SIU Concludes Investigation into Hamilton Custody Injury
Case Number: 14-OCI-062
Mississauga (25 September, 2014) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Tony Loparco, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge any Hamilton Police Service (HPS) officer with a criminal offence in relation to the injuries sustained by a 27-year-old man in March of this year.
The SIU assigned six investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, four witness officers and three civilian witnesses were interviewed. Two subject officers were designated; both consented to an interview with the SIU and provided a copy of their duty notes.
The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on Saturday, March 8, 2014:
- Shortly before 10:00 p.m., the man was reported to have stabbed several people in various units of an apartment building on Melvin Avenue in Hamilton with a knife.
- The HPS was contacted and officers responded to the scene.
- By then, the man had exited the apartment building and was running alongside the fence that divides 221 Melvin Avenue from 215 Melvin Avenue. He scaled the fence and made his way onto the rear lot of 215 Melvin Avenue, which housed a pizza and sandwich store.
- The officers surrounded the man and ordered him to drop the knife, but he refused to comply, instead confronting one of the subject officers with the knife still in hand.
- The subject officer discharged his conducted energy weapon (CEW) at the man. The discharge seemed to have little to no effect. The man pulled the CEW prongs from his body and retreated to the rear of the pizza and sandwich store, where he climbed a set of stairs leading to a second floor patio of the building. He continued to refuse all commands to drop the knife and instead started throwing objects from the patio at the officers below.
- Meanwhile, officers continued to respond to the scene, including the second subject officer who was the senior officer on scene.
- The first subject officer briefed the second subject officer and relinquished command of the police operation to him.
- In the meantime, the man had made his way off the balcony onto a thin sloping ledge alongside the western wall of the pizza and sandwich shop. He fell from the ledge onto the asphalt driveway below, fracturing his spine and ankle.
- The man was still in possession of the knife and surrounded by officers, who continued to maintain their distance. He hopped for a distance toward Melvin Avenue, but lost his footing and fell forward. As he stood up, the second subject officer discharged his CEW. The discharge struck the man causing him to fall backwards, but he was soon able to remove the probes from his body.
- The knife still in his right hand, the man waved it at the officers, prompting the second subject officer to fire his CEW a second time. The probes missed their target.
- Around this time, another officer attempted to pepper spray the man, but that too proved ineffective.
- Emergency Response Unit (ERU) officers arrived on scene at around 10:10 p. m. and assumed control of the situation. By this time, the man had made his way to the front of the business located at 211 Melvin Avenue, directly adjacent to and west of the pizza and sandwich store.
- ERU officers repeatedly ordered the man to drop the knife. It was decided that they would use an Anti-Riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN) in an effort to disarm him. Four rubber bullets fired from the ARWEN at relatively close range proved ineffective in disarming the man, who was still on the ground holding the knife. Another ERU officer deployed his CEW twice at the man. The probes met their target and the officer initiated the electric charge, but again the man was unaffected on either occasion.
- A fifth ARWEN round fired at the man caused him to drop the knife. With that, the ERU officers moved toward the man. The man managed to retrieve the knife as the officers moved in on him. This time the officers overpowered him, forcibly removing the knife from the man.
Director Loparco stated, “The involved officers had every reason to believe that the man constituted a real and present danger. He was holding a knife, its blade measuring about 20 centimetres in length, and waving it at the officers. The officers knew he had just stabbed several people. They tried to communicate with the man but he was not receptive. With respect to the various CEW deployments, it bears noting that the man seemed largely impervious to the incapacitating effects of the weapon. On a couple of occasions, he appears to have simply pulled the CEW probes from his body while the weapon was discharging. This, in my view, is powerful evidence that the discharges did not amount to excessive force. But more than that, it is also clear that resort to the weapon was at all times reasonable in the circumstances. As for the discharges by the two subject officers, these were more in the nature of self-defence as the man advanced with the knife to within close proximity of the officers. They were entitled, in my view, to meet the threat posed by the man by discharging their CEWs. As for the CEW discharges by the ERU, these were done predominantly with a view to securing the man’s arrest. Much the same can be said for the use of the pepper spray and the ARWEN discharges. Finally, it bears noting that none of the officers present at the scene caused the man to break his spine and ankle. These fractures occurred when he, unaided and unprompted by any of the officers, jumped or fell from the second floor exterior ledge of the building at 215 Melvin Avenue.”
Director Loparco concluded, “In the final analysis, whether pursuant to section 25 of the Criminal Code (authorizing the use of force in the execution of an officer’s duty) or section 34 of the Code (prescribing the limits of defensive force), the force in question was legally justified and there are therefore no grounds to proceed with charges in this case.”
The SIU is an independent civilian 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.
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342