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News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation into Ottawa Custody Death

Case Number: 05-OCD-085

TORONTO (6 April, 2006) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) James Cornish, has concluded there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any Ottawa Police Service (OPS) officer is criminally liable in the death of 43-year-old Stéphane Michaud.

Seven SIU investigators probed the nature and extent of police involvement in the death of Mr. Michaud. The investigation revealed that Mr. Michaud had suffered from psychological issues for a number of years. On June 5, 2005, Mr. Michaud was a passenger on a flight from Halifax that arrived at the Ottawa International Airport that morning. He got off the plane and wandered around the terminal.

At about 9:00 a.m., airport staff and passengers saw him acting in a strange manner in a waiting area between gates. Mr. Michaud was jumping off furniture and banging his head on the floor. His face was bleeding. An off-duty RCMP officer and airport staff tried to talk to Mr. Michaud. Mr. Michaud continued to act strangely and became physically combative with other passengers. He yelled, "Shoot me, shoot me," and said he wanted to die.

The police and medical personnel were called. While waiting for the police to arrive, the off-duty officer and two men restrained Mr. Michaud by holding him face down on the floor as he continued to shout and kick.

At 9:08 a.m., the first officers arrived. Mr. Michaud was still screaming and struggling. The officers handcuffed Mr. Michaud's hands behind his back and placed him in a seated position. He continued to struggle and managed to wiggle under a row of chairs. He remained underneath the chairs, lying on his back and occasionally spitting blood at the officers. An officer had to restrain Mr. Michaud's head to try to stop him from hurting himself when he banged it repeatedly on the floor. Two other officers also knelt by Mr. Michaud's pelvis and feet and held him down as Mr. Michaud continued to exhibit formidable strength.

Paramedics arrived at the airport at 9:21 a.m. and were at the gate at 9:27 a.m. A paramedic placed an oxygen mask over Mr. Michaud's mouth to help him breathe and to prevent him from spitting.

It took two attempts before the paramedics and the police were able to put Mr. Michaud on the stretcher at 9:35 a.m. He was face down on the stretcher and continued to fight and broke several restraints on the stretcher. The paramedics received authorization from a doctor over the telephone to administer medication to try to calm him down. At 9:44 a.m., paramedics injected Mr. Michaud with a drug. He calmed down but very soon afterwards, the paramedics became concerned that Mr. Michaud was not breathing very well and indeed he stopped breathing. All restraints were removed and Mr. Michaud was turned over. Paramedics and police started CPR and continued with the chest compressions until they arrived at the hospital. He was pronounced dead at hospital at 10:53 a.m.

A post mortem examination concluded no anatomical cause of death.

Based on all of the available evidence, Director Cornish stated, "The cause of Mr. Michaud's death remains undetermined. It will be for other offices and other processes to make definitive findings in that regard. Whatever the cause of Mr. Michaud's death however, I am satisfied that none of the subject officers bear any criminal liability in relation to it."

"Everyone involved, either as a participant or a spectator, commented on the apparent superhuman strength of Mr. Michaud. The officers managed to control him and then acted quickly to assist in whatever way they could with medical intervention at the first sign of distress. On all of the circumstances, I am of the view that the officers' conduct fell well within the requisite level of care prescribed by the criminal law."

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. 

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SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342