SIU Concludes Investigation into Osnaburgh Lake area Firearm Death
Case Number: 09-PFD-152
The SIU assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident.
The SIU investigation determined that on June 24, 2009 at approximately 12:30 p.m., two OPP officers approached Levi Schaeffer in the Osnaburgh Lake area regarding a stolen boat. There was an interaction of sorts, and the subject officer discharged his firearm at Mr. Schaeffer, causing his death.
Director Scott said, "Beyond that, I am not sure what happened. There is no contemporaneous information of this incident such as civilian witnesses, audio or video recordings, and there were only three individuals at the scene: the now deceased Mr. Schaeffer and the two officers. However, I cannot place sufficient reliance on the information provided by the officers to decide what probably happened.
"Shortly after the incident, the subject officer was instructed not to write up his notes in his memo book until he spoke with Ontario Provincial Police Association (OPPA) legal counsel. The association lawyer advised the officer to prepare notes which only he would review. Once the lawyer approved the notes, the officer wrote up his memo book two days later based on a combination of his confidential notes to counsel and discussions with him.
"The only witness to the shooting, the second officer, was also advised not to contemporaneously write up his notes in his memo book. He too wrote up a set of notes which he shared with the same legal counsel before entering them into his memo book two days later. Neither officer provided the SIU investigators with their first set of notes.
"This note writing process flies in the face of the two main indicators of reliability of notes: independence and contemporaneity. The notes do not represent an independent recitation of the material events. The first drafts have been 'approved' by an OPPA lawyer who represented all of the involved officers in this matter, a lawyer who has a professional obligation to share information among his clients when jointly retained by them. Nor are the notes the most contemporaneous ones: they were not written as soon as practicable and the first drafts remain in the custody of their lawyer. I am denied the opportunity to compare the first draft with the final entries. Accordingly, the only version of the material events are OPPA lawyer approved notes."
Director Scott concluded, "I have a statutory responsibility to conduct independent investigations and to decide whether a police officer probably committed a criminal offence. In this most serious case, I have no informational base I can rely upon. Because I cannot conclude what probably happened, I cannot form reasonable grounds that the subject officer in this matter committed a criminal offence in the firearms death of Mr. Schaeffer."
The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials (police officers as well as special constables with the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers with the Legislative Protective Service) that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, the Director of the SIU must
- consider whether the official has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
- depending on the evidence, cause a criminal charge to be laid against the official where grounds exist for doing so, or close the file without any charges being laid
- publicly report the results of its investigations