News Release

SIU Concludes Toronto Firearm Death Investigation

Case Number: 12-TFD-041   

Mississauga (19 March, 2012) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge a Toronto Police Service officer with a criminal offence in regards to the shooting death of 29-year-old Michael Eligon in February of 2012.

The SIU assigned seven investigators and three forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident.  The subject officer consented to an interview with the SIU, and provided a copy of his duty notes.  In addition, eleven witness officers were designated and twenty civilian witnesses were interviewed.  The scene was secured by the SIU, examined, photographed, video recorded and documented by total station.  Two pairs of scissors that were observed on the roadway were seized, as were three cartridge cases and two projectiles ultimately discovered in the area.  The subject officer’s service pistol was seized and recordings of 911 calls and police communications transmissions were reviewed.  Most importantly, an in-car video camera from the subject officer’s police cruiser, which clearly depicts the critical events, was examined in detail.

The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on Friday, February 3:
• In the morning hours, Mr. Eligon left the Toronto East General Hospital wearing a hospital gown, a toque, and a pair of socks.  He had been involuntarily admitted to the hospital under the Mental Health Act, and was under observation. 
• Mr. Eligon entered a nearby convenience store where he picked up two pairs of scissors and attempted to leave without paying for them.  He got into a confrontation with the store owner, and in the process of escaping, cut the left hand of the owner with one of the pairs of scissors.  The store owner reported the incident to 911.  Police cruisers in the vicinity were notified that there had been a stabbing incident in which a suspect who may have eloped from Toronto East General was armed with two pairs of scissors. 
• Mr. Eligon next demanded car keys from women in two separate incidents in an attempt to deprive them of their cars.  The attempts were unsuccessful and one of the incidents was reported to 911.  This incident was also relayed to nearby police cruisers as an attempted car-jacking. 
• In the meantime, Mr. Eligon moved in a southerly direction to Milverton Boulevard where he attempted to break into two residences, causing one of the home owners to also call police. 
• These multiple calls to 911 led to twelve officers (including the subject officer) in six cruisers converging on Milverton Blvd between Woodington and Glebemount Avenues in an attempt to apprehend the man later identified as Mr. Eligon.
• The subject officer parked his cruiser facing eastbound on Milverton Blvd with the in-car video camera facing forward.  He first saw Mr. Eligon jogging southbound from a driveway on the north side of Milverton Blvd, and then westbound along the same street.  He had a pair of scissors in each hand clutching them such that the bladed parts were exposed and pointing down. He appeared agitated, and when viewing his clothing, the subject officer concluded he was suffering from a mental disorder. The subject officer joined other officers keeping pace with Mr. Eligon.  Some yelled at him to drop the knife or knives, but Mr. Eligon ignored all of the commands.  He then stopped, turned towards the officers and began walking towards them in an easterly direction while on the roadway.  A line of approximately seven officers with their guns drawn began backing up on the roadway with the subject officer the most southerly of the officers.  One of the officers continued to yell commands to Mr. Eligon of “drop the knives”, and “stop moving.”  The distance between the officers and Mr. Eligon was approximately ten to twelve feet, and he continued to hold the scissors in front of his body as he walked towards the subject officer and a witness officer, both of whom were slowly backing up toward a parked pickup truck.  The witness officer backed into the truck and the subject officer momentarily stopped backing up, causing the distance between these officers and Mr. Eligon to shrink. 
• According to the officers, Mr. Eligon said words to the effect, “one of you is going to die.”  The subject officer told Mr. Eligon to drop the weapon or he would shoot, but Mr. Eligon did not comply and continued to advance.  The subject officer discharged his firearm three times, with one round striking Mr. Eligon in the right clavicle area. He fell to the ground, and officers kicked the scissors out of his hands. 
• Mr. Eligon was transported to St. Michael’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead later that morning as a result of the fatal injuries caused by the bullet’s trajectory.
• The best estimate of the distance between the subject officer and Mr. Eligon at the moment of discharge is eight to ten feet.  The other two discharges missed him; one went through a garbage can and was later found in the ground and the other struck a porch on the north side of the street.  

Director Scott said, “In my view, the subject officer was justified in using lethal force against Mr. Eligon under either s. 27(defence of others) or s. 34 (self-defence) of the Criminal Code. On the basis of the information he had received through radio transmissions immediately before the incident and his observations, he could reasonably conclude that Mr. Eligon was an armed and dangerous individual who was non-compliant with police demands.  When he turned and started to approach the officers and continued to refuse to drop his weapons, he placed both the subject officer and those officers near him in imminent risk of death or grievous bodily harm.  Even then, the officers gave Mr. Eligon many opportunities to drop his weapons.  As the officers were backing up, one of them backed into a pickup truck and the subject officer momentarily stopped, causing the distance between them and Mr. Eligon to shrink. This shortening of the distance on the one hand and the non-compliant and armed Mr. Eligon on the other, coupled with an utterance that could be construed as an imminent death threat, in my view, gave the subject officer a reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm to either himself or the officer beside him.  Further, given the short distance between two of the officers and Mr. Eligon, I am also of the view that the subject officer reasonably believed he had no option but to use lethal force to preserve himself or the other officer.

“In his interview with the SIU, the subject officer was asked about other use-of-force options such as pepper spray or an asp baton. With respect to pepper spray, he responded that it would not have been effective at that distance.  Further, he understood it to sometimes be ineffective when used on those with a mental disorder, which he believed Mr. Eligon to be suffering from.  He was not in a position to use his asp baton because it would have required him to get too close to an armed individual.  Based upon my understanding of police training regarding use of force options as applied to dynamic situations like this one, I am of the opinion that this assessment was a reasonable one. Finally, a conducted energy weapon (CEW) was not an option because this use of force option is not assigned to front line police constables.”

Director Scott continued, “There are legitimate questions arising from this tragic incident.  How did Mr. Eligon elope from the hospital?  Should front line officers receive different training to deal with these situations?  Should they be issued CEWs? While questions of this nature may be addressed in an inquest if one is called by the Coroner’s office, they are not directly relevant to the question I am statutorily duty bound to answer:  was the subject officer justified in the use of lethal force in these circumstances?  As I have attempted to explain, I am of the view that he was and accordingly, I have no reasonable grounds to believe the officer committed a criminal offence in relation to the tragic death of Mr. Eligon.”

The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials (police officers as well as special constables with the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers with the Legislative Protective Service) that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, the Director of the SIU must

  • consider whether the official has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
  • depending on the evidence, cause a criminal charge to be laid against the official where grounds exist for doing so, or close the file without any charges being laid
  • publicly report the results of its investigations