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SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OVD-142

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 injuries that a 20-year-old man (“Complainant #5”) suffered and to the SIU’s investigation into the deaths of a 36-year-old woman (“Complainant #1”), a 6-year-old girl (“Complainant #2”), a 3-year-old girl (“Complainant #3”), and a 1-year-old girl (“Complainant #4”).

The Investigation

Notification of the SIU

On June 18, 2020, at 2:28 p.m., the Peel Regional Police Service (PRP) reported the following:

On June 18, 2020 at approximately 12:16 p.m., a PRP officer was driving along Countryside Drive when he noticed a vehicle coming the other direction at a high rate of speed. The vehicle had no plates on it. The police officer made a U-turn and activated his emergency lights. The offending vehicle continued at a high rate of speed, blew the light at Torbram Road and collided with multiple vehicles. There were multiple fatalities.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 6
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 3

Complainant #1:

36-year-old female, deceased

Complainant #2:

6-year-old female, deceased

Complainant #3:

3-year-old female, deceased

Complainant #4:

1-year-old female, deceased

Complainant #5:

20-year-old male, not interviewed [1]


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
CW #10 Interviewed
CW #11 Interviewed
CW #12 Interviewed
CW #13 Interviewed
CW #14 Not interviewed – next of kin

Witness Officers

WO Interviewed


Subject Officers

SO Interviewed, but declined to submit notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right.


Evidence

The Scene

In the area of this collision Countryside Drive is a four-lane paved asphalt road with two westbound and two eastbound lanes delineated with a solid painted yellow line near the centre of the road. Torbram Road is a four-lane paved asphalt road which permits two lanes of northbound and two lanes of southbound vehicular movement with a solid yellow paint line near the centre of the road. The sightlines in all directions are good. The intersection possesses functioning traffic signals, pedestrian walk signals, pedestrian crosswalks and stop bars. The speed limit on both roads is posted at 70 km/h.

The scene contained the following vehicles: a 2014 Dodge Charger, bearing the markings of PRP and an Ontario licence plate, was facing east in the passing westbound lane of Countryside Drive - there was no apparent damage to this vehicle; a 2004 Infiniti G35, bearing an Ontario licence plate, was facing northeast in the passing and curb westbound lanes of Countryside Drive east of Torbram Road - there was severe front-end damage to this vehicle; a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, bearing an Ontario licence plate, was northwest on the north sidewalk and boulevard of Countryside Drive east of Torbram Road - there was severe damage to the complete left side, right front corner and roof of this vehicle; a 2015 Honda CRV, bearing an Ontario licence plate, was facing east in the curb westbound lane of Countryside Drive east of Torbram Road - there was severe front-end damage to this vehicle; and a 2014 Ford Transit, bearing an Ontario licence plate, was facing west in the curb westbound lane of Countryside Drive east of Torbram Road - there was minor damage to the left side of this vehicle.

Scene Diagram

Scene diagram

Forensic Evidence


GPS data associated with the SO’s cruiser


The following GPS data relates to the SO’s cruiser in and around the time of his engagement with Complainant #5’s vehicle on June 18, 2020.

GPS data associated with the subject officer's cruiser
GPS data associated with the subject officer's cruiser
GPS data associated with the subject officer's cruiser

GPS data associated with the subject officer's cruiser

GPS data associated with the subject officer's cruiser

GPS data associated with the subject officer's cruiser

Expert Evidence


SIU Reconstructionist’s Report


The SIU Reconstructionist’s assessment of the incident yielded the following conclusions.

On June 18, 2020, the SO used a marked Dodge Charger as he drove eastbound on Countryside Drive in Brampton, Ontario, with emergency lighting active. He was following a blue 2004 Infiniti G35 which was traveling eastbound, driven by Complainant #5 at a high rate of speed. The highest speed at which the SO operated his cruiser was 105 km/h in the 70 km/h zone on Countryside Drive.

It was sunny at the time with some cloud, the atmosphere was clear, and the roads were dry.

According to witnesses, Complainant #5 failed to stop for the red traffic signal as he entered the intersection of Torbram Road from the eastbound left turn lane of Countryside Drive. He was travelling at a calculated speed of 152 km/h (with a calculated range of 134 km/h to 161 km/h).

At the same time, a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SUV, driven by Complainant #1, was northbound in the passing northbound lane of Torbram Road travelling into the intersection of Countryside Drive. She had her three small children buckled into child seats in the rear of the vehicle.

The front of the Infiniti impacted the two left doors of the Volkswagen causing the Volkswagen to travel northeast and rotate counter-clockwise in midair, landing in the westbound right turn lane of Countryside Drive while continuing to rotate. The Volkswagen mounted the north sidewalk and the right front corner impacted and snapped a concrete light standard just north of the sidewalk. While the vehicle continued to rotate counter-clockwise, the concrete light standard fell on top of the Volkswagen, after which the Volkswagen came to rest facing northwest.

The Infiniti rotated counter-clockwise and followed a more easterly northeast path. The left front corner impacted the complete front of a 2015 Honda CRV which was stopped in the passing westbound lane of Countryside Drive at the approach to Torbram Road. The Honda CRV was rotated clockwise in midair and came to rest facing east in the curb westbound lane of Countryside Drive. The Infiniti continued its northeast path and the left front sideswiped the left rear side of a 2014 Ford Transit which was stopped in the curb westbound lane of Countryside Drive. The Ford was not moved by the impact and the damage was marginal. The Infiniti came to rest facing northeast at the left rear corner of the Ford Transit.

The Complainant and her three young children succumbed to injuries received in this collision and Complainant #5 received serious injury.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

The SIU canvassed the area for any video or audio recordings, and photographic evidence, but was not able to locate any.

Communications Recordings

The SIU received from the PRP 911 call recordings and officer-related radio transmissions. The PRP provided 81 tracks related to the phone, and 145 tracks related to officer transmissions. Of note, there were no radio transmissions from the SO while he was following Complainant #5. The SO’s first radio transmission was to report the collision.

Materials obtained from Police Service

Upon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the PRP:
  • Audio Copy Report-Phone;
  • Audio Copy Report-Radio;
  • Communications recordings;
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) Data – the SO’s cruiser;
  • Notes-the WO; and
  • PRP Witness List.

Incident Narrative

The material events in question are clear on the evidence collected by the SIU, which included interviews with the SO and several civilian eyewitnesses. Aside from some information conveyed in a truncated initial conversation, Complainant #5 chose not to cooperate with the SIU investigation. The investigation was also assisted by forensic examination of the scene, as well as the GPS data related to the maneuverings of the SO’s cruiser in and around the time of the collision.

Shortly after 12:00 p.m. on June 18, 2020, the SO, while on patrol operating a marked cruiser south of Countryside Drive on Bramalea Road, noticed a vehicle traveling toward him without a licence plate. The vehicle was an Infiniti G35; the driver was Complainant #5. The SO passed the Infiniti, travelled further south, and executed a U-turn intending to surveil the vehicle from a distance. [2]

Complainant #5’s driving behaviour suggests he was aware that he was being followed by the SO. At Father Tobin Road, he turned right and travelled east until Sunny Meadow Boulevard. At Sunny Meadow Boulevard, Complainant #5 turned left and travelled north to Countryside Drive, where he turned right through a stop sign without stopping and proceeded east.

The SO followed Complainant #5’s path of travel, on occasion narrowing the distance between their vehicles to about 20 to 30 metres. As he did so, the officer briefly activated his emergency lights, once while eastbound on Father Tobin Road and then again while northbound on Sunny Meadow Boulevard. Shortly after turning right onto Countryside Drive, the SO again activated his emergency lights, this time accompanied by the cruiser’s siren; he had decided to expressly signal Complainant #5 to pull over and stop.

Complainant #5 did not pull over and stop. Instead, he accelerated eastward on Countryside Drive, past Moldovan Drive toward Torbram Road. Approaching Torbram Road on a red light, with vehicles stopped ahead of him in the two through lanes, Complainant #5 maneuvered into the left-turn lane and drove into the intersection at well over 100 km/h.

At about the same time, Complainant #1, with her three children buckled into their child safety seats, had entered the intersection travelling northbound on a green light. The driver’s side of her vehicle – a Volkswagen Atlas – was broadsided by the Infiniti, propelling it in a northeast direction as it spun in a counter-clockwise direction. The Atlas struck a utility pole, causing it to collapse on top of the vehicle, and came to rest on the sidewalk and boulevard of the intersection’s northeast corner. The time was about 12:15 p.m.

The Infiniti continued east after the collision, struck another vehicle stopped for the red light, and came to rest in the westbound lanes of Countryside Drive just east of the intersection.

Soon after the SO had turned onto Countryside Drive, with the Infiniti accelerating toward the red light at Torbram Road and gaining distance on his cruiser, the SO decided to disengage. He turned off his emergency lights and siren, and pulled over just after Moldovan Drive. Seeing the collision in the distance, the SO then accelerated toward the intersection of Countryside Drive and Torbram Road to render assistance.

With the help of a civilian in the area, the SO was able to extricate Complainant #5 from the Infiniti just before it caught on fire. As Complainant #5 did not authorize the release of his medical records, the investigation was unable to ascertain the nature of his injuries.

Complainant #1 and her family were also removed from the wreckage with the arrival of other emergency responders at the scene. 

Cause of Death


Complainant #1 and her three children succumbed to injuries sustained as a result of the collision. A pathologist with the Ontario Coroner’s Office in Toronto conducted the post-mortem examinations of Complainant #1 and two of the children.

Relevant Legislation

Section 320.13(2), Criminal Code – Operation causing bodily harm


320.13(2) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public and, as a result, causes bodily harm to another person.

Section 320.13(3), Criminal Code – Operation causing death


(3) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public and, as a result, causes the death of another person.


Section 136(1), Highway Traffic Act – Stop at through highway


136(1) Every driver or street car operator approaching a stop sign at an intersection,
(a) shall stop his or her vehicle or street car at a marked stop line or, if none, then immediately before entering the nearest crosswalk or, if none, then immediately before entering the intersection; and
(b) shall yield the right of way to traffic in the intersection or approaching the intersection on another highway so closely that to proceed would constitute an immediate hazard and, having so yielded the right of way, may proceed.

Analysis and Director's Decision

On June 18, 2020, Complainant #1 and her three young children tragically lost their lives in a motor vehicle collision at the intersection of Torbram Road and Countryside Drive, Brampton. Complainant #1 was operating an SUV that was struck by an Infiniti being driven by Complainant #5. Complainant #5 suffered unspecified serious injuries as well in the collision. As Complainant #5 was fleeing from a police cruiser at the time, the matter was reported to the SIU and an investigation was commenced. The driver of the police cruiser, the SO, was identified as the subject officer for purposes of the SIU investigation. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the motor vehicle collision.

The offences that arise for consideration are dangerous driving causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing death contrary to sections 320.13(2) and 320.13(3) of the Criminal Code, respectively. As offences of penal negligence, simple negligence will not suffice to ground liability. Rather, liability for the crimes is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have observed in the circumstances: R v Beatty, [2008] 1 SCR 49. I am satisfied that the SO did not transgress the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law.

There is, in my view, very little of which to be critical in the conduct of the SO. He did what one would expect of an officer in a marked cruiser patrolling the roadways who comes across a vehicle without a front licence plate; he intervened with the intention of investigating its driver for a potential traffic offence.

As far as can be discerned, the SO did so in a manner that was generally safe and prudent. There is, for example, no indication of any overly excessive speed on the part of the SO as he followed Complainant #5 north on Bramalea Road, east on Father Tobin Drive and then north on Sunny Meadow Boulevard. There were occasional bursts of acceleration during which the SO significantly exceeded the speed limit. The first transpired over a few seconds as the SO reached about 100 km/h while east on Father Tobin Drive. The second occurred as the SO turned to travel east on Countryside Drive from Sunny Meadow Boulevard after he had made the decision to stop Complainant #5. On this occasion, the SO reached and maintained speeds slightly over 100 km/h for about 300 metres and ten seconds. In both instances, the SO made sure to activate his emergency lights in order to alert traffic in the vicinity of his speeds.

Moreover, there is no indication that any third party was ever directly imperiled by the SO’s speeds, nor is there any suggestion that the SO’s conduct unduly fueled the Complainant’s reckless driving. On the contrary, the evidence establishes that the SO was well-back of Complainant #5, having decided, reasonably in my view, to slow and discontinue his active pursuit some 300 metres from the site of the collision.

The short-lived nature of the SO’s engagement and the environmental conditions at the time are also important mitigating factors. From the moment the SO performed a U-turn and began to follow Complainant #5 until he disengaged in the area of Moldovan Drive, the SO had travelled less than two-and-a-half kilometres in under two minutes. The roadways were dry and in good condition, the weather was clear, and traffic was unremarkable for that time and area.

It must be noted that the SO does appear on the GPS data to have driven through several stop signs without coming to a complete stop while tailing Complainant #5: twice on Father Tobin Drive at its intersections with Sherbrooke Street and Sunny Meadow Boulevard, and once on Sunny Meadow Boulevard while turning onto Countryside Drive. Section 136(1) of the Highway Traffic Act requires that all motorists, police officers included, come to a complete stop at stop signs. The SO’s failure to do so is disconcerting and, I am satisfied, created a danger on the roadway.

In the final analysis, however, while the SO ought to have come to a complete stop at the aforementioned stop signs, I am not satisfied that the SO’s indiscretions amounted to a marked departure from a reasonable level of care when weighed in the balance with the extenuating considerations outlined above. Accordingly, there are no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges against the SO and the file is closed.


Date: October 13, 2020

Electronically approved by

Joseph Martino
Director
Special Investigations Unit

Endnotes

  • 1) Aside from some information conveyed in a truncated initial conversation, Complainant #5 chose not to co-operate with the SIU’s investigation. [Back to text]
  • 2) In his interview, the SO indicated that he first encountered the Infiniti approaching him on Countryside Drive as he was traveling west on the roadway. While I accept that the officer was honestly attempting to describe the path of travel, the GPS data unequivocally establish that the SO was mistaken. In fact, the SO was traveling south on Bramalea Road when he performed a U-turn and started to follow Complainant #5 north to Father Tobin Drive. [Back to text]