SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-PCD-285
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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 death of a 40-year-old man (the “Complainant”).
Notification of the SIUOn October 27, 2020, at 12:19 a.m., the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reported the following:
On October 26, 2020, at 7:29 p.m., OPP officers responded to a mental health crisis call in Petrolia. A woman reported that her husband, the Complainant, had posted online, “Tonight is the night,” referencing suicide. The police officers arrived on scene at 7:38 p.m. and found that a light was on in a barn at the back of the property. They secured the barn and the Emergency Response Team (ERT) was tasked to assist. At 10:44 p.m., the ERT conducted a “sneak and peek” noting the Complainant was on the floor with a firearm beside him. No gunshots had been heard. He was found to have a single .22 calibre gunshot through the chin and was transported in critical condition to hospital.
The TeamNumber of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
Complainant:40-year-old male, deceased
Civilian Witnesses (CW)CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
Witness Officers (WO)WO #1 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #2 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #3 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #4 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #5 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #6 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
Subject Officers (SO)SO #1 Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right
SO #2 Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right
The SceneThe incident occurred on a residential property in Petrolia. The Complainant was found at the rear of the property in the interior of a barn that was artificially lit. He was found by members of the OPP positioned face down next to a .22 calibre rifle with his head positioned towards the east. Upon the arrival of the SIU, the Complainant was no longer at the scene.
Unmanned OPP Aerial Vehicle (Drone) Video Footage
At 9:33 p.m., the OPP drone was flown over the Complainant’s property. The drone captured video of light sources around the residence. The thermal imaging and night vision recorded an overview of the property. At 10:35 p.m., the drone was returned and was not utilized further.
Police Communications RecordingsThe following is a synopsis of the audio communications involving members of the OPP and the Provincial Communications Centre (PCC) during the incident of October 26, 2020, involving the Complainant.
At 7:27 p.m., the Complainant’s wife contacted the PCC via 911. She reported her husband had entered the barn of their property with a gun. The Complainant had been in the barn of their property for about one-and-a-half hours. The Complainant had posted a remark on Facebook, “Tonight is going to be the night.”
The Complainant’s wife provided their residential address and the location of the barn on the property. She described the gun he took to the barn as a rifle, which had been stored at the residence by a friend. The Complainant suffered from prior mental health difficulties. The Complainant’s wife had sent text messages to the Complainant’s cellular telephone, but he had not responded.
At 7:39 p.m., the 911 call concluded, and the first responding police officers arrived at the residence.
At 8:11 p.m., the PCC requested the assistance of the ERT. The PCC obtained subscriber information for the Complainant’s cellular telephone from Rogers Communications. Rogers Communications indicated the location of the cellular telephone was within 35 metres of the barn.
At 10:43 p.m., the ERT members observed the Complainant inside the barn lying on the ground. He was face down; his arms were straight out and he had a wound to his head. At 10:47 p.m. the ERT entered the barn, the Complainant was breathing and he had a gunshot wound to the head with a long rifle beneath him.
At 10:50 p.m., Emergency Medical Services (EMS) attended the barn before the Complainant was subsequently transferred to hospital via ambulance. Members of the ERT subsequently left the property.
Forensic Evidence The following items were submitted by the SIU to the Centre of Forensic Sciences on October 27, 2020, with results of testing pending:
- Rifle .22-calibre;
- Bullet fragments; and
Materials obtained from Police ServiceUpon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP:
- General Report;
- Mental Health Screener;
- MTO Driver Inquiry;
- Notes-WO #1;
- Notes-WO #5;
- Notes-WO #2;
- Notes-WO #6;
- Notes-WO #4;
- Notes-WO #3;
- Occurrence Summary;
- Text Message Screen Shots;
- Property Seizures Report;
- Related Occurrence Report;
- Supplementary Occurrence Report;
- Will State-undesignated officer;
- Communication Recordings; and
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Drone) Video Footage.
Materials obtained from Other SourcesThe SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from non-police sources:
- Preliminary Autopsy Findings Report, dated November 2, 2020, from the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service.
At about 7:30 p.m. on October 26, 2020, the OPP received a 911 call about a man in distress armed with a firearm and threatening suicide. The call was placed by the Complainant’s wife. She had received reports from concerned acquaintances that evening indicating that the Complainant had posted a disconcerting message on Facebook that he might harm himself that night. At the time, the Complainant was in the barn of the couple’s farm property having earlier told his wife that he was heading out to do some chores.
Local OPP officers were dispatched to the scene and began arriving at about 7:40 p.m. Among them was WO #5, who knew the Complainant and his wife. Hearing of the call and concerned for the Complainant’s welfare, WO #5 contacted CW #1 to inquire if she had heard from him. She had not. At the house, WO #5 met with the Complainant’s wife. She told him she thought the Complainant was in the barn with a rifle. Concerned about the possible use of firearms, WO #5 directed officers to back off from the house and secure an outer perimeter. The Complainant’s wife and her children were removed from the scene.
It was decided that an OPP ERT team would be deployed to the address. Led by SO #1, the team – consisting of WO #4, WO #3, WO #1 and WO #2 – began to arrive at a staging post south of the property at about 9:00 p.m. At about 9:20 p.m., SO #1 and members of his team drove past the farm house to get a look before returning to the staging post. The members were briefed by SO #1 and told that the Complainant was suicidal and armed. Following consultation with SO #2, the overall incident commander, the team’s mission was conveyed to the ERT members. They were to conduct surveillance around the house and barn to see if they could locate the Complainant. If successful, they would then set up containment and await the arrival of an OPP Tactical Rescue Unit (TRU) team.
Shortly before 10:00 p.m., the ERT team arrived at the property and began to walk down the laneway to the house and barn. At about 10:07 p.m., exterior checks of the house did not reveal anyone inside and the ERT officers moved to the barn. There was artificial lighting in the barn but the team found it difficult to see into the building because of various farm supplies obstructing their view. At about 10:20 p.m., a drone was deployed to assist the officers with an aerial perspective, but it too was unable to get a good view into the barn and was sent back from the scene.
At about 10:43 p.m., a wooden knot hole was discovered that had a view into the barn. One of the officers, WO #1, looked through the hole and observed the Complainant lying on the barn floor face down, moaning and slightly moving. Requesting and receiving permission from SO #1 to enter the barn, the ERT officers entered at about 10:47 p.m. The Complainant was on the floor with a rifle on his right side. He had blood on his face and forehead from what appeared to be a gunshot wound. There was blood on the rifle as well. The Complainant had a pulse and was still breathing.
At about 10:50 p.m., an ambulance arrived at the barn and paramedics took over the Complainant’s care. He was taken to hospital and eventually passed away on November 1, 2020.
Cause of Death
Sections 219 and 220, Criminal Code -- Criminal negligence causing death
(a) in doing anything, or(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
(a) where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of four years; and(b) in any other case, to imprisonment for life.
Analysis and Director's Decision
The only offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. The offence is predicated, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances. In the instant case, the issue is whether there was any want of care on the part of the subject officers in their decision-making that caused or contributed to the Complainant’s death and was sufficiently derelict to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there was not.
The officers who responded to the Complainant’s property were clearly engaged in the exercise of their duty. They had been informed that the Complainant was suicidal and armed with a rifle. Police intervention was clearly necessary.
Because of the presence of a firearm, WO #5 acted prudently in ensuring the Complainant’s wife and her children were removed from the home and that the attending officers were backed away from the residence while steps were being taken to mobilize an ERT team. ERT members are specifically trained for these types of cases.
Of course, it took the ERT team some time to deploy to the scene, but there is no indication they did not move with all due dispatch. Once at the house at about 10:00 p.m., approximately two hours after the local police officers had left the residence, there is nothing to suggest the ERT team was remiss as they set about attempting to locate the Complainant. The mission they had been given by SO #1 and SO #2, essentially one of reconnaissance in which they would scan the house and barn from the outside and consider calling in additional resources when and if the Complainant was found, seems a reasonable one. As they had cause to believe the Complainant was not of sound mind, it would make sense for the ERT team to give way to TRU officers in the event he was located in the possession of a firearm. When once they did come upon the Complainant seemingly injured and incapacitated on the floor of the barn, the ERT officers quickly switched course and moved to enter the barn so they could render care pending the arrival of paramedics.
It is unclear on the evidence gathered by the SIU when precisely the shot that took the Complainant’s life was fired. As none of the officers who attended at the property reported hearing any gunshots, it is entirely possible that the firearm in question – a 22 calibre rifle – was fired sometime prior to the officers’ arrival. Be that as it may, I am satisfied on the aforementioned-record that the involved officers, including the subject officers, acted with due regard for the health and safety of the Complainant throughout the course of police operations in and about the property. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.
Date: February 8, 2021
Electronically approved by
Special Investigations Unit
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.