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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-003

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 a serious injury sustained by a 32-year-old man (the “Complainant”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On January 7, 2020, at 5:05 a.m., the Cornwall Police Service (CPS) notified the SIU of the Complainant’s injury.
The CPS reported that at 4:30 a.m., CPS officers responded to an address on Brookdale Avenue, Cornwall, for a report of a suicidal male. They saw a male running through backyards and a police officer located the male, the Complainant, at the back of a car wash located on Brookdale Avenue, holding a box cutter knife and threatening to cut his throat. The Complainant cut his throat with the knife and, at some point, a conducted energy weapon (CEW) was deployed. The Complainant was transported by ambulance to the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH). 

The Team

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

On January 7, 2020, three SIU investigators and one forensic investigator were assigned. The SIU arrived on the scene at 9:03 a.m., and immediately began an investigation. Civilian witnesses were identified and interviewed. SIU investigators conducted a canvass of the area where the incident occurred.

The Four Seasons Car Wash at 501 Brookdale Avenue had exterior surveillance cameras on the building. The SIU investigators were provided with raw video footage relevant to this incident. It was later determined that the video footage had captured images of the Complainant at the business, but no video footage was captured of the Complainant’s interaction with the Subject Officer (SO).

The scene was forensically examined and photographed. The involved CEW and a utility knife were seized for evidence. The CEW history was downloaded and reviewed.

On January 7, 2020, the SO was designated as a subject officer. On February 18, 2020, the SO provided a statement and a copy of his notebook entries to the SIU.

Complainant:

32-year-old male interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed


Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed 

Witness Officers

WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #3 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #4 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
WO #5 Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, and notes received and reviewed


Evidence

The Scene

The Four Seasons Car Wash is a 24-hour self-serve car wash facility. The car wash is located at 501 Brookdale Avenue, Cornwall. [1] The Four Seasons Car wash is located approximately 280 metres from the Complainant’s residence. The interaction between the Complainant and the SO occurred on the east side of the building (behind the car wash) in an open field area.

Forensic Evidence


CEW

An SIU forensic investigator extracted information from the SO's CEW. The data revealed that the CEW appeared to be in good working order. The records showed one deployment at 4:08 a.m. on January 7, 2020 for a charge duration of five seconds.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence


Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) from Four Seasons Car Wash


The CCTV camera was mounted on the south side of the building, facing west, where it captured images of Brookdale Avenue and the south end of the car wash (vacuum area and parking lot located at the southwest corner of building). The video footage was low resolution quality; however, it did capture images of the Complainant on the west side of the building. There were no CCTV cameras mounted on the east side (back of the building) where the incident occurred.

At 4:01:47 a.m., video images captured the Complainant walking northbound on the east side of Brookdale Avenue along the sidewalk towards the direction of the car wash. A vehicle, a Honda, believed to be the Complainant’s father’s, was captured stopping at a bus lane south of the business. Shortly after, an ambulance was captured entering the view of the camera and stopping behind the Honda.

At 4:02:41 a.m., video images showed the Complainant walking from the sidewalk area of Brookdale Avenue, travelling westbound through a path at the south end of the car wash. The footage showed the Complainant stopping at an electrical box south of the parking lot area of the car wash. The Complainant’s father is seen exiting his vehicle and standing on the sidewalk beside the passenger side of his vehicle looking in an easterly direction. Video footage captured the Complainant pacing near the hydro box. Spotlights from the ambulance are illuminated and pointed in the location of the Complainant. Shortly after, the spotlight was turned off and images captured a paramedic walking near the passenger side of the ambulance. Soon after, a CPS marked police vehicle parked behind the ambulance.

At 4:06:42 a.m., video images showed the Complainant turning to walk eastbound from the area of the hydro box and then moving out of view of the camera.

The remainder of the video footage did not offer any further evidentiary value as the interaction between the Complainant and the SO transpired in a field situated behind the building on the east side where there were no CCTV cameras.

Police Communications Recordings

At 3:55 a.m., dispatch advises of call regarding the Complainant and the fact that he has taken a lot of pills.

At 4:03 a.m., dispatch advises that the Complainant was last seen running north behind the house.

At 4:03 a.m., dispatch advises that an ambulance was on scene.

At 4:05 a.m., dispatch advises that the ambulance was in front of the car wash.

At 4:08 a.m., dispatch advises that a CEW has been deployed.

At 4:09 a.m., dispatch advises that the Complainant has cut his neck with a box cutter knife.

At 4:20 a.m., dispatch advises that the Complainant was still being worked on to stabilize his condition before transport away from scene.

At 4:21 a.m., dispatch advises that the Complainant has been taken from the scene.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the CPS:
  • Communication recordings;
  • CPS-Witness Statement-CW #1;
  • CPS-Witness Statement-CW #2;
  • Event Details;
  • Notes of the SO and witness officers;
  • Occurrence Summary;
  • CPS - Use of Force/ Arrest Directives; and
  • Supplementary Occurrence Report.

The SIU also obtained and reviewed CCTV footage from surveillance cameras of a business establishment.

Incident Narrative

The facts in question are not in dispute and may be summarized in short order. Just before 4:00 a.m. of January 7, 2020, the Complainant fled his home in despair having ingested a large quantity of medication. Concerned for his safety, CW #2 called 911 and paramedics and police were dispatched.

The SO was the first officer on scene. At the sight of the officer, the Complainant moved further eastward into a field behind a car wash on Brookdale Avenue followed at a distance by the SO. Shortly thereafter, the Complainant pulled a knife out of his pocket, prompting the officer to draw his CEW. The Complainant placed the knife to the left side of his neck and cut himself severely. At about the same time, the SO discharged his CEW at the Complainant, but the deployment had no effect.

The Complainant fell from his wound and was quickly approached by the SO, who applied pressure to the cut to stem the bleeding. Paramedics took over the Complainant’s care and took him to hospital.

Relevant Legislation

Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority

25 (1) Every one who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law
(a) as a private person,
(b) as a peace officer or public officer,
(c) in aid of a peace officer or public officer, or
(d) by virtue of his office,
is, if he acts on reasonable grounds, justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do and in using as much force as is necessary for that purpose.

Analysis and Director's Decision

In the early morning hours of January 7, 2020, the Complainant, in the throes of a mental health crisis, cut his throat with a knife causing serious injury. Present at the time of the incident was the SO, who had discharged his CEW at the direction of the Complainant at about the same time that he was self-harming. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s injury.

Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are immune from criminal liability for force used in the course of their duties provided such force was reasonably necessary in the execution of an act that they were required or authorized to do by law. A police officer’s foremost duty is the preservation and protection of life. The SO was clearly engaged in his duty when he responded to the scene attempting to render assistance to the Complainant, who had just been reported as suicidal. In the brief moments the officer was involved with the Complainant, he did what he could to prevent the Complainant doing harm to himself, following him into a darkened field and discharging his CEW at the first sight of a knife in his hands. While the CEW did not have its intended effect of immobilizing the Complainant, the SO can hardly be blamed for that. As soon as the Complainant collapsed from his self-inflicted wound, the SO approached without hesitation to render emergency care. Together with the paramedics on scene, the officer shares in the credit for having saved the Complainant’s life.

On the aforementioned-record, it is apparent that the SO was at all times engaged in the lawful execution of his duty and that he used reasonable force in an effort to bring the situation to a safe and peaceful resolution. Accordingly, there is no basis for criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.


Date: May 25, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Endnotes

  • 1) The distance of the complainant’s residence to the Four Seasons Car Wash was sourced from Google Maps. [Back to text]