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News Release

No Charges where Man Inadvertently Shot and Injured in Thornhill

Case Number: 15-OFI-262

Mississauga, ON (16 September, 2016) ---
The Acting Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Joseph Martino, has determined there are no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against a York Regional Police officer in relation to the gunshot wound sustained by a 78-year-old man in November of 2015.  

Three investigators and one forensic investigator were assigned to this incident.

The SIU interviewed the injured man, one civilian member of the involved police service and three witness officers. The subject officer participated in an SIU interview but did not provide a copy of his duty notes, as is his legal right.
 
The Unit’s investigation also included review of police communications, in-cruiser camera system data and documentation regarding the humane disposal of animals by police officers. The SIU forensic investigator made a digital photographic record of the scene and collected exhibits relevant to the incident.

The SIU investigation found the following:
  • In the morning hours of November 9, 2015, police were notified of a deer lying on the edge of Proctor Avenue, just east of Henderson Avenue, with its head on the north sidewalk, clearly injured and incapacitated.
  • As police made their way to the area, two men and the 78-year-old man, who had come across the deer, managed to get the animal onto the sidewalk. Once police arrived, the civilians were asked to move away. They moved west toward a bridge underpass.
  • The subject officer and another officer conferred and the decision was made to put the animal down. The officers repositioned their vehicles to prevent the flow of traffic in the area. 
  • The subject officer retrieved his police-issue shotgun, loaded it with a slug shell, took aim and discharged a single shot into the deer, killing it. After going through the deer, the projectile ricocheted off the sidewalk and struck the 78-year-old man above the right ear and lodged in the area between his scalp and skull. 
  • The subject officer applied first aid to the man until paramedics arrived and transported him to hospital. He was released following a surgical procedure to remove the projectile.  

Acting Director Martino said, “Pursuant to section 10 of O. Reg. 926 under the Police Services Act, police officers are permitted to shoot an animal which ‘is so badly injured that humanity dictates that its suffering be ended’. The deer in question was in very bad shape and clearly suffering. It was unable to stand and bleeding from the mouth and rectum. In the circumstances, the decision to shoot and kill the animal was clearly authorized in law.

“Having decided to use a firearm, however, the officer was duty bound to ensure he did so with due regard for public safety. The very fact that someone was struck by a bullet suggests the officer was less than careful. The officer saw the civilians moving west and believed they were proceeding around the corner of the concrete retaining wall under the bridge and out of harm’s way when he took his shot. The officer was wrong. In fact, while it was his intention to seek cover behind the retaining wall, the 78-year-old man was not there yet when he was struck. 

“The offences that are raised for consideration are careless use of a firearm and criminal negligence causing bodily harm, contrary to sections 86 and 221 of the Criminal Code, respectively. Both are offences of penal negligence and are therefore not made out in the absence of conduct amounting to a marked departure from a reasonable level of care in the circumstances. Although the subject officer’s conduct is certainly subject to criticism, it is apparent that public safety weighed on his mind as he went about his business. Before retrieving his shotgun and preparing to shoot the deer, he and the other officer were alive to the need to block vehicular traffic in the area and effectively positioned their cruisers to do so. He gave some thought to the ammunition he would use and chose a slug shell instead of buckshot precisely because this would limit the risk of stray projectiles. It had also been his experience, having previously euthanized deer and coyotes, that a projectile from a slug discharge would stay inside an animal’s body. And while he fell short in his duty to ensure the elderly man and other civilians were out of the zone of fire, he had turned his attention to their location and concluded, albeit in error, that they were safe when he took his shot.”

Acting Director Martino concluded, “In the final analysis, considered in context and weighed in the balance with the caution the officer did exercise, I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the officer’s failings fall short of constituting a marked departure from a reasonable level of care and that there are therefore no grounds for proceeding with charges in this case.”  

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