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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCD-065

Contents:

News Releases for this Case:

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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 79-year-old woman (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On March 25, 2020, at 1:34 p.m., the Barrie Police Service (BPS) notified the SIU of the following.

On March 25, 2020, at 12:15 p.m., a physician [Civilian Witness (CW) #2] contacted the BPS regarding the well-being of a patient, the Complainant. CW #2 had had a telephone conversation with the Complainant, who sounded delusional and as if she was having a panic attack.

At 12:25 p.m., WO #2 and WO #1 were dispatched to the Complainant’s address. At 12:39 p.m., police officers arrived and proceeded to the 10th floor. Once at the residence, nobody answered the door and WO #1 returned to the main lobby. A resident approached WO #1 and said there was a woman lying in front of the building.

The Complainant was found unresponsive and emergency medical services (EMS) was requested to attend. The Complainant was pronounced dead at the scene and the coroner was notified.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 1

A canvass of the neighbouring units on the 10th floor was conducted by SIU investigators. [1]

Complainants

Complainant: 79-year-old female, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Not interviewed but notes gathered and analyzed


Evidence

The Scene

The scene was at the rear of an address on Kozlov Street. The Complainant was located 1.06 metres from the building and positioned directly below her 10th floor balcony unit.

The balcony sliding patio door led from the living room to a balcony. The balcony was empty except for a partially filled garbage bag and a cardboard produce box, which was positioned against the concrete railing, which was 1.153 m in height. The distance from the top of the concrete railing to the ground was determined to be 25.03 m.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

Upon request, the SIU obtained closed-circuit television (CCTV) video evidence from the building on Kozlov Street where the complainant lived.

Summary of Vestibule, Lobby and Rear Cameras


At 12:38:56 p.m., the building’s superintendent opened the door and let WO #2 and WO #1 into the building. WO #2 told the building’s superintendent that they were going to an apartment where the party reported trouble breathing; therefore, they were mandated to wear masks.

At 12:39:22 p.m., WO #2 and WO #1 entered the elevator.

At 12:43:07 p.m., a woman came running into the lobby, telling the building’s superintendent that “somebody just fell off the balcony.” The building’s superintendent, the woman, and a man proceeded to run out the side door that leads to the rear of the building.

At 1245:40 p.m., the building’s superintendent and WO #1 left the elevator and exited through the rear door of the building.

At 12:48:35 p.m., WO #2 exited the elevator and left the apartment building using the front doors.

At 1:00:34 p.m., the building’s superintendent entered the front doors of the building followed by three BPS police officers.

Police Communications Recordings


911 Communication Recordings


On March 25, 2020, at 12:13 p.m., CW #2 telephoned 911 and reported the following:
  • On March 25, 2020, CW #2 had telephoned the Complainant and became concerned after speaking with her. The Complainant was incoherent, repeated that she could not talk right now and was feeling very unwell. She had hyperventilated.
  • CW #2 told the operator that the Complainant was released from the hospital on March 14, 2020, after being diagnosed with hyponatremic delirium. At the time of her discharge, she had returned to “baseline” and was doing well. The Complainant had severe anxiety and it was possible that she was having a panic attack.
  • CW #2 remained on the phone with the Complainant for some time but was unable to get her to calm down.


BPS Call to the Complainant


  • BPS telephoned the Complainant and informed her that they were calling to check on her well-being. The Complainant stated that she was “okay.” The 911 operator stated that a police officer was going to come check on her and asked if she required an ambulance, to which the Complainant replied that she did not.
  • The 911 operator inquired if she was having difficulty breathing. The Complainant replied, “I’ll be okay. Thanks.” The 911 operator asked if she wanted to get checked out by a paramedic, to which the Complainant replied, “No thanks.”
  • The 911 operator then inquired if she was feeling okay, to which the Complainant replied, “I’ll be okay, thank you.” The 911 operator asked if anyone else was with her, to which the Complainant replied that she was alone.
  • The 911 operator stated that a police officer was going to come and speak with her. The Complainant responded, “What is this?” The 911 operator reiterated that it was the Barrie Police and a police officer was going to come and speak with her in case she needed anything. The Complainant responded, “Who?” to which the 911 operator told her a police officer. The Complainant replied, “Please don’t send. I’m okay.”
  • The 911 operator inquired if she had a buzz code to access the building but the Complainant’s response was incoherent. A buzzer was overheard in the background. The 911 operator then requested the Complainant to let the police officers in if she heard the buzz. [2]


Radio Communication Recordings


  • At 12:42:08 p.m., WO #2 informed the dispatcher that the Complainant was not opening the door for them and requested they call her and ask her to open it;
  • At 12:43:39 p.m., the dispatcher indicated that the Complainant was not answering;
  • At 12:45:53 – 12:46:56 p.m., WO #1 requested an ambulance as the Complainant had just jumped off the 10th floor balcony and she had a faint pulse, but was not breathing;
  • At 12:48:26 p.m., the dispatcher indicated that an ambulance was on the way;
  • At 12:52:26 p.m., a police officer was requested to go inside the Complainant’s unit to confirm she was the only occupant; and
  • At 12:57:28 p.m., WO #1 advised that the Complainant was vital signs absent (VSA).

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the BPS:
  • Computer-Assisted Dispatch Event Details;
  • Contact Information from Civilian Witnesses Canvassed at Scene;
  • WOs’ Notes;
  • Communication Recordings; and
  • Sudden Death Report.

Materials obtained from Other Sources

Upon request, the SIU obtained the following video evidence collected from the superintendent of the address where the Complainant lived:
  • CCTV video.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are clear on the evidence collected by the SIU. Arriving at about 12:39 p.m., WO #1 and WO #2 had been dispatched to check on the Complainant following a call to police from the Complainant’s doctor expressing concern with her health and safety. The doctor had just finished a phone call with the Complainant in which the Complainant was incoherent and sounded like she was having a panic attack.

The officers arrived at the Complainant’s front door at about 12:40 p.m., at which time they knocked, announced who they were, and indicated they were there to make sure she was fine. When repeated efforts to elicit a response went unheeded, WO #1 made his way to the main floor to obtain a key to the unit from the superintendent. As he exited the elevator, the officer was greeted by the superintendent, who indicated that the Complainant’s body was on the ground at the rear of the building. The time was about 12:43 p.m.

WO #1 tended to the Complainant on the ground, placing her in a recovery position. With the help of an off-duty trauma nurse, CPR was administered when they could no longer detect a pulse on the Complainant. Paramedics and firefighters arrived and took over the Complainant’s care. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cause of Death


On March 26, 2020 at 10:30 a.m., the post-mortem examination of the Complainant was conducted. The preliminary cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma consistent with a fall from height.

Due to the Complainant’s reported shortness of breath, testing for COVID-19 was undertaken, which produced a negative result. [3]

Relevant Legislation

Section 219, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing death

219 (1) Every one is criminally negligent who
(a) in doing anything, or
(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.

(2) For the purposes of this section, duty means a duty imposed by law.

Section 220, Criminal Code -- Causing death by criminal negligence 

220 Every person who by criminal negligence causes death to another person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and
(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant fell to her death from her 10th story balcony on March 25, 2020. In and around the same time, two BPS officers were at the door of her apartment unit looking to check on her well-being – WO #1 and WO #2. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that either committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death.

The offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. As an offence of penal negligence, the crime is not made out unless the impugned conduct amounts to a marked and substantial departure from a reasonable level of care in the circumstances. There is no indication in the evidence of either of WO #1 or WO #2 having transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law. The officers were lawfully on the premises at the Complainant’s front door pursuant to their common law duty to preserve and protect life. Moreover, aside from being present at the Complainant’s door for a few minutes trying to get her attention, during which time they made it clear that they were there to help, there is no evidence of any interaction between the parties. Indeed, it bears emphasizing that the officers were not inside the apartment at the time that the Complainant fell from her balcony.

In the final analysis, while it is conceivable in the Complainant’s paranoid state that she made a rash and fateful decision when she learned of the presence of police officers at her door, there are no grounds for believing that the officers were criminally negligent in their conduct in the minutes preceding the Complainant’s fall. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with charges in this case and the file is closed.


Date: May 4, 2020

Electronically approved by


Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Footnotes

  • 1) The canvass revealed that the surrounding residents heard someone knocking on the Complainant’s door in the afternoon; however, they were unaware it was the BPS. [Back to text]
  • 2) There was no response from the Complainant after this point as the last 11 seconds of the call were silent. [Back to text]
  • 3) At the time of the submission of this report, the SIU had not yet received the Coroner’s Report. [Back to text]