SIU Concludes Investigation into Toronto Death
Case Number: 10-TCD-074
The SIU assigned five investigators and two forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of this incident. The SIU designated twenty-six officers as witness officers and two officers as subject officers. Eighteen civilian witnesses were interviewed.
Just after 6:30 p.m. on May 5, 2010, two TPS officers in a marked police car were westbound on Steeles Ave near Keele St. They stopped a car driven by 18-year-old Junior Manon of Toronto for a minor traffic offence. Also in the car was a male passenger. Both vehicles stopped on Steeles Ave W. just east of Founders Rd at the northern perimeter of York University.
After checking the police computer system, one of the subject officers arrested Mr. Manon for the criminal offence of being in breach of a probation condition, which prohibited Mr. Manon from operating a car. The officer attempted to handcuff Mr. Manon, but Mr. Manon broke free and ran from the officer. Mr. Manon first ran behind a nearby bus shelter, then across Steeles Ave to a knoll on the southeast side of Steeles Ave and Founders Rd on the grounds of York University. Both subject officers ran after him. Mr. Manon then ran across Founders Rd, attempted to enter a vehicle parked on Founders, was unsuccessful, and ran in an eastwardly direction to the middle of the northbound lane on Founders Rd. Here, he turned and faced one of the officers. The officer attempted to arrest him, but Mr. Manon punched his arm, and continued to run east. The other officer tried to apprehend him by grabbing his shirt, but Mr. Manon escaped by allowing his shirt to be pulled off his body. The first officer grabbed Mr. Manon’s waistband and the three of them went to the ground in a grassy area beside the east side of Founders Rd slightly north of the Ian McDonald Blvd.
Once on the ground, a struggle took place with Mr. Manon. There were a number of civilian witnesses to the event who provided statements. The two subject officers also provided statements.
Director Scott said, “It appeared that Mr. Manon was not intending to comply with the subject officers’ demands to submit to an arrest and permit his hands to be handcuffed behind his back. While the events were dynamic and the three involved individuals may have changed positions, initially Mr. Manon was facing westward with his head to the south, one officer was west of Mr. Manon facing him (the “first officer”) and the other officer (the “second officer”) was east and behind Mr. Manon facing westward. The first officer said that Mr. Manon punched him a number of times and that he responded by punching Mr. Manon several times in the right side of the head and right chest area. Two of the civilian witnesses said that at least some of these blows involved striking Mr. Manon with a walkie-talkie. The second officer attempted to subdue Mr. Manon by wrapping his arms around his head and upper arm area. One of his arms may have been placed briefly around Mr. Manon’s neck.
Mr. Manon continued to struggle and one or the other of the subject officers placed their weight on Mr. Manon’s upper body at varying times in an effort to control him. At one point, Mr. Manon attempted to get up as if he was doing a push up with his arms, but the weight from the officers prohibited him from doing so.
As other officers arrived, Mr. Manon went limp. The two subject officers walked away to catch their breath as nine other officers arrived to assist. Two of these officers handcuffed Mr. Manon’s hands behind his back. Mr. Manon was unconscious and unresponsive, and was placed in a recovery position by being moved on to his left side with one of his knees placed near his waist. One officer saw blood on Mr. Manon’s mouth and noticed that his eyelids flickered. The officer checked for a pulse on the side of Mr. Manon’s neck and found one that was strong at first and then became weaker. Another officer noted a pulse when he checked for one in his wrist area. Other officers heard a snoring or breathing sound emanating from Mr. Manon. However, by the time that the paramedics arrived at approximately 6:50 p.m., Mr. Manon was VSA or ‘Vital Signs Absent’. The paramedics attempted to revive him, and transported him by ambulance to the Humber River Regional Hospital – Finch site. At 7:42 p.m., he was pronounced dead.
A report of the post-mortem examination conducted by the province’s chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Pollanen, was received by the SIU on November 25, 2010. Its findings and opinion on the cause of death are a critical piece of information with respect to the issue of potential criminal liability of the subject officers. Dr. Pollanen concluded that the cause of death was positional asphyxia following struggle and exertion. His conclusion accords with my understanding of the facts. Mr. Manon was involved in significant exertion leading up to his apprehension in an attempt to avoid an arrest. During a struggle with the two subject officers after he fell or was taken to the ground, pressure was placed on his chest in a manner that could have caused it to compress and interfere with his breathing, a classic indicia of death caused by positional asphyxia.
Further, there are no medical findings to support an alternative theory of death. In particular, there is no unequivocal medical evidence of neck compression and no external injury to the neck. While there was some evidence of internal bleeding in the neck area, there were no fractures to any area of the neck, including the hyoid bone. These findings are of great importance because two civilian witnesses indicated that one of the subject officers was choking Mr. Manon with his arm around his neck. While it is possible that a subject officer had his arm around Mr. Manon’s neck at some point during this dynamic struggle, given the medical findings, I am of the view that this act, if it happened, was not a contributing factor in the cause of his death. Also, the investigation indicates that Mr. Manon was conscious after the civilian witness saw the alleged choking. Had pressure been applied to Mr. Manon’s neck in such a manner that his breathing was significantly interfered with, I understand that he would have been rendered quickly unconscious. The investigation does not support that conclusion.
While the legal determination of cause of death will be decided by an inquest jury if an inquest is called by the Office of the Chief Coroner, for the purpose of assessing potential criminal liability, I am satisfied that Mr. Manon died in the manner described by Dr. Pollanen, that being positional asphyxia following struggle and exertion.
In terms of criminal liability, the subject officers had the lawful authority to stop Mr. Manon’s vehicle on the basis of an expired validation tag pursuant to s. 216 of the Highway Traffic Act. They had the further lawful authority to arrest Mr. Manon for being in breach of the conditions of his probation. Finally, both officers had the authority to use force to effect that arrest pursuant to s. 25 of the Criminal Code. Given the level of resistance from Mr. Manon and the medical finding that his cause of death was unrelated to neck injury, I am of the view that the force used to arrest him was not excessive in these circumstances. His demise by means of positional asphyxia following exertion and struggle was tragic, but the subject officers cannot be held criminally liable for this unintended consequence of what was probably a lawful apprehension.”
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