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News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation into Custody Death in Toronto

Case Number: 13-TCD-215

Mississauga (10 June, 2014) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Tony Loparco, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge any Toronto Police Service (TPS) officers with a criminal offence in relation to the death of a 50-year-old man in Toronto in August 2013.

The SIU assigned five investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, one witness officer and six civilian witnesses were interviewed. Eight subject officers participated in interviews with the SIU and provided their notes.  A ninth subject officer provided his notes, but declined an interview with the SIU, as is his legal right. The SIU also collected evidence including 911 communication recordings and police radio transmissions, CCTV security videos and the TPS computer aided dispatch report.

The SIU investigation found that the following events took place in the early morning hours of Thursday, August 29, 2013:
• The man and a friend were at a strip club located at 379 Yonge Street.
• At t some point after 1:00 a.m., the man, who reportedly appeared drunk, became disruptive and began arguing with his friend, a number of dancers and the club’s manager.
• When the man refused to leave the club the argument escalated and he became violent resulting in the police being called.
• Four subject officers were the first to arrive at the club. They were met by a male dancer who indicated he had been assaulted.  The subject officers observed that the manager also had a bloody lip.
• The officers were told that the man involved was upstairs and still assaulting others.
• The officers went up the stairs and saw a man with blood on his face. He was pointed out by patrons to be the offending party.
• When the officers told the man he was under arrest, he immediately resisted by pulling and pushing the two subject officers who were attempting to place him in handcuffs. The man was taken to the floor.
• With the help of two additional officers, the man was eventually handcuffed, brought to his feet and walked down the stairs and onto the street.
• Once outside, he was searched in a bent forward position over the hood of a police cruiser. During the search, the man continued to struggle and began kicking out at three more officers who had arrived on scene.
• As a result, the officers decided to place him in leg shackles.  He calmed momentarily, and then went limp and immediately appeared to be in medical crisis.
• He was lowered to the ground and placed in the recovery position. Paramedics, who were already on scene, began to examine the man.
• The man was transported to St. Michael’s Hospital by ambulance. Unfortunately, efforts to revive him were not successful and he was pronounced dead.

Director Loparco said, “The police were clearly in the discharge of their duties when they attended the club in response to an unknown trouble call. And having ascertained the circumstances they had reasonable grounds to arrest the man when they arrived at the top of the club’s steps. When they attempted to arrest him, he resisted. Although the two subject officers who attempted to place him under arrest acknowledged using force during the arrest, it is evident that this force was no more than was reasonably necessary to subdue him in the circumstances. In light of the man’s aggression and level of resistance, which is apparent from the CCTV video, it appears that the officers showed considerable restraint as he continued to struggle when he was removed from the club.

“Once outside the police attempted to search the man in a bent forward position over the hood of the police cruiser. At that time he continued to struggle and began kicking out at three additional subject officers. As a result he was pressed into the hood of the cruiser and his legs were shackled. In my opinion, both the search and the decision to shackle were legally appropriate given the man’s violent behavior at that moment.”

Director Loparco concluded, “Although the man’s physical confrontations resulted in “minor bumps and bruises”, those injuries had nothing to do with his death. The pathologist’s autopsy report, which included toxicology results, revealed that the man had preexisting hypertensive heart disease. The cause of death was determined to be cocaine intoxication with cardiac arrhythmia as the mechanism of death. In summary, it appears that his death resulted from his ingestion of cocaine which in the context of his various physical struggles (whether with the club’s staff or patrons, or the police) brought about a cardiac arrhythmia that ultimately led to his demise. The police conduct in this case was reasonable given their grounds to arrest and the violent struggle put up by the man. As a result no charges will issue.”

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. 

Jasbir Dhillon, jasbir.dhillon@ontario.ca
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342