SIU Director’s Report - Case # 20-OVI-267
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Mandate of the SIU
The Special Investigations Unit is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving police officers where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. The Unit’s jurisdiction covers more than 50 municipal, regional and provincial police services across Ontario.
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.
The Unit’s investigative jurisdiction is limited to those incidents where there is a serious injury (including sexual assault allegations) or death in cases involving the police.
“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 injuries a 59-year-old woman (the “Complainant”) suffered.
Notification of the SIUOn October 14, 2020, at 10:35 a.m., the Strathroy-Caradoc Police Service (SCPS) reported the following:
On October 14, 2020, at 9:30 a.m., a police officer from the SCPS attempted a traffic stop of a vehicle for a Highway Traffic Act (HTA) violation. The vehicle fled and the police officer reported he was in pursuit. The police officer was directed to terminate the pursuit. Shortly after, the pursued vehicle continued southbound on Christina Road and collided with a vehicle at the intersection of Christina Road and Longwoods Road. The occupants of the pursued vehicle fled on foot. Two people were taken to the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) with serious injuries. No names were available at the time of notification.
The TeamNumber of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
Number of SIU Collision Reconstructionists assigned: 1
The SIU Forensic Investigators completed a scene examination, photographs, measurements with a Total Station device for forensic mapping purposes, and a video recording of the pursuit route, which measured 1.3 kilometres. The SIU Reconstructionist analyzed the causes and events in relation to the vehicl e collision. The OPP completed a Collision Reconstruction Report.
Complainant:59-year-old female interviewed, medical records obtained and reviewed
Civilian Witnesses (CW)CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed
CW #6 Interviewed
CW #7 Interviewed
CW #8 Interviewed
Witness Officers (WO)WO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
WO #3 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
Subject Officer (SO)SO Interviewed, but declined to submit notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right
The SceneThe scene was Christina Road at Longwoods Road, Strathroy-Caradoc. Longwoods Road was a paved two-lane rural road with a few homes and farms along the way that travelled in a north-east and south-west direction. Longwoods Road was straight and level with a broken yellow line separating the traffic flow and solid white lines on the edge of the roadway. It was a posted 90 km/h zone and in good repair. There was a gravel shoulder on each side followed by a shallow ditch.
Christina Road was a paved two-lane rural road with shallow rolling hills. It was a two-way road and travelled in a north-west and south-east direction. It met Longwoods Road at 90 degrees and was controlled with a stop sign. There was a solid yellow line separating the traffic flow. The speed limit was not posted but assumed to be 80 km/h due to its rural setting.
There were tire marks and light gouge marks starting in the west lane of Longwoods Road and leading in a southerly direction to the edge of the roadway and into a cornfield. The tire marks lead to two vehicles in the cornfield south of the intersection.
A grey 4-door Toyota Corolla had extensive damage to the right front corner and front end. The side and driver’s airbags had deployed. It had travelled over the gravel shoulder and shallow ditch before coming to rest approximately 25 metres into the cornfield.
A black 4-door Audi S4 had damage to the left front corner and the front end. The side and driver’s airbags had deployed. This vehicle also travelled over the gravel shoulder and shallow ditch before coming to rest approximately five metres into the cornfield.
It was apparent that one vehicle was travelling south on Christina Road and the other vehicle was travelling west of Longwoods Road when they collided in the intersection and that both vehicles then travelled southwest into the cornfield.
An SCPS Black Dodge Charger was parked on the shoulder just southwest of the intersection. The vehicle was marked with subdued graphics of the police service. It was identified as the SO’s vehicle. It was equipped with emergency lights which were all activated. The emergency lights were behind the grill and windshield. The vehicle was undamaged. The siren and lighting systems were checked and found to be working properly. The vehicle was equipped with a Panasonic Toughbook Mobile Workstation. There was a moving radar system set on the dash and it appeared to have locked a speed of 139 km/h.
Figure 1 – The Scene
Figure 2 – Toyota Corolla
Figure 3 – Audi S4
The route begins northwest on Christina Road at the speed limit from the information received from the vehicle GPS logs. There were no posted speed limit signs so the default speed limit for a country road is 80 km/h.
The route continues right on Parkhouse Road for a distance and then makes a U-turn, returning to Christina Road, turning left onto the road.
The road was straight and in good repair with visible lane markings, but the road was narrow with no shoulders and rolling hills.
The route approached Irish Drive, which was controlled by stops signs for traffic on Irish Drive. There were additional driveways on the right and left. Approaching the intersection of Longwoods Road, where the collision occurred, the scene was initially obscured by the rolling hills. There was a warning sign indicating a stop sign at the next intersection. The total distance from the U-turn to the collision scene was 2.9 kilometres.
Longwoods Road was a two-lane paved roadway that was straight and level with a posted maximum speed limit of 90 km/h. For the purpose of this report it will be referred to as running east and west. The eastbound and westbound lanes were separated with a yellow broken centre line and solid white fog lines at the north and south edges. The north and south edges of the roadway were met with gravel shoulders which gave way to grass ditches. Longwoods Road was the through road at the intersection. The roadway was dry and in good condition.
Christina Road was a two-lane paved roadway that was straight and had a gradual downhill grade travelling southbound, north of the intersection with Longwoods Road. There was no posted speed limit, as such it was an assumed 80 km/h zone. There was a solid yellow centre line dividing the northbound and southbound lanes. The east and west edges of the roadway were met with narrow gravel shoulders. North of the intersection, for southbound traffic, there was a “stop sign ahead” warning sign along the west shoulder. At the intersection with Longwoods Road, there were stop signs posted at the northwest and southeast corners for traffic on Christina Road. The roadway was clear and dry at the time of the collision.
The surrounding area at the intersection was rural. There was a cornfield at the southwest corner of the intersection and an open field at the northwest corner. For southbound traffic on Christina Road, there was a slight view obstruction toward the east due to a large group of cedar trees located approximately 50 metres from the intersection along the north side of Longwoods Road. This same row of trees would have created a slight view obstruction for approaching westbound vehicles on Longwoods Road to see vehicles on Christina Road, north of the intersection. However, at the intersection there was an unobstructed view from Christina Road both east and west.
Summary of Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) Data
Conclusion of the OPP Reconstructionist’s Report
Police Communication Recordings
Summary of Communication Recordings
9:34:09 a.m. The SO calls the SCPS dispatcher.
9:34:15 a.m. SCPS dispatcher tell him to “Go ahead”.
9:34:19 a.m. The SO reports that he is trying to stop a black Audi on Christina Road headed towards Longwoods and to show him in pursuit. Reason is HTA.
9:34:33 a.m. SCPS dispatcher “10-4.”
9:34:34 a.m. WO #1 directs the SO to terminate the pursuit, to pull over and give his location and mileage.
9:34:51 a.m. The SO requests EMS and Fire to the intersection of Longwoods and Christina re: a collision. [Sound of siren is audible during entire conversation.]
9:35:03 a.m. SPSC dispatcher requests all SCPS units start heading to that location.
9:36:16 – 9:36:49 a.m. The SO requests both EMS and Fire for an extraction. The driver of the vehicle the SO was pursuing fled into the cornfields, he went southbound, and the SO has one injured party in the vehicle that was hit.
9:37:07 a.m. WO #1 will be contacting the OPP canine and would like the first officer to arrive to go directly to the scene of the collision with the SO, and the second unit to attend south of that scene to the intersection of Parkhouse to try to establish a perimeter.
9:39:26 a.m. The SO advised that the driver fled south into the cornfield from Longwoods on foot and is dressed all in black.
Materials obtained from Police ServiceUpon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from SCPS:
- Amended General Report;
- Suspect Apprehension Pursuit Directive;
- Notes-WO #3;
- Notes-WO #2;
- OPP Collision Reconstruction Report;
- Original General Report;
- Call Log Review Transcription;
- Speeding Report – the SO’s vehicle;
- Communication Logs - Audio;
- Scene Photos; and
- Training Certificates for the SO.
Materials obtained from Other SourcesThe SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from non-police sources:
- Ambulance Call Report and Disclosure Letter;
- Medical Record-London Health Sciences Centre;
- Fire Department Incident Details; and
- Fire Department Witness Statements.
The material events in question are clear on the evidence collected by the SIU, which included interviews with the Complainant, the SO and a number of civilian eyewitnesses to the incident. The investigation also benefited from a review of GPS data associated with the speeds and directionality of the SO’s cruiser.
At about 9:30 a.m. on October 14, 2020, the SO was on Parkhouse Drive in the area of Christina Road performing traffic enforcement when he clocked a westbound vehicle traveling at 139 km/h. The SO allowed the vehicle – an Audi - to pass his location and saw as it turned left onto Christina Road, disregarding a stop sign in the process. Deciding to stop the vehicle for traffic violations, the SO executed a U-turn on Parkhouse Drive, came to a stop at the stop sign at the Christina Road intersection and then accelerated southward to catch up to the Audi.
In the area of Irish Drive, the SO activated his emergency lights and siren, and reported over the radio that he was in pursuit. Shortly thereafter, WO #1 came on the air and ordered that the pursuit be terminated.
Hearing the order to terminate, the SO was about to bring his vehicle to a stop when he noticed up ahead that the Audi had collided with a vehicle in the intersection of Christina and Longwoods Road. Concerned that people had been hurt in the collision, the SO continued to make his way at speed to the intersection.
The Complainant had been traveling west on Longwoods Road when she entered the intersection with Christina Road and was broadsided by the Audi, which had failed to stop at a stop sign for southbound traffic. The collision propelled both vehicles into a cornfield situated at the southwest corner of the intersection.
The SO arrived at the scene seconds after the collision, parked facing west on Longwoods Road, west of the intersection, and exited to render assistance.
The Complainant was trapped inside her vehicle – a Toyota Corolla – which had sustained severe damage. With the help of responding firefighters and paramedics, the Complainant was extricated from the wreckage and taken to hospital. She had sustained multiple and serious fractures.
The driver of the Audi was able to exit the vehicle and flee the area. Days later, the OPP arrested CW #8 in connection with the incident. CW #8, who acknowledges being the owner of the Audi, says he was not driving the vehicle at the time.
Section 320.13, Criminal Code – Dangerous operation causing bodily harm
Analysis and Director's Decision
On October 14, 2020, the Complainant suffered serious injuries in a motor vehicle collision. Because the vehicle that smashed into her car had been pursued by a SCPS cruiser moments before the collision, the SIU were notified and commenced an investigation. The driver of the cruiser – the SO – was identified as a subject officer for purposes of the SIU investigation. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the collision and the Complainant’s injuries.
The offence that arises for consideration is dangerous driving causing bodily harm contrary to section 320.13(2) of the Criminal Code. Liability for the offence is premised, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked 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 in the manner in which the SO conducted himself that contributed to the collision and was sufficiently derelict as to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there was not.
The SO was within his rights under the regulation that governs police pursuits in the province – O. Reg. 266/10 – in initiating a pursuit of the Audi. The officer had clocked the Audi significantly in excess of the 90 km/h speed limit and seen it disregard a stop sign. As the SO had not identified the driver or the licence plate of the Audi, and the balance of public safety considerations was not prohibitive at the time, he was entitled to seek to stop the vehicle for the traffic infractions.
The time and distance over which the SO actively engaged with the Audi was relatively short-lived – no more than two-and-a-half kilometres and two minutes. During that time, there is no question that the SO reached substantial speeds – upwards of 170 km/h over about 30 seconds or so. That said, the speeds are not entirely unexpected given the impetus on the officer to catch up to an already speeding vehicle. Police officers are also exempt from the speed limitation under section 128(13) of the Highway Traffic Act provided they are engaged in the lawful execution of their duties at the time and are mindful of public safety considerations. In this case, there is no suggestion that any third party motorists were directly put at risk by the SO’s speed. Moreover, while there is witness evidence that the SO’s cruiser was within two to three seconds of the Audi just south of Irish Drive and about a kilometre from the site of the collision, it does not appear that the officer unduly pushed the Audi as it approached the area of impact. In fact, the weight of the civilian witness accounts indicates that at least ten seconds had elapsed between the collision and the arrival of the police cruiser. Finally, it bears noting that the SO announced his pursuit over the radio in a timely fashion and provided relevant information to the communication centre which allowed a senior officer – WO #1 – to exercise his discretion to discontinue the pursuit, a prudent decision in my view.
It is highly regrettable that the Complainant, whose misfortune it was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, suffered serious injuries in this matter. However, as far as the SO’s potential criminal liability is concerned, I am satisfied on the aforementioned-record that the officer neither caused the collision nor conducted himself in a fashion that transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with charges in this case and the file is closed.
Date: March 15, 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.