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News Release

IU Concludes Investigation into Fatal Shooting in Toronto

Case Number: 08-TFD-026

TORONTO (12 June, 2008) --- The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that two Toronto Police officers committed a criminal offence in connection with the shooting death of a Toronto man earlier this year.

On February 16, 2008, 28-year-old Byron Debassige was shot following a confrontation with police in Oriole Park near the Davisville subway station. Officers had gone to the area to investigate a robbery involving a knife at the nearby D & Y Market on Yonge Street. When officers attempted to question him, Mr. Debassige reached into his pocket, pulled out a knife with a three-inch blade and pointed it towards them. Both officers reacted by drawing their firearms and back pedaling. They yelled at Mr. Debassige to drop the knife and not move, warning him that he would be shot if he persisted; however, he continued to move towards the officers while wielding the knife in a threatening posture.

The Director of the SIU, James Cornish, concluded: " When stopped by the officers, Mr. Debassige pulled a knife and advanced upon them, notwithstanding the officers' repeated commands that he stop and drop the knife. It was dark and the ground, slippery with ice, sloped away from the officers as they retreated backwards from Mr. Debassige. In these circumstances, I am satisfied that the officers' belief in the necessity of a resort to lethal force as Mr. Debassige lunged in their direction from less than six feet away, with no further option effectively available to them given the condition of the ground, was honestly held and reasonable."

The investigation into the circumstances leading up the shooting revealed that Mr. Debassige had stolen lemons from the food market about half and hour before the fatal encounter with police, and had threatened the proprietors with a knife when they confronted him.

"A clear picture emerges from the eyewitness evidence gathered in this case, from police and civilian witnesses alike, which is remarkably consistent and compelling," said Mr. Cornish. "The officers were lawfully carrying out their duties when they responded to investigate a reported theft and confronted Mr. Debassige in Oriole Park." Mr. Cornish added: "The evidence establishes that each officer shot Mr. Debassige believing it necessary to protect himself and his partner from death or grievous bodily harm.

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. 

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