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News Release

Man Drowned after Vehicle Plunged into Lake Ontario near Kingston; SIU Finds No Charges Warranted

Case Number: 16-OVD-133

Mississauga, ON (29 March, 2017) ---
The Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Tony Loparco, has determined there are no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against a Kingston Police officer who pursued a vehicle which hurtled into Lake Ontario in May of 2016 near Kingston. The 35-year-old driver of that vehicle died.  

Two investigators and two forensic investigators were assigned to this incident.

The SIU interviewed one witness officer and reviewed interviews done of six civilian witnesses. The subject officer participated in an SIU interview and provided a copy of his duty notes. 

The Unit’s investigation also included the review of 911 calls, GPS data associated with the subject officer’s cruiser and police communications recordings.

The SIU investigation found the following:
Shortly after midnight on May 27, 2016, the subject officer and another officer responded to a domestic disturbance at a residence on High Gate Park Drive in west-end Kingston. A female resident gave the officers information that caused them to fear for the present safety of a man who had left the home and the safety of others. Satisfied that he had lawful grounds to arrest the man, and concerned that he was on the verge of hurting himself or someone else, the subject officer left the residence in his cruiser to search for the man.  
The officer located the man driving an SUV in the vicinity of the home. The officer followed the vehicle as it turned left at Carmil Boulevard and then right on Collins Bay Road. It was here, while travelling on Collins Bay Road, that the subject officer activated his emergency lights and initiated a pursuit. The officer watched as the man ignored the red light at Taylor Kidd Boulevard, turning left at the intersection and accelerating down the road. The officer picked up his own speed to keep pace, at one point clocking more than 140 km/h before being ordered to terminate the pursuit. The officer pulled his cruiser over on Taylor Kidd Boulevard, west of Coronation Drive, and came to a stop. 
Meanwhile, the driver of the SUV continued at high speeds toward County Road 6, whereupon he turned south and travelled upwards of another kilometre and a half before plunging into Lake Ontario.
Emergency personnel responded to the scene. An Ontario Provincial Police dive team eventually recovered the man’s lifeless body from the lake at approximately 6 p.m.

The pathologist at autopsy confirmed that the man had drowned.
  
Director Loparco said, “The offence that arises for consideration is dangerous driving pursuant to section 249 of the Criminal Code. As the case law makes clear, liability under the section is predicated on conduct that amounts to a marked departure from a reasonable level of care in the circumstances. 

“I have little hesitation in concluding on the record that the subject officer comported himself within the limits of care prescribed by the law throughout his engagement with the man. Clearly, the officer had good cause to search for and arrest the man, and to pursue him for that purpose when he located the man. Thereafter, aside perhaps from the speed of his cruiser on Taylor Kidd Boulevard, the evidence suggests the subject officer operated his vehicle carefully and with due regard for public safety. In accordance with his obligations under the provincial regulations governing pursuits in the province, the officer promptly notified his communications centre of the pursuit and conveyed information regarding location, speeds, and traffic and roadway conditions, thereby ensuring that command personnel with ultimate responsibility over the pursuit had the necessary information to make informed decisions. Indeed, the pursuit was called off by a staff sergeant out of a concern for public safety given the speeds being reported by the officer. That decision, in my view, was prudent. It was by then apparent that the man was bent on escape and there was much to be risked by a continued pursuit at breakneck speeds.”

Director Loparco continued, “As for the subject officer’s decision to accelerate to speeds approaching 150 km/h along Taylor Kidd Boulevard in the first place, well above the speed limit on that stretch of road, I am reluctant to be overly critical. While that level of speed doubtless carried with it some inherent risk, that risk was short-lived and moderated by the predominantly rural nature of the pursuit route, the clear, albeit dark, weather conditions and the dry roads. Importantly, there was little if any traffic on the roads and nothing to suggest that the officer’s driving actually endangered other motorists, including the driver of the SUV. In fact, by the time the man’s vehicle entered the lake, approximately three and a half kilometres from where the subject officer stopped his vehicle, there had been ample opportunity for the man to desist from his reckless course had he been so inclined.” 

Director Loparco concluded, “In the final analysis, in the context of a relatively brief pursuit of about two minutes over roughly four kilometres, I am satisfied there is little if any fault to be found in the subject officer’s conduct, and no grounds for proceeding with criminal charges against him.”  

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. 

Lisez ce communiqué en français.

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