After Reopening, SIU Affirms Previous Conclusions in Two Brantford Death Investigations
Case Number: 09-OCD-010
Other News Releases Related to Case 09-OCD-010
As a result of materially new information coming to light in December of 2014, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) reopened the investigations into the drowning death of Benjamin Wood in 2009 and the shooting death of Evan Jones in 2010. These cases were initially investigated while the SIU was under the leadership of former director Ian Scott. Both investigations involved the Brantford Police Service (BPS), and the subject officer for each case was the same. Despite the new information, SIU Director Tony Loparco has determined that there are still no reasonable grounds to charge the subject officer in relation to either death.
Two investigators were assigned to the reopened investigation.
The SIU interviewed 10 police witnesses, which also encompassed re-interviewing officers from the original investigations. The subject officer provided statements in both original investigations, but declined to participate in the reopened investigation, as is his legal right.
The Unit’s investigation also included the review of internal communications from BPS, medical documentation concerning the subject officer obtained pursuant to three separate production orders and transcripts of the 2012 coroner’s inquest into the death of Evan Jones. The SIU also retained a forensic psychiatrist for the purpose of obtaining an expert opinion concerning statements made by the subject officer to a number of BPS police officers.
The SIU reviewed the full body of evidence collected during the original Wood and Jones death investigations, which included reports, interview recordings, scene photographs, police communications, physical evidence and post-mortem reports.
The SIU launched an investigation into Benjamin Wood’s drowning death, and found no reasonable grounds to believe a criminal offence was committed by any officer with the BPS.
Full news release: https://www.siu.on.ca/en/news_template.php?nrid=640
The SIU invoked its mandate after Evan Jones was fatally shot, and determined no criminal liability could attach to the subject officer’s actions.
Full news release: https://www.siu.on.ca/en/news_template.php?nrid=807
December 2014 – SIU reopens both investigations:
On the morning of December 10, 2014, at approximately 4:45 a.m., the subject officer walked into the BPS headquarters. He made statements to a number of police officers concerning the deaths of Benjamin Wood and Evan Jones, indicating that he had lied to the SIU during previous investigations and that he was criminally responsible for those two deaths. That same day, the subject officer was admitted to a healthcare facility. While there, he made further comments of a similar nature to other officers who visited him over the ensuing days.
On December 18, 2014, the Chief of BPS notified the SIU of the subject officer’s comments and the SIU immediately commenced an investigation. The four police officers who dealt with the subject officer at the police station and the three who met with him in the healthcare facility were interviewed. Witness officers from the initial investigations were also re-interviewed.
The Subject Officer’s State of Mind
Director Loparco said, “When the subject officer attended the BPS headquarters on December 10, 2014, he was in the midst of a mental health crisis. While the witness officer accounts vary in terms of the precise content of what the subject officer said, they are unwavering in their descriptions of the subject officer’s demeanour and well-being. He was paranoid, delusional, obsessive, dishevelled, unstable and frenzied. He made persistent references to Biblical passages, God and insisted on discussing the deaths of Mr. Wood and Mr. Jones.
“The subject officer’s state of mind at the time of his December 2014 statements is a critical variable in assessing the content of his statements. As such, SIU investigators sought and obtained issuance of three separate production orders.
“The SIU engaged a leading forensic psychiatrist to review pertinent documentation regarding the subject officer. The forensic psychiatrist indicated that he was unable to provide anything beyond a preliminary opinion absent further information that the SIU was legally unable to obtain. As a result of this conclusion, I made the decision to evaluate the body of evidence legally available to determine whether or not there were reasonable grounds to believe an offence had been committed. In undertaking this analysis, I accepted the preliminary opinion of the forensic psychiatrist, and assumed the subject officer’s statements to be the product of an operating mind on that basis.”
In total, there were seven officers who were the recipients of the subject officer’s utterances. Witness officers #1 to #4 dealt with the subject officer while at the police station, and during his transport from the station to the healthcare facility. Witness officers #5 to #7 spoke with the subject officer while he was in the healthcare facility. A summary of the pertinent information recounted by the witness officers is as follows:
Witness Officer #1 (WO #1) – Utterance on December 10, 2014
The subject officer told WO #1 that he hit Mr. Wood. He also stated that he pepper-sprayed Mr. Jones, and that Mr. Jones had been in possession of a knife but had dropped it.
Witness Officer #2 (WO #2) – Utterance on December 10, 2014
The subject officer told WO #2 that he initially recounted an untrue version of events with respect to the deaths of Mr. Wood and Mr. Jones. He also indicated that he feared God more than he feared the SIU. However, the subject officer said nothing to WO #2 concerning the factual circumstances of the deaths of Mr. Wood or Mr. Jones.
Witness Officer #3 (WO #3) – Utterance on December 10, 2014
The subject officer told WO #3 that he hit Mr. Wood a number of times on the head during the altercation, which he described as ‘heavy-handed’. He added that he did not inform the SIU of these strikes because he was scared. He indicated that after he hit Mr. Wood on the head, Mr. Wood broke free and ran onto the ice. The subject officer opined that Mr. Wood did not return to the shoreline because he had struck him. With respect to the interaction with Mr. Jones, the subject officer described how he had been in the house with Mr. Jones and used his pepper spray on him, albeit it to no effect. He went on to add that he was unsure whether or not Mr. Jones was armed when he shot him, but that he was relieved to see a meat cleaver near his body after the fact.
Witness Officer #4 (WO #4) – Utterance on December 10, 2014
To WO #4, the subject officer said that he ‘thought’ he had hit Mr. Wood. WO #4 said the only thing the subject officer said about the death of Mr. Jones was that he ‘dreamed’ Mr. Jones had not been in possession of a knife.
Witness Officer #5 (WO #5) – Utterance on December 10, 2014
To WO #5, the subject officer stated that he assaulted Mr. Wood, which led to Mr. Wood running onto the ice and ultimately falling through. With respect to the death of Mr. Jones, the subject officer stated that he shot an unarmed man. The subject officer then went on to say that a member of the Brantford Police Association (BPA) counseled him to lie to the SIU during the 2010 investigation about the position that Mr. Jones was holding the knife. Specifically, he was told to say that Mr. Jones was holding the knife above his head as opposed to 90 degrees from his body. Throughout the subject officer’s discussion with WO #5, he continually referred to himself as a ‘murderer’.
Witness Officer #6 (WO #6) – Utterance on December 12, 2014
To WO #6, the subject officer indicated that he had lied during both the Wood and Jones death investigations. He indicated that he had actually struck Mr. Wood on the head, and that he did so because he was scared. He believed that the strike is what led to Mr. Wood’s death. With respect to the Jones investigation, the subject officer indicated that after he pepper-sprayed Mr. Jones, he got scared and shot him. He added the further detail that Mr. Jones was not advancing on him when he fired his gun. He went on to state that the BPA representative counseled him to lie and falsely claim that Mr. Jones was advancing on him when he fired his gun.
Witness Officer #7 (WO #7) – Utterance on either December 13 or 14, 2014
The subject officer did not make any factual assertions to WO #7 during their interaction. Rather he indicated that he could not remember whether Mr. Jones was armed at the time of the shooting, and added that he ‘felt like a murderer’. The subject officer asked WO #7 whether or not Mr. Jones was armed at the time of the shooting.
Director Loparco stated, “The manner in which the SIU was left to determine the contents of the subject officer’s statements is highly problematic in terms of evidentiary integrity. None of the officers at the police station made use of audio or video recording equipment that would have been available to them. While the four officers at the station did make notes, none of them attempted to record what the subject officer was saying word-for-word. The only officer who made notes capturing the substance of the subject officer’s statements concerning Mr. Wood and Mr. Jones was WO #3. The three officers who visited the subject officer in the healthcare facility did not make notes of their conversations. In light of these inherent limitations, the only option left to the SIU in order to attempt to determine precisely what the subject officer said was to conduct witness officer interviews. The evidentiary value of statements obtained in this manner is dependent on the quality and accuracy of the witness’ recall.”
Director Loparco said, “In order to be able to attempt to introduce the subject officer’s statements into evidence, it is necessary that they be sufficiently accurate, reliable and complete. The courts have made clear that the reliability of a statement is not simply a matter to be left to a judge or a jury to consider at the end of a trial. Rather, the accuracy of a statement is also a matter of threshold reliability (or admissibility) and the prosecuting authorities must establish a sufficient record of the interaction between the accused and the police. Statements cannot be held to be voluntary, and are therefore inadmissible, in the absence of an accurate, reliable and complete account of the words spoken. These three criteria cannot be satisfied in this case.
“The deficiencies in the recording methods by all of the police officers who spoke to the subject officer are fatal to the issue of accuracy. The statements cannot be considered to be accurate, as the precise content of the subject officer’s statements is vague and approximate.
“The content of the statements is also inherently unreliable, as they are rife with inconsistencies. By way of example, the subject officer told WO #5 that Mr. Jones was unarmed at the time of the shooting, but went on to add that he was counseled to lie about the position Mr. Jones was holding the knife at the time. It is noteworthy that the account of being counseled to lie focused on the manner in which Mr. Jones was said to be holding the knife, and not whether Mr. Jones was armed at the time. Conversely he told WO #6 that the same BPA representative had told him to lie about Mr. Jones advancing on him, but made no mention of the officer counseling him to lie about Mr. Jones having a knife or the position he was holding it. [While not a factor considered in the threshold reliability analysis, it should be noted that when the BPA representative was interviewed and explicitly asked by the SIU about these claims, he categorically denied counseling the subject officer to lie.] In contrast to his assertion to WO #5 that Mr. Jones was unarmed, the subject officer told WO #3 that he was unsure if Mr. Jones was armed when he fired at him, and he told WO #7 that he could not remember if he was armed or not.
“Lastly, in this case there is no statement that can be considered to be complete. Even WO #3, the only police witness who made efforts to record the substance of the subject officer’s statements in his notes, did not capture a complete statement. WO #3 was also present for the conversation the subject officer had with WO #4, but the features of the statement recounted by WO #4 (namely the subject officer ‘thinking’ he hit Mr. Wood and ‘dreaming’ that Mr. Jones was unarmed) were not captured in WO #3’s account.
“In summary, the statements that the SIU was able to obtain in the circumstances cannot satisfy the evidentiary threshold for admissibility. They can only be viewed as inaccurate, unreliable and incomplete.
“Given that these statements lack the necessary features to even attempt admitting them into evidence, there is no basis to interfere with the previous conclusion that the shooting of Mr. Jones was legally justified.”
Director Loparco continued, “With respect to the statements regarding his interaction with Mr. Wood, the subject officer was consistent with respect to what he told the witness officers, as distinct from his statements concerning Mr. Jones. He persistently claimed that he had hit Mr. Wood on the head during their altercation. This consistency imbues his statements with sufficient reliability that they could satisfy the requirements of admissibility.
“However, the subject officer’s assertions that he hit Mr. Wood on the head are flatly contradicted by the available evidence in two substantial ways. First, they stand at odds with the statements of two witness officers who observed the January 2009 struggle. The physical interaction between the subject officer and Mr. Wood was described as them grappling and struggling with one another for a number of seconds, but the witnesses clearly stated that the subject officer did not strike Mr. Wood. Second, and more significantly, a post-mortem examination did not reveal any evidence of Mr. Wood being struck on the head. While there was evidence of some superficial scratches, there was no skull fracture, subdural bleeding or bruising. Mr. Wood did not have any head injury indicative of an application of force from the subject officer.
“The subject officer’s December 2014 claims with respect to Mr. Wood are explicitly at odds with the other witness accounts and objective medical evidence. Consequently, I do not accept them, and I reject the subject officer’s December 2014 claims with respect to Mr. Wood because they are not reasonably capable of belief. There is no basis to interfere with the previous conclusion that Mr. Wood’s death was not legally attributable to the actions of the subject officer.
“Even in the event that I was prepared to accept the facts contained in the subject officer’s December 2014 statements as being capable of belief, they would not satisfy the essential elements of any criminal offence. The link between striking Mr. Wood’s head and him running onto the ice, falling through and drowning is not sufficient to satisfy legal causation for an offence of manslaughter, contrary to section 234 of the Criminal Code. Moreover, Mr. Wood sustained no injuries to his head that could satisfy the requirements of the offence of aggravated assault or the lesser-and-included offence of assault causing bodily harm, contrary to sections 268 and 267(b) of the Criminal Code respectively.”
Director Loparco concluded, “The subject officer was in a state of medical distress when he attended the BPS headquarters on December 10, 2014. His continuous discussions with the officers present was disjointed, and characterized by religious and paranoid delusions. However, amidst his discourse, he repeated a number of times that he had ‘murdered’ Evan Jones and Benjamin Wood and that he had lied to the SIU during the original investigations. Given the enormity of these claims, the SIU immediately commenced an investigation when we were notified of the incident on December 18, 2014.
“After a thorough review of all of the available evidence, I have concluded that there are insufficient grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed in relation to the deaths of both Mr. Wood and Mr. Jones. Consequently, no charges will issue.”
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