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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-PCD-092

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 49-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On April 20, 2020, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant in Elliot Lake.

According to the OPP, on April 20, 2020 shortly after 11:00 a.m., the Complainant attended the Probation and Parole Office at 16 Philip Walk in Elliot Lake.

Two OPP officers, Witness Officer (WO) #1 and WO #2, attended the Probation and Parole Office to arrest the Complainant. While talking to the police officers, the Complainant took out a handgun and shot himself. The Complainant was pronounced deceased at the scene by paramedics.

The Team

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

Complainant:

49-year-old male, deceased


Civilian Witnesses

CW Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed



Evidence

The Scene

Upon entering the Elliot Lake Probation and Parole Office, there is a small reception area (marked “Vestibule” on the scene diagram, below), which is separated from the main office area by a wall with a large reception window. Walking straight through the vestibule area, there is a wooden door that leads into a secure client interview room. The wooden door has a small window.

Inside the client interview room, Probation and Parole Officers are separated from the clients by a large fixed glass barrier. Communication takes place via a speaker and microphone system. There is no direct contact between offenders and Probation and Parole Officers.

The Complainant was found on his back in the client interview room. He had an obvious wound under his chin. The wound was surrounded by black soot, consistent with a close contact gunshot wound. On the floor of the interview room was a vintage Enfield .38 calibre handgun. The handgun was a break action style handgun, and it had been made safe by someone opening the action.


Figure 1 - The Enfield .38 calibre handgun found at the scene.

Figure 1 - The Enfield .38 calibre handgun found at the scene.


The Complainant was found to be carrying several additional rounds of ammunition suitable for the firearm he was carrying.

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram


Physical Evidence

A SIU forensic identification investigator examined and photographed the use of force equipment carried by WO #1 and WO #2. There was no indication either officer had discharged their firearms.

Forensic Evidence


Post-Mortem Examination


On April 23, 2020, a post-mortem examination was conducted in Sault Ste. Marie. The preliminary cause of death was determined to be a single gunshot wound to the head. A projectile recovered from the Complainant’s skull was consistent with the type of ammunition that was loaded in his firearm, which is distinct from the type of ammunition used by the OPP.

Communications Recordings and Emails

On April 20, 2020, a Probation and Parole Officer, the CW sent an e-mail to an OPP Court Officer in Elliot Lake. The CW asked whether the Complainant had been arrested over the weekend. The Court Officer reported the Complainant had not yet been arrested. The CW responded that the Complainant had an appointment at the Probation and Parole Office at 11:00 a.m. that morning. The Court Officer advised it was her understanding the OPP officers were intending to arrest the Complainant at 11:00 a.m. that morning.

At 11:03 a.m., the CW advised the Court Officer that the Complainant had reported for his appointment, and she was going to speak to him in the secure room. The Court Officer responded that she had just advised WO #1 and WO #2. At 11:09 a.m., the CW sent an e-mail to the Court Officer, stating the Complainant was nervous.

At 11:09 a.m., WO #1 and WO #2 advised the communications centre they would be at the Probation and Parole Office to pick up a man for a breach.

Over an open microphone, officers could then be heard yelling, “Drop the gun, put it down!” WO #1 then radioed the communications centre and requested an ambulance for a man with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

At 11:22 a.m., the communications centre sergeant contacted an inspector to advise him of the situation. She reported two OPP officers from Elliot Lake went to arrest a man and the man pulled out a gun, so the two OPP officers pulled out their guns. The man then shot himself.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP:
  • Notes of the witness officers;
  • Computer-Aided Dispatch Record;
  • E-mail to OPP from the CW;
  • A copy of the Complainant’s Canadian Police Information Centre record; and
  • A copy of the radio and telephone communications. 

Incident Narrative

The circumstances surrounding the Complainant’s death are not in dispute. On April 20, 2020, the Complainant arrived at 11:00 a.m. for his scheduled meeting with the CW at the Elliot Lake Probation and Parole Office. A few minutes later, WO #1 and WO #2 arrived at the office to arrest the Complainant for having breached a condition of a prohibition order not to be in the presence of anyone under the age of 16 unless in the company of an adult approved by the court. He had earlier in the month been seen in the company of a woman and her two children at a Shoppers Drug Mart store.

By the time of the officers’ arrival, the Complainant was in a small room used by the office’s clients to speak across a glass partition with their Probation and Parole Officers. At news that the officers were there to arrest him, the Complainant became extremely agitated and asked that the officers not enter the room he was in. From behind the closed door to the room, the officers told the Complainant that would not be possible as he was under arrest. Shortly thereafter, the Complainant retrieved a handgun from his waistband, held it up to his chin and pulled the trigger.

WO #1 and WO #2, who had drawn their own firearms at the sight of the Complainant’s handgun, entered the room and administered life saving measures. Paramedics arrived at the scene and tended to the Complainant, but he could not be saved and was declared deceased at the scene.

Cause of Death


The pathologist at autopsy provided a preliminary cause of death, namely, a single gunshot wound to the head.

Analysis and Director's Decision

The Complainant died of a gunshot wound to the head in the morning of April 20, 2020. He was in the process of being arrested by WO #1 and WO #2 at the time. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any police officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death.

As far as the potential criminal liability of any police officer is concerned in relation to the incident, the only issue that arises is whether there was any want of care on the part of the attending officers in connection with the Complainant’s death. The question, in my view, is readily answered in the negative. Given the information at their disposal, WO #1 and WO #2 were within their rights in attending at the Probation and Parole Office to seek the Complainant’s arrest. Prior to arriving at the office, they had sought without success to locate and arrest the Complainant at his home. They had also checked the Complainant’s record and had no reason to believe that he would be armed or dangerous. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that they approached the matter with reasonable care and caution. Once at the Probation and Parole Office, and having advised the Complainant that he was under arrest, the officers had little time to react as the Complainant retrieved his weapon and used it to shoot himself. Thereafter, the record indicates that WO #1 and WO #2 did what they could to render medical aid while they waited for paramedics.

In the result, as I am satisfied that the Complainant is alone responsible for his self-inflicted death, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case against any police officer, and the file is closed. 

Date: May 19, 2020
Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit