SIU Closes Investigation into St. Catharines Vehicle Injury
Case Number: 10-OVI-272
The Acting Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Joseph Martino, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to believe any officer with the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) committed a criminal offence in relation to the injury sustained by a 26-year-old man on December 18, 2010.
The SIU assigned three investigators and one forensic investigator to probe the circumstances of this occurrence. During the investigation two officers were designated as subject officers and nine officers were designated as witness officers. Six civilian witnesses were identified and interviewed.
The SIU determined that on December 18, 2010, at about 3:00 a.m., NRPS officers observed an unplated Jeep vehicle in the area of a car dealership on Church Street, St. Catharines. The officers attempted to stop the Jeep, which they believed was stolen. The Jeep would not stop and fled at high speed pursued by the officers. Others responded to the area to assist. During the pursuit the Jeep struck a police car at the Fairview Mall parking lot. The Jeep eventually came to a stop after colliding with two other police cars on Evangelista Court. The driver of the vehicle, 26-year-old Colin Willson, sustained a facial fracture. A female passenger in the car was not injured.
Acting Director Martino stated, "It is not clear whether Mr. Willson’s broken jaw resulted from the collision at the end of the pursuit or was caused during his forcible removal from the vehicle and subsequent arrest on the ground. Either way, I am satisfied that the injury is not connected to any criminal conduct on the part of the involved officers. The evidence does not establish that the officers drove dangerously or were criminally negligent during the course of the pursuit. First, they were justified in pursuing Mr. Willson pursuant to the provisions of the Suspect Apprehension Pursuit regulations of the Police Services Act. Second, given the sparse traffic that would have been present on the roadway at the time of the events in question and the officers’ use of their emergency equipment, it cannot be said that the pursuit ought to have been terminated in the interest of public safety at some earlier point. Finally, the officers were entitled to converge upon Mr. Willson at the end of Evangelista Court and it was Mr. Willson who caused the collision when he drove in the direction of one of the cruisers attempting to break through the blockade. While force was then used by the officers to extricate Mr. Willson from the vehicle and then again to secure him in handcuffs on the ground, the evidence indicates that it was no more than was reasonably necessary to overcome Mr. Willson’s physical resistance to being arrested and, therefore, was not excessive in the circumstances."
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.