SIU Finds Officer not Criminally Negligent in Ottawa Deaths
Case Number: 10-OOD-009
Other News Releases Related to Case 10-OOD-009
The SIU assigned two investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. The investigation found that the following events took place:
* At approximately 4:39 a.m. on January 7, 2010, a neighbour phoned in a complaint of a disturbance from the next door residence.
* The subject officer and four other officers responded. The subject officer and another officer spoke to the neighbour and were informed that she saw a man and a woman fighting and arguing in a next door apartment at 446 Cambridge Street. Meanwhile, the other officers went to the address and discovered a subdivided house with four buzzers on the front door. One of the officers rang all the buzzers and knocked on the front door but received no answer. He also went around the back, climbed the fire escape stairs and peered into a window with the aid of his flashlight. He saw Mr. Ferguson and identified himself as a police officer. Mr. Ferguson did not acknowledge him. The officer returned to the front door and banged on it to no avail.
* One officer stayed at the front door but heard nothing, while another went to the south side of the house to look into the ground floor using his flashlight.
* The officers left the scene at approximately 5:11 a.m. At that point, there were no sounds emanating from the apartment.
* Nine days later, on January 16, 2010, the OPS was called back to the same apartment where they discovered the deceased bodies of Ms. Boudreau and Mr. Ferguson.
* The SIU was notified once the OPS made the link between the initial disturbance call on January 7 and the discovery of the bodies.
* The evidence suggests that Mr. Ferguson killed Ms. Boudreau some time in the later morning of January 7, and killed himself some time later.
Director Scott said, "The focus of the SIU inquiry is not that any officer directly caused either of their deaths. Clearly, they did not. Rather, it is whether the omission of the subject officer on January 7 to make any attempt to gain a forced entry into the apartment was of a marked and substantial departure from those of a reasonably prudent person in those circumstances and whether that omission was a factor in the death of Ms. Boudreau. If so, there could be reasonable grounds to lay a charge of criminal negligence causing death.
"An important part of the criminal negligence analysis is consideration of relevant police policy. With respect to 'partner conflict', OPS Policy states on this issue:
Officers may lawfully force entry into a home where they believe on reasonable grounds that it is in the public interest, having regard to all the circumstances, including the need to prevent the continuation or repetition of the offence or the commission of another offence. Such circumstances include:
a. cries for help;
b. visible weapons;
c. obvious sign that a struggle has occurred;
d. an eye witness account that a crime has occurred and the victim is still in the home.
"Here, the subject officer had received information that a 'girl was bent over the male' and that the female had struck the male with an object. It can be reasonably inferred that the subject officer learned that the male did not appear to be in distress. Mr. Ferguson was viewed by a witness officer and, had he been visibly injured, we can reasonably assume that this information would have been communicated to the other officers. Further, at the point the officers decided to leave, the disturbance was not continuing, and by police accounts everything was now quiet in the apartment. In addition, there was scant information in the minds of the involved officers to support the proposition that an offence was continuing or would be repeated.
"On the totality of the evidence, I am satisfied that the subject officer's failure to force entry in these circumstances did not amount to a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised. With the power of hindsight, one could say that Ms. Boudreau's life might have been saved by the officers taking a more proactive step of forcing entry into the residence, but even this statement is debatable. We do not know what the result would have been if the officers had spoken to Ms. Boudreau or Mr. Ferguson when initially called to the apartment. It is unclear if any officer would have been able to form reasonable grounds to arrest either Ms. Boudreau or Mr. Ferguson had they had the opportunity to interview them or view the apartment after a forced entry. In my view, it is setting the bar too high to conclude a charge of criminal negligence causing death is warranted because an officer did not gain forced entry into a residence in these circumstances.
"I have also considered the charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life under s. 215 of the Criminal Code. I am of the view that the charge is inapplicable to these facts because Ms. Boudreau was never under the charge of the subject officer, a constituent element of that offence".
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342