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News Release

SIU Concludes Petawawa Vehicle Injuries Investigation

Case Number: 12-PVI-139

Mississauga (23 August, 2012) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge two officers with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Upper Ottawa Valley detachment with any criminal offence in relation to the injuries sustained by 26-year-old Shadi Al-Akbari and 29-year-old Neil Clarence Blain in May of 2012.

The SIU assigned four investigators, two forensic investigators and a collision reconstructionist to probe the circumstances of this incident.  Neither subject officer provided his notes nor submitted to an SIU interview, as is their legal right.  Seven witness officers and twenty-two civilian witnesses were interviewed.

The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on Tuesday, May 22:
• In the late afternoon hours, an officer with the Arnprior OPP Detachment saw a brown Toyota RAV 4, later determined to be driven by Mr. Al-Akbari, speeding westbound on Hwy 17.  The officer had received previous information that the driver had stolen gasoline and food from a convenience store in Arnprior.  The officer initiated a suspect apprehension pursuit after Mr. Al-Akbari attempted to elude apprehension.  When the officer attempted to pull alongside him, he responded by swerving into the path of the cruiser. 
• The pursuit was called off.
• Once Mr. Al-Akbari had gone through the town of Cobden, another pursuit took place, this time with two police vehicles – one being driven by one of the subject officers, and another being driven by a witness officer. 
• This pursuit was terminated at Hwy 17 and Paquette Road.  The RAV 4 continued westbound on Hwy 17 at a high rate of speed. 
• Meanwhile, the second subject officer deployed a spike belt at the east side of the Canadian Pacific Railway overpass near Petawawa.  The eastbound lane of the overpass was closed and under construction, resulting in shared-use of the westbound lane by both east- and west-bound traffic.  Access to the remaining one lane of the overpass was controlled by traffic signals that had been installed at both ends.  At the time of this incident, the traffic signals were red for traffic traveling eastbound, thus causing a line of cars to back up in that lane.  The westbound lane was clear.
• At approximately 5:30 p.m., the RAV 4 passed over the spike belt at a high rate of speed, continued on the overpass, and on exiting the west end, veered into the eastbound lane, causing a head-on collision with a stationary Volkswagen Jetta driven by Mr. Blain.  The reconstructionist concluded that the RAV 4’s speed was at least 122 km/hr five seconds before impact.
• Mr. Blain sustained serious injuries including a fractured hip, ankle and knee, as well as three upper leg fractures and a concussion.  The extent of Mr. Al-Akbari’s injuries is unknown because he declined to provide the SIU with a signed medical release form.  

Director Scott said, “In my view, the first subject officer was in compliance with the suspect apprehension regulation to the Police Services Act.  He had the authority to pursue the suspect vehicle after receiving information that the driver had committed a criminal offence and refused to stop after being directed to do so. The officer discontinued his pursuit when it appeared that it was too dangerous to continue.  There is no evidence that Mr. Al-Akbari’s vehicle came into contact with any police vehicle or that any officer drove in a dangerous manner.”

Director Scott continued, “With respect to the deployment of the spike belt, the OPP Traffic Enforcement Orders permit its use in these circumstances.  The subject officer received permission to use the spike belt from the sergeant in charge of the Provincial Communications Centre.  Its deployment in my view could not be considered to be criminally negligent because Mr. Al-Akbari was driving his vehicle in a very dangerous manner shortly before the collision, appeared to have no intention of stopping, and represented a serious threat to public safety.  Further, while I do not have the benefit of a statement from the subject officer who deployed the spike belt, I infer that he placed the belt at the east side of the overpass to take advantage of  the concrete barrier which, so the subject officer may have thought, would safely direct Mr. Al-Akbari’s vehicle away from oncoming traffic.  Also, the fact that he could place the spike belt across the roadway meant that Mr. Al-Akbari could not avoid it by changing lanes.  In my view, the deployment of the spike belt at this location was a reasonable decision.  Tragically, a major vehicle collision followed causing life threatening injuries to Mr. Blain.

 “All in all, I am of the view that Mr. Al-Akbari was largely the author of his own misfortune in causing this devastating collision. Accordingly, I cannot form reasonable grounds that either subject officer committed a criminal offence in relation to this motor vehicle collision.”

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must

  • consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence  in connection with the incident under investigation
  • depending on the evidence, lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid
  • report the results of any investigations to the Attorney General. 

Monica Hudon, monica.hudon@ontario.ca
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342