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News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation into Lake Ontario Death

Case Number: 14-OCD-265

Mississauga, ON (18 September, 2015) ---
The Acting Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Joseph Martino, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge a Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) officer with any criminal offence in relation to the drowning death of a 24-year-old man in November of 2014.

The SIU assigned three investigators and one forensic investigator to probe the circumstances of this incident. As part of the investigation, ten civilian witnesses and two witness officers were interviewed. The subject officer did not participate in an SIU interview and did not provide a copy of his duty notes, as is his legal right. 

The SIU investigation found that the following events took place on Monday, November 17, 2014:
  • At approximately 5:30 p.m., the man went to a friend’s residence in St. Catharines and ingested a quantity of narcotics. He began to experience delusions and exhibit signs of extreme paranoia, coupled with speech that was incoherent and nonsensical. He left the home at approximately 6 p.m.
  • Just after 7 p.m., the man’s screams caught the attention of residents in the area of Firelane 11 in Niagara-on-the-Lake. A number of individuals went outside to see what was going on and came upon the man. He appeared to be in mental distress. 
  • The police were contacted and the subject officer arrived in the neighborhood within minutes. He confronted the man and then followed him north and east along the pathway toward Lake Ontario. The man refused to stop for the officer and eventually entered the lake in knee-deep water. There he remained for a few minutes within metres of the shoreline, all but oblivious to the officer’s exhortations that he return to land. A gathering of residents and another police officer caught up with the subject officer and joined in the chorus calling out to the man. The distance between the group and the man increased as the tide seemed to carry the man further into the lake. He was seen for the last time at about 8 p.m. before being subsumed by the water.
  • At approximately 8:35 p.m., the man’s body was found ashore on the banks of Lake Ontario between Firelane 8 and Firelane 7, a short distance east from where he had entered the water.

The pathologist at autopsy would later confirm that the man’s death was the result of drowning and hypothermia.

Acting Director Martino said, “I am unable in any of this to find fault with the conduct of the subject officer. It is evident that he considered going into the water to attempt a rescue of the man, but quickly ruled it out. It was windy, dark and cold, the water was choppy with waves up to a metre high and the terrain along the shore was treacherous, with significant cliffs and ice-covered boulders in places. Add to the mix the unknown but potentially dangerous individual he would encounter, and it is plain to see that those types of heroic efforts would have been foolhardy. Instead, the officer called for firefighters to the scene. They would have the necessary training, equipment and expertise to safely retrieve the man from the water if the opportunity presented itself. In fact, firefighters did make it out while the man was still floundering in the water, but the difficult environmental conditions meant that they too were unable to mount much of a rescue effort. In the meantime, the subject officer was wise to ensure that the civilians who had gathered in the area, some of whom had notions of going into the water after the man, maintained a safe distance. In the final analysis, I am satisfied that the subject officer conducted himself professionally and exercised reasonable judgment at all times while responding to a precarious and fast-changing set of circumstances, and that there are therefore no grounds for proceeding with charges in this case.  Sadly, a seriously impaired and altered sense of reality, seemingly connected with the ingestion of narcotics, is to blame for the man’s unfortunate demise.”     

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