SIU Concludes Investigation into Explosion in Martintown, Ontario
Case Number: 08-PCD-105
Then SIU Director James Cornish stated: "The evidence gathered by SIU investigators indicates that no police action was responsible for the fire."
On June 9, 2008 at approximately 9 a.m., OPP officers responded to a 9-1-1 call at a house on Beaver Brook Road in Martintown, Ontario where a man was threatening to burn down the house. As two officers entered through the front door, an explosion engulfed the kitchen area of the residence.
The critically-injured man, 27-year-old Matthew McNaughton, was airlifted to hospital in Ottawa and later transferred by air ambulance to a medical facility in Quebec City where he died the following day as a result of the burns he suffered to 80 per cent of his body. The two officers were treated for severe burns; one of them received extensive burns to his face and hands while the other was less seriously burned. Two other officers were treated for smoke inhalation.
Five SIU field investigators and three forensic investigators collected evidence at the scene including a melted plastic gasoline container and a barbeque lighter. The forensic and witness evidence points to the conclusion that the fire was the result of the intentional application and introduction of gasoline into the house by Mr. McNaughton that was used to assist in the burning and/or the spread of the fire.
Also recovered from the ruins of the house was a .40 calibre cartridge case in the front hallway. This was consistent with the evidence that one of the subject officers discharged his pistol within the house to break a window or door handle to facilitate his escape from the house after the fire had been set. There was no evidence, forensic or otherwise, that the pistol discharge was the cause of the fire.
Addressing the officers' decision to enter the home, Mr. Cornish concluded: "It was reasonable for them to believe that Mr. McNaughton was a threat to himself and others, and that their immediate intervention was required. I do not believe that any criminal liability can be attached to their actions."
During its investigation, the SIU interviewed five witness officers and nine civilian witnesses including family members and firefighters. Also reviewed was a report prepared by the Office of the Fire Marshall.
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.