SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OCI-122
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Mandate of the SIU
Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation. If, after an investigation, there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the officer. Alternatively, in all cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director does not lay criminal charges but files a report with the Attorney General communicating the results of an investigation.
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”)Pursuant to section 14 of FIPPA (i.e., law enforcement), certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Confidential investigative techniques and procedures used by law enforcement agencies; and
- Information whose release could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter or an investigation undertaken with a view to a law enforcement proceeding.
- Subject Officer name(s);
- Witness Officer name(s);
- Civilian Witness name(s);
- Location information;
- Witness statements and evidence gathered in the course of the investigation provided to the SIU in confidence; and
- Other identifiers which are likely to reveal personal information about individuals involved in the investigation.
Pursuant to PHIPA, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.
Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (“PHIPA”)
Other proceedings, processes, and investigationsInformation may have also been excluded from this report because its release could undermine the integrity of other proceedings involving the same incident, such as criminal proceedings, coroner’s inquests, other public proceedings and/or other law enforcement investigations.
“Serious injuries” shall include those that are likely to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim and are more than merely transient or trifling in nature and will include serious injury resulting from sexual assault. “Serious Injury” shall initially be presumed when the victim is admitted to hospital, suffers a fracture to a limb, rib or vertebrae or to the skull, suffers burns to a major portion of the body or loses any portion of the body or suffers loss of vision or hearing, or alleges sexual assault. Where a prolonged delay is likely before the seriousness of the injury can be assessed, the Unit should be notified so that it can monitor the situation and decide on the extent of its involvement.
This report relates to the SIU’s investigation into the injuries that a 56-year-old man (the “Complainant”) suffered.
Notification of the SIUOn May 24, 2020, at 3:30 p.m., the St. Thomas Police Service (STPS) notified the SIU of the following.
On May 24, 2020, the STPS received a 911 call from a Civilian Witness (CW) regarding a man, the Complainant, with a hatchet. The Complainant had threatened the CW, who then had used his car to flee from the Complainant.
The Subject Officer (SO) arrived at the scene and saw the Complainant. The Complainant ran away from the location through residential backyards.
When the Complainant arrived at an address on Elgin Street, he stole a bicycle and rode towards Alma College, where he disappeared in a ravine.
The SO could not see the Complainant anymore and requested the area to be cordoned off. Shortly thereafter, Witness Officer (WO) #2, a dog handler, arrived with his police service dog (PSD). The SO, WO #2 and WO #1 initiated a search of the Complainant.
After a short track, the police officers found the Complainant in a wooded area.
The SO ordered the Complainant to come out, but the Complainant disregarded his command. After the repeated demand, the Complainant came out, but refused to get on the ground and said, “Go ahead, kill me.”
The SO threatened to send the dog and the Complainant replied, “I don’t care, send a dog on me.” The dog was sent and tipped the Complainant on the ground. The dog was recalled, and the Complainant was ordered to stay on the ground, but he refused to and got up again. Despite the multiple commands to get back on the ground, the Complainant did not follow the orders.
The dog was sent again and took the Complainant to the ground. The dog was recalled and the SO and WO #1 attempted to arrest the Complainant, but the Complainant kept his hands underneath him and the police officers were unable to handcuff his hands. A single strike to the lower right area was delivered and the Complainant was successfully handcuffed.
When the EMS (Emergency Medical Services) arrived at the scene to assess the dog bites on the Complainant, the Complainant complained of pain in his lower right area. As a result, the Complainant was transported to St. Thomas Elgin Hospital (STEGH) where he was diagnosed with two right hairline rib fractures: T11 and T12. Also, five stitches were used to close the puncture wounds.
The TeamNumber of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Complainant:56-year-old male declined to be interviewed
Civilian WitnessesCW Not interviewed (refused to be interviewed)
Witness OfficersWO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Not interviewed 
WO #4 Interviewed
WO #5 Interviewed
Subject OfficersSO Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right
The SceneThe CW called 911 and advised that the Complainant had brandished a hatchet at him in the area of Elgin Street and Centre Street. This area was predominantly a residential area with a few commercial businesses, such as Williams Funeral Home and NAPA Auto Parts. The homes in this area appeared to be fully detached homes with backyards. The home located at an address on Elgin Street (from where the Complainant had reportedly stolen a bicycle) was a fully detached home with a long driveway to the left and a fenced-in backyard.
In the area of Moore Street and McIntyre Street, there was a grassy area with a trail that appeared to travel south. The area consisted of dirt, grass, trees, and some hills.
The Complainant was arrested in a wooded area south of the former site of Alma College.
STPS Booking Room Video
When the Complainant was asked what had happened before he had been arrested by the police officers, he stated that he did not want to talk about it. He appeared calm. When the SO asked again what had happened before he had been placed under arrest, the Complainant stated, “Nothing happened.” The Complainant went on to say that some “guy” had told the police officers upon their arrival to leave him [the Complainant] alone and that he was homeless. The Complainant asked, “What was the weapon?” When he was told that he had had a hatchet, he did not respond. He then explained that while he had been staying where he was living, a dog had come around him [now known to be the PSD] and scared him, so he had pulled his arms close to his body, and then a few minutes later, he had seen police officers. The SO corrected the Complainant and advised that he had seen him on the bike prior to the PSD showing up. The Complainant stated that he did not have a bike, and the SO replied, “I know you don’t.”
The Complainant stated that he lived in the park for ten years and went to work every day. The police officer advised the Complainant that someone had called and stated that he had threatened someone with a hatchet. The Complainant was asked if he wanted to provide his side of the story and he said, “No,” and that his lawyer would speak on his behalf.
At 4:26 p.m., the Complainant was escorted to cell 7.
At 5:34 p.m., the Complainant was released from police custody.
Police Communications Recordings
911 / Communications Recordings
At 10:10 a.m., police officers advised the dispatcher that they located the Complainant in the area of an address on Elgin Street. They were re-directed to a trail into the woods after the CW provided an update. At 10:16 a.m., a police officer advised that he had observations of the Complainant on the trail and provided a description of him.
At about 10:23 a.m., a telephone call was made, and a man answered [possibly a sergeant]. The dispatcher said that the complainant was the CW and she was not sure if anyone had spoken to him yet. The man said, “He’s crazy right?” The dispatcher said, “Yup, or he might have said something to make this guy angry.” She said she did not know about punching, but maybe “he” did punch someone on Talbot and threaten the complainant  with a hatchet.
At 10:20 a.m., the police officers established a perimeter around the exits of the wooded area. At 10:24 a.m., a police officer advised that he had located the bicycle that the Complainant was seen taking and riding.
At 10:54 a.m., WO #2 broadcasted that he was starting a canine track with the assistance of other police officers.
At 11:12 a.m., police officers requested EMS. At 11:14 a.m., a police officer asked who was in custody, and WO #1 advised that it was the Complainant.
Materials obtained from Police ServiceUpon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the STPS:
- Arrest Report;
- Computer-assisted Dispatch (CAD) Event Details Report;
- General Report;
- Notes-WOs #1-4; and
- STPS Disclosure Response-2020-05-25.
In the morning of May 24, 2020, the STPS received a 911 call from a citizen – the CW – reporting that he had just been threatened with a hatchet by the Complainant. The assault was alleged to have occurred in the area of Hincks and Centre Streets. Officers were dispatched to investigate.
The SO was among the officers responding to the scene. The SO caught sight of the Complainant in the area of an address on Elgin Street, where he was seen to take a bicycle and ride into a wooded area. A perimeter was established around the wooded area located behind the site of the former Alma College. With containment of the scene in place, the SO, joined by WO #1 and WO #2, the latter with his PSD, entered the wooded area to search for the Complainant.
The Complainant was located in short order with the assistance of the PSD. He was lying on his side by a makeshift shelter on the side of the ravine a distance away and above the officers. As WO #1 and the SO, armed with a C8 rifle and shotgun, respectively, climbed toward the Complainant’s location, they announced their presence as they neared. The Complainant rose to his feet in a state of agitation, yelling and swearing at the officers. He refused to get on the ground despite repeated direction that he do so.
While the SO and WO #1 stood off against the Complainant, WO #2 ordered his PSD to engage the Complainant. The PSD did so, running past the SO and WO #1, and biting the Complainant in the left arm and stomach area. The Complainant was able to shake off the PSD, but only momentarily. The PSD again attacked the Complainant, biting his right boot and causing the Complainant to fall.
With the Complainant on the ground, the SO and WO #1 moved in to take physical hold of him. The Complainant struggled on the ground and was met with a single knee strike by the SO to the right side. Following the strike, the Complainant was handcuffed and escorted out of the wooded area.
The Complainant was taken to hospital after his arrest and diagnosed with fractures to two ribs.
Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority
(a) as a private person,(b) as a peace officer or public officer,(c) in aid of a peace officer or public officer, or(d) by virtue of his office,
Analysis and Director's Decision
Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are immune from criminal liability for force used in the course of their duties provided such force was reasonably necessary in the execution of an act that they were authorized or required to do by law. Based on the information provided to the officers at dispatch, to the effect that the Complainant had brandished a hatchet threateningly at the CW, and the Complainant’s flight from police upon their arrival at the scene, I am satisfied the officers had a lawful basis to seek the Complainant’s arrest.
Thereafter, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the officers, including the SO, used force that crossed the line into excessive force in effecting the Complainant’s arrest. The Complainant was determined to avoid apprehension, as his flight from police, in the course of which he appears to have stolen a bicycle, attests. The officers also had cause to be concerned for their personal safety given their information that the Complainant was armed with a hatchet. In the circumstances, I am unable to find fault with the officers’ decision to engage the Complainant at a distance with their PSD when the Complainant, from an elevated position in a wooded area, refused to surrender peacefully. The PSD, it would appear, was successful in bringing the Complainant to ground without undue violence, and released its hold of the Complainant promptly upon the dog handler’s command. The Complainant continued to struggle on the ground, refusing to release his hands to be handcuffed and struggling to get to his feet. On this record, it seems a single knee strike delivered by the SO to the Complainant’s right side, following which the officers were able to overcome the Complainant’s resistance and restrain him without any further use of significant force, was a reasonable tactic in the circumstances.
In the result, while I accept that the Complainant suffered rib injuries and dog bite wounds in the course of his arrest, there are no reasonable grounds to believe, in my view, that the injuries were the result of criminal conduct on the part of the officers. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.
Date: November 9, 2020
Electronically approved by
Special Investigations Unit
- 1) Because WO #3 was not involved in the arrest, WO #3 was neither interviewed nor asked to submit notes to the SIU. [Back to text]
- 2) That is, the CW. [Back to text]
The signed English original report is authoritative, and any discrepancy between that report and the French and English online versions should be resolved in favour of the original English report.