SIU Concludes Investigation into Lavigne Vehicle Death
Case Number: 15-OVD-120
Other News Releases Related to Case 15-OVD-120
(22 October, 2015) ---
The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Tony Loparco, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge a West Nipissing Police Service (WNPS) officer with a criminal offence in relation to the death of 31-year-old Thomas Caleb Fremlin in June of 2015.
The SIU assigned four investigators, two forensic investigators and one collision reconstructionist to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, five witness officers and nine civilian witnesses were interviewed. The subject officer consented to an interview with the SIU and provided a copy of his duty notes.
The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on Tuesday, June 16, 2015:
• In the evening hours, Mr. Fremlin was parked in a family member’s driveway in Sudbury in a white Jeep Cherokee. He was drinking alcoholic beverages in the vehicle. After requesting a gun, he suddenly sped off without the weapon. The family member contacted police to report the incident.
• Mr. Fremlin returned to the family member’s home and again parked out front. When a police officer with the Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS) arrived and tried to approach him, Mr. Fremlin drove off in an erratic manner.
• This officer did not pursue Mr. Fremlin because of the risk a pursuit would pose to public safety. Another officer saw Mr. Fremlin run a four-way stop nearby. After that point, the GSPS officers lost visual contact with Mr. Fremlin but monitored his location using the cell phone tower locations and Mr. Fremlin’s cell phone. These showed Mr. Fremlin driving eastbound on Highway 17. GSPS notified the Ontario Provincial Police and WNPS of the situation.
• Sixty five kilometres to the east, the subject officer and other WNPS officers were driving towards an unrelated truck fire near the Highway 17 and Highway 64 intersection. The subject officer was driving northbound on Highway 64 just south of the junction, without his emergency lights or siren activated, when he saw a white SUV speeding past him on Highway 64 in the opposite direction. Knowing of Mr. Fremlin’s flight from Sudbury and that the police were attempting to locate him, the officer requested a description of the vehicle. The officer turned his cruiser around and said over the radio that he was trying to catch up to the vehicle to get the licence plate number so that he could update the relevant police services on his direction of travel.
• Shortly before the bend at Millrand Road, the subject officer caught sight of some tail lights that could have been the white SUV. His radar returned a reading of 160 to 165 km/h. Soon after, the tail lights were no longer visible. The subject officer continued traveling southbound looking for the white vehicle.
• At approximately 11:45 p.m., Mr. Fremlin ran off the road and crashed into a tree in front of a home in the Township of Lavigne. The forensic reconstruction establishes that Mr. Fremlin was travelling in excess of 162 km/h in a 20 km/h area when he lost control on a curve in the road and crashed. The vehicle caught on fire. Neighbours tried to extinguish the fire before emergency services arrived.
• Because the area of the crash had no artificial lighting, it appears the subject officer drove past the site a minute or two after the accident without spotting Mr. Fremlin’s vehicle. It was only when he heard about the accident and fire over the radio that he made his way to the accident site. Upon arrival, the officer immediately tried to extinguish the blaze and then assisted the fire department.
• The results of the post mortem examination determined that Mr. Fremlin died from trauma of the collision.
Director Loparco said, “The offence that arises for consideration in this case is dangerous driving cause death contrary to s. 249 of the Criminal Code. To establish dangerous driving, the impugned driving must amount to a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. It is clear that the subject officer did not instigate Mr. Fremlin’s flight. By the time the subject officer spotted him, Mr. Fremlin had taken off from police in Sudbury and was now speeding southbound on Highway 64. It is possible Mr. Fremlin panicked when he saw the emergency response vehicles that were dealing with the truck fire on Highway 17 and that he turned onto Highway 64 to evade them. If so, this would have been nothing more than an inadvertent consequence of the officers carrying out their lawful and unrelated duties. In addition, the subject officer was not among those vehicles on Highway 17 that Mr. Fremlin would have been in a position to see. He was on Highway 64, with his lights and siren off, when Mr. Fremlin passed him.
“It cannot be said that the subject officer forced Mr. Fremlin to continue driving erratically or prevented him from coming to a safe stop. The evidence strongly suggests that Mr. Fremlin could not have known he was being followed by the subject officer due to the significant distance between their vehicles. The officer had to turn his car around before he could drive in Mr. Fremlin’s direction. Mr. Fremlin quickly drove out of view. The subject officer was only able to get close enough to spot Mr. Fremlin’s tail lights one time, and even then for only a few seconds. Conversely, Mr. Fremlin would hardly have been able to see the officer’s headlights, and it would not have been obvious those came from a police vehicle. The witnesses near the crash site confirm that the subject officer did not have his lights or siren on and that he was not in the vicinity when Mr. Fremlin hit the tree.”
Director Loparco continued, “It is true that the subject officer drove at excessive speed along Highway 64 as he tried to catch up to Mr. Fremlin. The officer reports reaching top speeds of 160 to 170 km/h and the roads were dark. However, the pavement was dry and it appears that there were few other vehicles on the road. The officer was also familiar with the highway and reports slowing to safe speeds in anticipation of various curves and turns. There is nothing in the evidence to undermine the reliability or credibility of his account. Moreover, the officer was authorized under the Highway Traffic Act to exceed the speed limit while engaged in his lawful duties. He had a legitimate reason to suspect that the white SUV was Mr. Fremlin’s vehicle and he knew that information about its location had immediate investigative value. If the driver was not Mr. Fremlin, then there was another, unknown potentially dangerous driver on the roads. The subject officer was duty bound to investigate the nature of this possible threat to public safety, and I cannot say that his actions in doing so amounted to a marked departure from the applicable standard of care.”
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342