SIU Concludes Thunder Bay Investigation
Case Number: 04-OCI-121
On November 21, 2004, the complainant was arrested by two TBPS officers. After the arrest, the man had trouble breathing and was transported to hospital for examination. His face was bruised and swollen and his back and arm were sore. The man was released back into police custody that day but returned to hospital on November 22nd and was treated for a collapsed lung. He remained in hospital for four days and on November 26th, the complainant contacted the SIU about his serious injury and the incident with police.
Two SIU investigators immediately initiated a probe of the events to determine the nature and extent of police action surrounding the man's injuries. As part of the probe, investigators interviewed 18 police and civilian witnesses and reviewed various police reports and records.
The investigation determined that on November 21, 2004, at approximately 11:30 a.m., two TBPS officers responded to a home on Bailey Avenue in regards to a call of an unwanted man in the house. The daughter of the man's girlfriend had called 911 and expressed some panic and concerns after the man became involved in an argument with her mother. When the officers arrived at the home, they learned that this was a domestic dispute and entered the home to find that the woman had locked herself in the bathroom. The man was in the home and standing between the officers and the bathroom.
The man was verbally abusive towards the officers when they attempted to speak with him. The officers decided they would take control of the man by placing him under arrest so that they could speak with the woman locked in the bathroom. One officer grabbed the man by his arm, which resulted in a physical struggle between the man and officers. During the course of the struggle, officers used pepper spray on the man; it did not have any obvious effect. A short time later, the two officers managed to handcuff the man and escorted him to the police cruiser.
After his arrest, the man complained of being in pain and had difficulty breathing. He was taken by police to Thunder Bay Regional Hospital for examination.
Having reviewed all of the available evidence, Director Cornish concluded that this call was a "domestic violence" call and had to be treated as such by the police. The Director stated, "Upon arrival at the home, the involved officers had reason to believe that force was required to affect the arrest of this man. I believe the force used in this case was reasonable and that the man's injuries were unintended and unfortunate."
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.