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News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation into the Shooting of a Man by York Regional Police

Case Number: 08-OFI-086

TORONTO (21 November, 2008) --- The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has determined that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that a York Regional Police detective committed a criminal offence in discharging his firearm at a man who drove his vehicle at him.

On May 20, 2008 at approximately 11 a.m. at the intersection of West Hill Drive and Kingston Road in Toronto, York Regional Police officers attempted to arrest 22-year-old Justin Thompson for breaching the conditions of his release from custody in relation to a prior arrest. The officers kept him under surveillance and followed him as he drove from a residence in Ajax to the intersection. There, they observed a cyclist ride up to the driver's side of Mr. Thompson's vehicle and engage Mr. Thompson in conversation. Shortly thereafter, three York Regional Police plainclothes officers in unmarked vehicles attempted to box in the vehicle. The cyclist fled on foot and was pursued and arrested by two of the officers after a brief foot chase. This left the subject officer alone to deal with Mr. Thompson.

Former SIU Director James Cornish observed: "The subject officer legitimately believed that he was dealing with someone who was known to be violent and potentially armed. The officer was apprised of such in the course of a briefing earlier

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in the day. It is partly for this reason that he drew his firearm, pointed it at the man and gestured for him to stop. Instead of complying and stopping, Mr. Thompson attempted to escape by manoeuvring his vehicle back and forth in an effort to make space. The subject officer exited his vehicle, went around it and found himself in the gap that existed between his vehicle and another officer's vehicle. He quickly and, as it turned out, accurately deduced that Mr. Thompson would attempt to drive through the gap to escape."

The SIU investigation determined that the subject officer repeatedly ordered Mr. Thompson to desist as he moved toward Mr. Thompson's vehicle at an angle, but Mr. Thompson ignored repeated demands to do so. On his second and final reverse backwards, Mr. Thompson's vehicle struck another unmarked police vehicle positioned behind it. He then drove forward, striking the rear of the subject officer's vehicle before turning left and accelerating eastbound along Kingston Road. The shot fired by the subject officer occurred during Mr. Thompson's final drive forward, as the officer was moving toward the driver's side door of Mr. Thompson's vehicle.

Mr. Thompson later appeared at Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital where he was treated for a non-life threatening chest wound and later released into the custody of York Regional Police.

Section 25(1) of the Criminal Code authorizes the use of reasonably necessary force by peace officers in the discharge of their lawful duties. Section 25(3) of the Code qualifies section 25(1) in the case of force intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm. Pursuant to section 25(3), such force will not be justified unless the officer reasonably believes, at the time of the force in question, that it is necessary to preserve himself or others from death or grievous bodily harm. The test has a subjective and objective component. The officer must harbour an honest belief that the force was necessary and the belief must be based on reasonable grounds.

"I am satisfied that the subject officer was in the lawful discharge of his duties in attempting to affect the man's arrest at the time of the shooting," said Mr. Cornish. "The evidence establishes that he and the other officers reasonably believed that the man had breached the terms of a release from custody order. The real question is whether the subject officer's belief that it was necessary to shoot the man to preserve himself from death or grievous bodily harm was a reasonable one. When I consider the
totality of the events in question, the volatility of the situation and its associated stresses and, importantly, the inherent reaction time gap between the officer's decision to shoot and the shot itself, which suggests the officer was further in front of the man's vehicle when the decision to shoot was made than at the time of the shot itself, I am satisfied in the reasonableness of the officer's belief that the operation of the man's vehicle represented a mortal danger, and that a resort to lethal force, intended to incapacitate the operator of the vehicle, was necessary in the circumstances."

During the course of its investigation, the SIU interviewed the subject officer, four witness officers and five civilian witnesses, and reviewed police documents and materials including police communication tapes and collision reports. Also examined was a video surveillance camera from a nearby business.

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. 

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