23;
  • Complainant #2’s Statement;
  • Dash Cam Video-Volkswagen-Complainant #2;
  • AVL and Global Positioning Satellite data;
  • The SO’s Notes;
  • A Collision Reconstruction Report Approved;
  • Post-Ontario Police College Recruit Training Material – Police Vehicle Operations;
  • Transcript - the SO; and
  • A Witness List.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following documents from the York Regional Paramedic Service, the SRHC and the Fire Department of the Township of King:
  • Ambulance Call Report × 3 and Incident Report × 2;
  • Medical Record × 3; and
  • Basic Fire Report and Witness Statements.

Incident Narrative

On September 16, 2019, at approximately 11:40 p.m., the SO observed a motor vehicle, a Pontiac G6, travelling eastbound on 6th Line in New Tecumseth and noticed that the vehicle’s rear licence plate was not illuminated, preventing the SO from making out the plate number. As a result, the SO made a U-turn to execute a vehicle stop under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). The driver of the motor vehicle, CW #1, accelerated and the SO lost sight of the vehicle. Moments later, the Pontiac ran a stop sign at the intersection of 5th Line and 20 Sideroad, striking a Volkswagen being operated by Complainant #2, causing her serious injuries. Complainant #2’s passenger, Complainant #1, was later pronounced dead at hospital. CW #1 was medically cleared and refused to go to hospital; there is no indication that he was seriously injured in the collision.

The SIU’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Complainant #1 and the serious injury sustained by Complainant #2 included interviews with Complainant #2, CW #1, and the SO; the SIU also reviewed the AVL data from the SO’s police vehicle, the police communications recordings, and a Collision Reconstruction Report prepared by the OPP.

On September 16, 2019, at approximately 11:40 p.m., after being released from an assignment with another police service looking for a suspect, the SO returned to his general patrol duties while keeping an eye out for the suspect, who was still at large. While driving westbound on 6th Line, the SO observed a Pontiac G6 travelling in the opposite direction; the SO had some concerns that the outstanding suspect might be in this vehicle. After the vehicle had passed, the SO noticed, in his rearview mirror, that the vehicle’s licence plate was not illuminated, making it impossible to make out the plate. As this was a violation of the HTA, the SO had grounds to stop the vehicle and he turned around to follow and perform a vehicle stop and possibly caution the driver for the infraction. The SO did not activate his emergency lighting system or siren.

CW #1 was several hundred metres in front of the police vehicle and immediately increased his speed. The SO almost immediately lost sight of the Pontiac on 6th Line due to an elevation in the roadway. The SO later observed the vehicle again on 20 Sideroad, at which point the Pontiac was driving at a high rate of speed; the roads were dark and there was no artificial lighting. The SO then also turned onto 20 Sideroad, where he again almost immediately lost sight of the Pontiac.

CW #1, however, was still driving toward 5th Line on 20 Sideroad, at a high rate of speed. When he arrived at a stop sign at the intersection of 20 Sideroad and 5th Line, CW #1 failed to bring his vehicle to a stop, entered the intersection, and struck a Volkswagen operated by Complainant #2, which was lawfully in the intersection and travelling on 5th Line. The speed limit on 20 Sideroad was 60 km/h. The SO had neither seen nor heard the collision until it was pointed out to him by another motorist.

According to the Collision Reconstruction Report, approximately five seconds prior to the deployment of the airbags in the Pontiac G6 the vehicle was travelling at 154 km/h as it was approaching the intersection at 20 Sideroad and 5th Line; at the point of impact, the Pontiac was still moving at approximately 101 km/h. The AVL data from the SO’s police vehicle indicate that after he made the U-turn to follow the Pontiac, he reached a top speed of 118 km/h over a distance of 1.3 kms and 7 seconds; after turning onto 20 Sideroad, over a distance of 1.5 kms and 76 seconds, the SO’s speed reached 101 km/h; when he reached 5th Line, he travelled for only 20 metres, at a maximum speed of 11 km/h, at which point he came upon the collision and stopped.

Cause of Death


On September 19, 2019, a forensic pathologist conducted the post-mortem examination on Complainant #1’s body and determined the cause of death as blunt trauma to torso.

Relevant Legislation

Section 216 (1), Highway Traffic Act -- Power of police officer to stop vehicles

216 (1) A police officer, in the lawful execution of his or her duties and responsibilities, may require the driver of a vehicle, other than a bicycle, to stop and the driver of a vehicle, when signaled or requested to stop by a police officer who is readily identifiable as such, shall immediately come to a safe stop.


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 

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

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, 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 am satisfied on balance that the manner in which the officer operated his police vehicle fell within the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law. At speeds as high as 118 km/h, the SO travelled well in excess of the speed limit on 6th Line. There was, however, little if any traffic, the roads were dry, and the weather was clear. Additionally, the officer’s velocity was mitigated to an extent by section 128(13)(b) of the HTA, which while it does not provide an officer carte blanche to exceed the speed limit without regard to public safety considerations, does allow an officer to speed where the officer is in the lawful performance of his or her duty. The SO was clearly in the exercise of his duty when he attempted to perform a vehicle stop under the HTA. It should also be noted that there is no indication that the SO ever actually endangered any third-party motorists or pedestrians by the manner of his driving, nor did the officer put undue pressure on CW #1. The officer also never engaged his emergency lighting system or siren and he was at all times a fair distance behind the Pontiac; in fact, he had lost sight of the motor vehicle when the collision appears to have occurred. On this evidence, it is clear that CW #1 is responsible for his manner of driving, and he had every opportunity to reduce his speed and adopt a safer course but chose not to do so.

In the final analysis, in the context of the SO’s extremely brief effort to perform a vehicle stop of CW #1’s motor vehicle in order to investigate an infraction of the HTA, 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: April 14, 2020

Electronically approved by


Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes