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News Release

SIU Closes Investigation into Huron East Firearm Death

Case Number: 10-PFI-034

Mississauga (25 August, 2010) --- The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has reviewed the circumstances around the March 2010 firearm death of 70-year-old Fred Preston. Ian Scott, the Director of the SIU, has concluded there are no reasonable grounds to believe an officer with the Ontario Provincial Police committed a criminal offence in this case.

The SIU assigned six investigators and three forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. Based on a compilation of police interviews, civilian interviews and physical and forensic evidence, the investigation found that the following events took place on March 8:

* On that day, the subject officer and Constable Pham were dispatched in separate police cruisers to a farm residence of Mr. Preston's sister-in-law located on North Line Road in Huron East, near Wingham. The police had received information that Mr. Preston intended to cause her harm in retaliation for his wife leaving him.
* The officers arrived at the residence, but no one was home. They left the residence and remained in the area.
* At approximately 10:12 a.m., Const. Pham saw the white pickup truck driven by Mr. Preston traveling in a northbound direction on North Line Road just north of the farm residence in question.
* Const. Pham radioed his location and requested the subject officer, who was still in the area, to assist him in investigating the vehicle.
* Const. Pham signalled Mr. Preston to pull over. Once the pick-up truck stopped on the east shoulder of North Line Road, Const. Pham parked 2.5 metres behind the truck. Mr. Preston exited his truck and Const. Pham exited his cruiser.
* North Line Road at this location is straight and flat. The roadway is slightly elevated above the surrounding farm fields with no significant tree cover nearby.
* In the meantime, the subject officer, who was traveling southbound on the same highway, turned his police cruiser around with the intention of parking directly behind Const. Pham's cruiser. As the subject officer was bringing his cruiser to a stop, he saw Mr. Preston leave the truck's cab with a rifle, walk behind his truck, point the rifle at Const. Pham and shoot him. Const. Pham had managed to unholster his handgun and discharge it once immediately before being felled but it is unlikely that this shot hit Mr. Preston.
* The subject officer broadcast on his police radio that Mr. Preston had a high-powered rifle and had just shot Const. Pham. He reversed his cruiser and drove backwards approximately 35 metres, stopped and exited.
* Mr. Preston shot at the officer at least two times. The officer unholstered his handgun as Mr. Preston walked towards him with rifle in hand. The officer shot multiple rounds at Mr. Preston from his location near the passenger side of his cruiser. As Mr. Preston advanced toward him, the officer backed up in a westerly direction over North Line Road to the west side of the highway. The subject officer yelled at Mr. Preston to drop his weapon. At one point, the officer appeared to lose his footing on the asphalt surface. Mr. Preston shot one round in the direction of the officer and then attempted to take cover on the east side of the incline. From a location on the west side of North Line Road in which there was no place to find cover, the officer fired another five rounds from his handgun at Mr. Preston. Mr. Preston was shot six times in total.
* A Browning 30-06 rifle using .270 calibre ammunition was found beside Mr. Preston when responding officers approached him as he lay conscious on the east side of the road.
* Both Const. Pham and Mr. Preston were subsequently airlifted from the scene and taken to Victoria Hospital in London. Const. Pham died on March 8, 2010, of a single gunshot wound to the head. Mr. Preston died three days after the shooting as a consequence of multiple gunshot wounds. Fortunately, the subject officer received no gunshot wounds.

Director Scott said, "Under ss. 34(2) of the Criminal Code, everyone who is unlawfully assaulted is justified in using lethal force if he believes on reasonable grounds that he cannot otherwise preserve himself from death or grievous bodily harm. Here, the subject officer had witnessed the gratuitous killing of a fellow police officer and the same assailant shooting at him. As Mr. Preston walked toward the officer, he discharged another round in the officer's direction. The subject officer issued a command to Mr. Preston to drop his weapon. The officer walked backward away from Mr. Preston onto the roadway in an attempt to escape. There was simply nowhere he could go to find protection from potentially imminent death or grievous harm. Accordingly, in my view, he had reasonable grounds to believe he had no choice but to continue shooting at Mr. Preston until he no longer represented a threat to the officer."

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. 

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