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News Release

SIU Closes Investigation into Kenora Firearm Injury

Case Number: 10-PFI-097

Mississauga (30 July, 2010) --- The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has reviewed the facts around the June 2010 firearm injury to 39-year-old Helen Proulx. Ian Scott, the Director of the SIU, has concluded there are no reasonable grounds to believe an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer committed a criminal offence in this case.

The SIU assigned four investigators and three forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. There were no witness officers, nor any video surveillance to the incident that occurred on June 7. Further, both the complainant and the subject officer declined to provide statements as is their right. However, there were four civilian witnesses, all of whom provided largely consistent statements. On the basis of those statements, Director Scott is of the view that this incident unfolded in the following manner:

* In the evening hours, Ms. Proulx was on First Street near Matheson Street in downtown Kenora. She was in a despondent emotional state, appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and was attempting to cut her wrists with a knife. She yelled out at one point that she was going to kill herself.
* The subject officer parked her marked police cruiser across the street from Ms. Proulx, and approached Ms. Proulx as she attempted to stab herself in the stomach with the same knife.
* The officer slipped on a set of gloves and unsuccessfully attempted to take the knife away from Ms. Proulx.
* Ms. Proulx began walking toward the officer with the blade pointed at her. The officer drew her handgun from its holster, and began walking backward, shouting repeatedly at Ms. Proulx to drop the weapon. Ms. Proulx did not comply with the commands and continued to walk in the direction of the subject officer with the knife in the same position. At one point, the officer stumbled as she was backing up.
* When Ms. Proulx was approximately three to four feet away from the officer, the officer discharged two rounds of her handgun causing Ms. Proulx to fall to the ground.
* Both bullets entered Ms. Proulx's torso area but neither hit an organ. She will survive.

Director Scott said, "I am of the view that the subject officer was acting lawfully in approaching the complainant and attempting to disarm her under the authority of one or more of the following powers:
- ss. 31(5) of the Liquor Licence Act permitting arrest without warrant for the safety of the person;
- s. 17 of the Mental Health Act because she was harming herself;
- the common law power to protect life and safety codified under s. 42 of the Police Services Act.
Once Ms. Proulx began approaching the officer in a menacing manner with the knife at close quarters and refusing to comply with the officer's demand to drop the weapon, the officer was justified in using potentially lethal force under ss. 34(2) of the Criminal Code because she believed on reasonable grounds that she could not otherwise preserve herself from grievous bodily harm. The subject officer?s vulnerability was exacerbated by the fact that she lost her balance at a critical moment as she was backing up."

Director Scott added, "While it was possible to garner enough information in this incident to make an informed decision due to the voluntarily provided statements of civilian witnesses, the issue of a police association lawyer interfering with the note writing process has again arisen. Two witness officers who initially responded to the shooting were off-duty. One of the officers provided medical aid to Ms. Proulx and the other assisted with scene security, placing themselves on-duty. Both officers spoke to police association counsel later that night and were advised by counsel not to write up their notes. In one case, a witness officer was told 'not to make notes but do notes to counsel.' As a result, neither wrote up their police notes until the following day when ordered to do so by a superior officer. While I commend the superior officer for making such an order, it is disturbing that the advice of an association lawyer not to write up notes appears to be trumping the duty of officers to write contemporaneous notes, particularly when their observations relate to an incident as serious as this one."

Director Scott concluded, "Finally, there was a two hour delay in reporting this incident to the SIU, an apparent breach of s. 3 of the SIU regulations to the Police Services Act. I am asking the Commissioner to look into these issues and provide me with a written response."

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