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News Release

SIU Concludes Death Investigation in Toronto

Case Number: 12-TCD-206

Mississauga (7 December, 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 any criminal offence in relation to the death of 37-year-old, Jason Spanish, in July of 2012.

The SIU assigned two investigators and one forensic investigator to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, four witness officers and seven civilian witnesses were interviewed. The subject officer provided a statement to the SIU, but declined to provide a copy of his notes, as is his legal right.
 
The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on July 17-18:

• On July17, Mr. Spanish was riding his bicycle eastbound on Gerrard Street near Pape Avenue and carrying a cardboard box containing some recently purchased alcohol. 
• The subject officer and a witness officer observed him riding through a crosswalk. The two officers drove past Mr. Spanish, stopped their cruiser in front of him and exited to speak to him out of concern for the Highway Traffic Act offence of riding through a crosswalk. They also wanted to speak to him because of their prior knowledge of his alleged involvement in bicycle thefts.
• Mr. Spanish stopped his bicycle, dismounted and placed his box of alcohol on the ground. An argument immediately broke out between him and the two officers. When he moved toward the subject officer, the officer was concerned that he may have to step backward into the traffic on Gerrard Street and so pushed him. Mr. Spanish began falling backward and grabbed the subject officer. The witness officer directed the two men away from the roadway, and Mr. Spanish fell to the ground scraping his chin as he landed.  The two officers handcuffed his hands behind his back. 
• The subject officer said that he proceeded to move his right boot near Mr. Spanish’s face to stop him from spitting at him. On the other hand, two witnesses said they saw the subject officer kicking Mr. Spanish in the upper body area.
• Mr. Spanish was then lifted up and placed in the back seat of the police cruiser. When he refused to place his feet inside the cruiser, the subject officer applied increasing amounts of pressure with the door on his legs to persuade him to comply. Eventually he moved his feet into the cruiser.
• The witness officer placed Mr. Spanish’s bicycle and box of alcohol in the cruiser. They began to drive to 55 Division with the intention of processing him on a charge of assault police. They decided to first drop Mr. Spanish’s property off at his residence.  Once there, the subject officer spoke to him and decided to release him unconditionally.  They had no further contact with him.
• Witnesses who spoke with the SIU stated the man had been consuming alcohol that evening.
• The next morning, Mr. Spanish’s family members attempted to rouse him and were unsuccessful. Paramedics were called and he was pronounced dead at the scene. 

A post-mortem examination was later conducted and the cause of death determined to be “acute alcohol intoxication in a man with enlarged fatty liver”.  The post-mortem report also noted an abrasion under the chin and other contusions but none were sufficient to cause death. 

Director Scott said, “Based upon the post-mortem report, there is no nexus between the interaction with the subject officer and the man on July 17 on the one hand, and Mr. Spanish’s death the following day – his demise was the result of acute alcohol intoxication and a pre-existing liver disorder. 

“Grounds to lay a criminal charge of assault could exist in relation to the police interaction on July 17; however I do not have those grounds.  For one, the subject officer had the lawful authority to stop Mr. Spanish after he observed him improperly ride his bicycle through a crosswalk pursuant to ss. 144(29) and s. 218 of the Highway Traffic Act. Further, the subject officer had the authority to shove Mr. Spanish away from him if he reasonably concluded that he was going to assault him, and I am of the view that the subject officer could reasonably come to that conclusion.  There is however a significant factual discrepancy with respect to whether or not the subject officer kicked Mr. Spanish in the upper body area.  Given that the autopsy did not disclose blunt force trauma consistent with this action, and that Mr. Spanish cannot confirm the alleged kick to his head due to his unfortunate demise, I lack the reasonable grounds to lay an assault charge against the subject officer in these circumstances.”  

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