SIU Concludes Investigation into Fatal Collision in Toronto
Case Number: 07-TVD-105
Other News Releases Related to Case 07-TVD-105
Twelve SIU investigators including three SIU Forensic Identification Technicians (FIT) and a Collision Reconstructionist probed the circumstances that lead to the deaths.
The SIU investigation determined that on June 2, 2007, shortly after 1:32 a.m., TPS officers were dispatched to the area of Islington and Finch Avenues to investigate a 911 call about a man armed with a handgun. The caller said the man had tried to enter her home on Duncanwoods Drive and then left the area. The police had information that the man may be in a black Chevrolet Malibu and at a home on Tandridge Crescent. Four officers in two police cruisers went to Tandridge Crescent to search for the vehicle.
The officers were parked at the end of Tandridge Crescent and speaking to each other from within their cars when they saw the driver of an Acura abruptly slow down as he passed them. The car did not have any headlights or taillights on. The two police cruisers were positioned such that the officers had a view of the front and then the rear of the Acura is it approached and passed by. The officers checked the licence plate and learned the car was stolen.
One officer activated his cruiser's emergency lights and started to follow the driver of the Acura. The second officer made a three-point-turn on Tandridge and also followed. The police pursued the driver of the Acura as he ignored several stop signs while traveling westbound on Irwin Road. The young man turned north onto Islington Avenue and nearly collided with a northbound van. The officers continued to pursue the Acura north on Islington, while updating the dispatcher of their locations and speed. The officers in the lead cruiser activated its siren periodically throughout the pursuit.
The pursuit continued north on Islington and the Acura changed lanes a number of times and passed some northbound cars. The Acura was traveling in excess of 120 km/h. The driver of the Acura approached Finch Avenue, disobeyed a red light and entered the intersection. There the Acura collided with a taxi that was traveling through the intersection eastbound on Finch Avenue. That taxi, in turn, careened into another eastbound taxi. The entire pursuit lasted approximately 90 seconds.
One of the taxis had two young women seated in the rear seat. One of them, a 16-year-old suffered fatal injuries in the collision and was pronounced dead at the scene. The other young woman, a 17-year-old, succumbed to her injuries in hospital on June 3, 2007. The 15-year-old driver of the Acura was taken to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries later in the morning of June 2, 2007.
Director Cornish said, "Following my review of the evidence obtained by this Unit, I am of the view that there are no reasonable grounds to support charges against the subject officers in respect of this catastrophic and tragic case.
In attempting to determine what was reasonable in the circumstances of this pursuit, one must consider all the circumstances including the regulation in effect governing police pursuits in the province (O. Reg. 546/99 Suspect Apprehension Pursuits). Though not determinative of the reasonableness inquiry, it is an important barometer of the standard of care in the circumstances of a police pursuit. Since one of the questions to be answered in respect of the consideration of a charge of dangerous driving is whether the driving was unreasonable in the circumstances, compliance with the regulation, while not determinative of the issue, provides some evidence of reasonableness. Accordingly, while cognizant of the SIU's focused criminal law mandate, one needs to examine the police conduct in light of all the evidence including the regulation.
According to the regulation, suspect apprehension pursuits must be carried out by balancing the risk to public safety posed by the pursuit and the risk of not immediately apprehending the suspect. In this case, the officers were in the Islington and Finch area in search of a vehicle involved in a high priority gun call when they encountered an Acura being driven without its lights turned on. The officers involved in this incident both checked the status of the licence number that they could clearly see on the Acura and they immediately received word back that the vehicle was a stolen car. Both subject officers, who were driving the cruisers, decided to follow the Acura believing as well that it may be involved in the gun call.
The evidence indicates that once the emergency lights of the cruisers were activated, the Acura increased its speed to in excess of twice the posted speed limit and was headed to the area where the gun call originated. The cruisers were also driven at high speeds, but were seen by independent witnesses to have been driven at a speed less than that of the Acura. The officers noted the light traffic and the lack of pedestrians in the area while driving. The subject officer in the lead vehicle also reported his speed.
By their very nature, every police pursuit carries with it some risk of harm. The issue is whether that risk is disproportionate to the law enforcement and community interests in the conduct of police investigations. In the criminal law context, that weighing of evidence will only attract sanction where, on balance, the impugned conduct amounts to a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person similarly situated would have exercised in the circumstances.
Traffic in the area was light and there was a lack of pedestrians in the area. In addition, the roadways were dry, in good repair and well lit throughout the pursuit route. There is no suggestion that the cruisers ever made contact with the Acura, nor can it fairly be said in my view that the manner in which the subject officers operated their cruisers unduly "pushed" the Acura or otherwise prevented it from coming to a safe stop. The evidence establishes that the officers were for most of the pursuit well back of the Acura, especially the moments just prior to the collision on Islington Avenue. When I consider these circumstances and the totality of the evidence, including the pursuit regulation, I am satisfied there are no reasonable grounds to believe the officers' conduct amounted to a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised."
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.