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News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation in Ottawa Vehicle Fatality

Case Number: 14-OVD-040

Mississauga (8 September, 2014) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Tony Loparco, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge any Ottawa Police Service (OPS) officer with a criminal offence in relation to the vehicle death of a 24-year-old man in February of this year.

The SIU assigned six investigators, one forensic investigator and a collision reconstructionist to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, four witness officers and nine civilian witnesses were interviewed. Two subject officers were designated; both provided a copy of their duty notes and consented to an interview.  SIU forensic investigators photographed the scene and took measurements for forensic mapping purposes. The SIU also collected and reviewed GPS data from the involved cruisers.

The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on Monday, February 17, 2014:

  • Just before 1:00 a.m., the two subject officers were stopped in their cruisers on the eastbound shoulder of Highway 174, several hundred metres west of Jeanne D’Arc Boulevard.  
  • One of the subject officers was dealing with a motorist parked in front of him for a traffic violation.  
  • The second subject officer had stopped his cruiser in the bus lane beside the other subject officer’s vehicle.  
  • As the two officers chatted through their open front windows, a Volkswagen Jetta travelled east past their location.  
  • The officer stopped in the bus lane noticed that the vehicle did not have its taillights activated and pulled onto the highway intending to stop it.  
  • Just east of Jeanne D’Arc Boulevard, the officer brought his cruiser to within five metres of the Jetta and activated his emergency lights and siren.  
  • The Jetta, which had been travelling at about 120 km/h, suddenly accelerated to about 160 km/h.  The subject officer also accelerated and was soon in a full-fledged pursuit of the Jetta.  He was quickly joined by the other subject officer.  
  • The pursuit continued at high speeds for about five and a half kilometres and lasted approximately three minutes.  The subject officers attempted a rolling block during which the Jetta and one of the cruisers jockeyed with each other in an attempt to get in front of one another.  
  • As the pursuit approached Trim Road, a manager in the police communications centre ordered that it be terminated. 
  • The Jetta continued at high speed. As it entered the intersection of Highway 174 and Trim Road it drifted to the left and struck a snow bank on the centre median of the roadway east of the intersection. 
  • The Jetta became airborne for some 35 metres, its flight halted when it struck a light standard about five metres from ground level. 
  • The man driving the Jetta was ejected from the vehicle and suffered catastrophic injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

 

Director Loparco stated, “The speeds of the police vehicles, upwards of 180 and 190 km/h at points during the pursuit, clearly could have  endangered the travelling public in the vicinity.  That said, this was a highway they were travelling on.  Moreover, it bears noting that the officers were engaged in the execution of their duty and therefore exempt by virtue of section 128(13)(b) of the Highway Traffic Act from the 100 km/h speed limit in effect through most of the pursuit.   This is not to suggest that the officers had licence to drive as fast as they wanted.  It is merely to recognize that allowance must be made for the fact that the subject officers were police officers trained in high speed driving and attempting to lawfully stop a motorist for a legitimate traffic violation.  While neither officer did much to advise the communications centre of the conditions around them, the fact is the road was dry and the weather was clear.  Though dark at that time of day, it is also true that traffic on the roads was relatively light.  Lastly, the officers had their emergency lights activated throughout most if not the entirety of the pursuit.  These factors go some way in tempering an assessment of the officers’ speeds and their overall conduct.”

Director Loparco concluded, “The offences that arise for consideration in this as in other police pursuit scenarios are dangerous driving (section 249 of the Criminal Code) and criminal negligence causing death or bodily harm (sections 220 and 221 of the Code).  Both are offences of penal negligence and are predicated upon a finding that the conduct in question amounts to a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances.   In the final analysis, the fact that the officers immediately complied with the order of the communication centre to terminate the pursuit immediately upon confirming the Jetta’s licence plate prevents their driving from reaching the level of a “marked departure” such as to constitute dangerous driving.  I am satisfied on the balance of the evidence that the officers’ want of care was not such as to transgress the limits prescribed by the criminal law. Therefore, there are no reasonable grounds, in my view, to believe that either of the subject officers committed a criminal offence in relation to this incident.”

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