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News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation into Custody Death

Case Number: 07-OCD-232

TORONTO (5 June, 2008) --- The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has determined that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that officers of the Durham Regional Police committed any criminal offence in connection with the custody death of 47-year-old Salvatore Ruscica on November 10, 2007.

During their investigation of a vehicle collision in Ajax, officers found syringes discarded in a woodlot near the scene in an area where some of the witnesses saw Mr. Ruscica discard items he removed from his damaged vehicle. Mr. Ruscica was charged with offences under the Highway Traffic Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and held overnight for a bail hearing. He was searched twice before being locked in an interview room to await transfer to the central detention facility. After approximately two hours, officers heard a loud bang from inside the room and found Mr. Ruscica suffering from severe seizures. Paramedics were called but he died later in hospital.

An autopsy revealed no anatomical cause of death; however, a baggie of white powder was found concealed in his body at the time of the autopsy. The baggie had split open causing the contents to escape into his blood system.

"Although Mr. Ruscica did advise officers that he used drugs, he denied any recent use of narcotics," said SIU Director James Cornish. "He also appeared alert, coherent and sober to all the civilians and officers who dealt with him at the collision scene and at the station. I can see nothing that would have put the officers on notice that they should watch this man more carefully than they did in these circumstances." Mr. Cornish concluded: "I do not believe that the fact that no officer checked this man between approximately midnight and 2:20 a.m. constitutes a criminal breach of their duty to care for 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. 

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