SIU Director’s Report - Case # 18-PCD-002
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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 59-year-old man following his interaction with police on January 1, 2018.
Notification of the SIUAt approximately 3:55 p.m. on January 1, 2018, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) notified the SIU of the death of the Complainant.
The OPP reported that at 3:16 p.m. on that same date, the Complainant called the OPP Communications Centre threatening suicide. He was transferred to the Communications Sergeant who is a trained crisis negotiator.
OPP officers were dispatched to the Complainant’s residence in Douro-Dummer Township in Youngs Point. The Complainant shot himself while speaking on the telephone with the Communications Sergeant.
The TeamNumber of SIU Investigators assigned: 2
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
Complainant:59-year-old male, deceased
Civilian WitnessesCW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed
CW #6 Interviewed
Witness OfficersWO #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
WO #7 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary
Subject OfficersSO #1 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
SO #2 Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
OPP Peterborough County police officers were dispatched and the call taker turned the call over to her Communications Sergeant, Subject Officer (SO) #1, at 3:26 p.m. SO #1 is a trained negotiator and engaged the Complainant in conversation on the telephone, while officers were dispatched to the residence.
At 3:28 p.m., SO #2 arrived on scene, entered the residence, and found the Complainant sitting on a couch in the living room of the residence armed with a firearm, a .22 calibre rifle, with the muzzle under his chin. The Complainant was still engaged in a telephone conversation with SO #1. SO #2’s presence caused the Complainant to become very agitated and SO #2 immediately disengaged, instead taking cover behind a nearby kitchen wall. Witness Officer (WO) #1 then arrived to assist SO #2. The Complainant continued to speak with SO #1 on the telephone and, at 3:35 p.m., the Complainant discharged the firearm into the underside of his chin.
A number of suicide notes and instructions regarding disposition of assets were found on a nearby coffee table.
WO #4 and WO #2 arrived and commenced resuscitation efforts. A paramedic supervisor attended at 3:59 p.m., and continued those efforts, without success. At 4:09 p.m., a “Stop Resuscitation” order was issued by way of a telephone patch from the hospital.
Cause of DeathThe post-mortem report listed the cause of death as a “Submental (the area underneath the chin) Gunshot Wound to Head.”
The SceneThe Complainant’s residence was a three bedroom, two bathroom residence (cottage) on the south shore of Clear Lake in Youngs Point, 30 km northeast of Peterborough. Entrance to the residence is made via a basement doorway on the west side of the residence. The front or south side of the residence faces a 100 metre long laneway leading into the one acre property from the roadway. The entire property and laneway is surrounded by forest. The back or north side of the residence faces, and is on the south shore, of Clear Lake. The living room, where this incident took place, is at the north end of the residence on the main floor that looks out over Clear Lake.
Physical EvidenceThe firearm found in the possession of the Complainant
Forensic Evidence Biological samples taken at the post-mortem examination of the Complainant were collected by an SIU forensic investigator and submitted to the Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) for analysis.
Toxicology ReportThe toxicology report was prepared by a forensic scientist with the CFS. The report indicated that the femoral blood of the Complainant had been examined for the presence of drugs and/or poisons, with negative results. Screening was done to detect the presence of Barbiturates, Cocaine, Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydromorphone, Morphine, Methadone, Oxycodone, Tetrahydrocannabinol and Carboxytetrahydrocannabinol, all came up negative. Ethanol was detected in the femoral blood with a reading of 107mg/100 ml, and in the Urine with a reading of 127mg/100 ml. 
Expert EvidenceOn January 3, 2018, a post-mortem examination was conducted on the body of the Complainant at the Toronto Pathology Unit by a Forensic pathologist who reported her preliminary autopsy findings as to cause of death as “Submental (the area underneath the chin) Gunshot Wound to Head.” A final post-mortem and toxicology report were e-mailed to a retired forensic manager on November 7, 2018. After inquiries were made a second copy was reissued and received by the SIU on December 21, 2018.
In the final post-mortem report, the pathologist confirmed the cause of death as being a, “Submental gunshot wound to the head.” She further noted that she found non-hemorrhagic rib fractures of the left anterior third and fourth ribs and interpreted these as being due to chest compressions during resuscitation efforts.
The gunshot entry wound was circular and was located in the submental space, located 21.5 cm from the top of the head and at midline. There was an associated abrasion ring covered with soot. The bullet entered the oral cavity, penetrated the tongue and palate, and then entered the cranial cavity. Within the cranial cavity, the bullet penetrated the dura (the tough outermost membrane enveloping the brain and spinal cord) and the left frontal lobe of the brain, and then entered the right parietal lobe of the brain. Five bullet fragments were present in the left frontal and right parietal lobes of the brain. The pathologist’s opinion was that this was a fatal injury; the pathologist also noted that the toxicological analysis of the post-mortem blood revealed a non-fatal level of ethanol.
Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence No video or audio recordings, or photographic evidence, was located as the incident took place inside a private residence.
Communications RecordingsSummary of 911 call between the Complainant and SO #1 on January 1, 2018 between 3:28 and 3:35 p.m.:
SO #1: Hi (Complainant’s first name), my name’s (SO #1’s first name). I’m a police officer, but I’m also a crisis negotiator.
The Complainant: No, no, no, I don’t want a police officer.
SO #1: (Complainant’s first name), can you give me a couple of minutes to talk with you?
The Complainant: The last police officer took my life away. I don’t want to talk to a police officer.
SO #1: Well, are you comfortable just to talk with me for a minute? I’m not coming to cause you any harm, I’m just here to talk, just to listen.
The Complainant: I was really good not to drink and drive over the holidays. I had two glasses of wine at my sister’s house and I was drinking at the cottage where I live, but I wasn’t drinking and driving. I came over to my sisters and I thought I was okay. I didn’t have any problems in pulling over for the police officer. I thought I was fine, I thought maybe I might get a warning or something.
SO #1: Tell me more about that. Was that on Saturday night or Boxing Day?
The Complainant: You know the officers were right in what they were doing. I understand the DUI but I don’t, I’m not like that. I was over .08, I didn’t know. The wife left five weeks ago and I went to my family and I thought it was going to be good.
SO #1: Think about the other people who are still at your table (Complainant’s first name). You still have your children in your life right? Nothing changed there? Are they close with you?
The Complainant: There’s nobody here. My kids don’t want me-they just put up with me. I paid for two divorces and never let anybody down. It doesn’t matter, you don’t understand.
SO #1: I just went through one myself. It`s not easy-you`re at a hard time right now in your life, but this doesn`t have to be the end of you. This can be a new beginning for you.
The Complainant: I lost my job. I finally get a good job, now I can`t work cause I don`t have a driver`s licence and now I lost my truck, what am I supposed to do? I’m not going to carry this on very long because you’re going to call my work.
(Suddenly the Complainant became very agitated and was shouting at someone in the background, believed to be SO #2, who had just entered the living room where the Complainant was located).
The Complainant: (Shouting) Get away, you get away from me. I told you, get away from me.
SO #2: Look at me. (Complainant’s first name), my name’s (SO #2’s first name). I’m not going to come any closer.
SO #1: (Complainant’s first name), focus on me for a second. It’s (SO #1) talking to you. You are a good guy and you don’t want to hurt anybody, you know that right? You are a good person, you know that.
The Complainant: Even if you take me away and chain me, what am I going to do?
SO #1: First thing we’re going to do is make you safe, so nobody gets hurt, not you or anybody else. You know that’s the most important thing.
The Complainant: Thanks for trying….Good bye.
SO #1: (Complainant’s first name x2), just hear me out, you don’t want to hurt anybody, that’s not who you are. Your sister doesn’t want to be burdened with the reputation of having a brother who hurt somebody or himself. That hurts your family. Listen, just because your kids aren’t talking to you right now doesn’t mean that they don’t love you and it doesn’t mean that they are going to hate you or forget you. You have to understand something; I’m going to tell you a little bit of….
The Complainant: I got put on hold by the suicide centre the other day. I called you to talk for a minute, now you are going to let these guys in the door.
SO #1: We are all here to help you, nobody’s there to hurt you (Complainant’s first name), just hear me out.
The Complainant: One, Two …
SO #1: (Complainant’s first name), do you know that when a person decided to commit suicide, that increases the chances of their children committing suicide as well and their grandchildren. It gets imbedded into your family. I don’t want to tell you not to have control of yourself. You’re just having, your life is out of control a little bit. You have a lot going on, but you can’t solve your problems in one day. I know suicide seems like a good option because you can finally have control but that’s not healthy for you. Taking control in a healthier way is what you need to do. We can help you do that. You are a good person. We want to help. You are going to let yourself down if you don’t remember that. You are an honourable person.
The Complainant: I’m sorry for wasting your day.
SO #1: You are not wasting anything (Complainant’s first name). I’m here to talk with you. You and I can talk as long as you want.
The Complainant: There’s a uniform here now, I know if they catch me, I’m done, going to jail.
SO #1: You are not going to jail. I guarantee you. You are going to get some help, like when someone’s sick. You are in an emergency situation and we just need to get you to talk with someone who can help you cope today. Let’s just cope with today.
The Complainant: Thanks for trying.
SO #1: (Complainant’s first name x2), remember you are an honourable person and honourable people don’t give up, you are a fighter. Would you like it if I came there to see you? I promise you I will.
The Complainant: No. It doesn’t matter, nobody listens. They’re talking on the radio, I got to go.
SO #1: No you don’t have to go. Do you still have your gun with you right now?
The Complainant: Yes, it’s under my chin.
SO #1: Okay, while we are talking why don’t you just point it at the ground? I don’t want to tell you not to have it, just point it in a different direction so you don’t hurt yourself.
The Complainant: No. Well, you know, this has been a rough old go for 59 years. I had enough.
SO #1: I’m sure, but today doesn’t have to be the last day of your life. Tell me about your family when you were growing up. Did you grow up in that area?
The Complainant: I know what you are trying to do. One… I’m sorry (SO #1), I’m so sorry.
(An unknown noise, possibly a muffled gunshot, can be heard in the background. SO #2 comes on the line and advises that the Complainant has just shot himself in the head and is bleeding out and they need EMS).
END OF CALL.
Materials obtained from Police ServiceUpon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP Orillia Detachment and the OPP Peterborough County Detachment:
- 911 Call Recording;
- Police Transmissions Communications Recording;
- Background Event Chronology;
- CEW Sign out log registers for WO #’s 1-7;
- Checklist-Suicidal Person Chemical Suicide Jan 2016;
- Canadian Police Information Centre CNI Check for Complainant;
- Crime Scene logs (Crime Scene Continuity register);
- Disclosure Tracking Logs;
- Duty Sheet-01 JAN DAYS (2);
- List of Involved Officers;
- Notes of WO #s 1-7 and SO #1 and SO #2;
- Occurrence Details (Involved occurrences);
- OPP Disclosure Disk;
- Police Witness List;
- Private Owner Firearm Acquired - CFP; and,
- Standard Operating Practices-OPP Provincial Communications Centre ">PCC Sept 18 2017.
The SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from other sources:
- Ambulance Call Reports (x2);
- Preliminary Autopsy Findings Report; and,
- Suicide Notes left by Complainant.
Section 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
Through the GPS feature of the Complainant’s cell phone, and after contacting the Complainant’s employer, in whose name the phone was registered, the police were able to pinpoint the location of the Complainant at his residence in Douro-Dummer Township, in Youngs Point.
While police officers were en route, Subject Officer (SO) #1, a trained negotiator, took over the call with the Complainant in attempts to deter the Complainant from ending his life. SO #1 spoke with the Complainant on the telephone for seven minutes, while constantly attempting to engage with him and establish some type of rapport. During the course of the call, the Complainant revealed that his domestic relationship had recently ended, his children were estranged from him, he had been charged with drinking and driving on Boxing Day, and that he feared that he would lose his job as a result.
While SO #1 was still on the telephone with the Complainant, SO #2 arrived at the Complainant’s residence and entered the home through the unlocked basement door; no other police officers had yet arrived at that time.
This is confirmed by the communications recording, wherein SO #2 is heard to report, “I’m in the basement, I can hear him upstairs on the phone with somebody.”
SO #2 then called out to the Complainant, from the basement, that he was a police officer and that he was there to help. This is confirmed by the recording of the call between SO #1 and the Complainant, as well as by SO #1 who heard someone speaking to the Complainant in the background.
The presence of a uniformed police officer at his residence, however, appeared to agitate the Complainant, who was then heard shouting at someone in the background of the telephone call.
As SO #2 came up from the basement stairs, he observed the Complainant seated on a couch in the living room speaking on a cell phone with a .22 calibre rifle in his hands, with the muzzle pointing up and about one inch from the underside of his chin. SO #2 had the impression that the Complainant was distraught, had formulated a plan to kill himself, and was not about to let anyone prevent him from doing so.
While SO #2 had originally drawn his service pistol and held it at the low ready position, hidden from the Complainant, so as not to frighten him, when the Complainant became upset, SO #2 holstered his firearm and showed the Complainant that his hands were empty. The Complainant was then observed to put the cell phone on the coffee table, on speaker, and move the muzzle of his rifle to a point under his chin, when he began to count down from three. SO #2 then heard SO #1’s voice over the speaker on the cell phone. SO #2 advised that this was when he first became aware that the Complainant was in conversation with a trained negotiator.
As a result of the Complainant’s upset at his presence, SO #2 removed himself from the Complainant’s line of sight and hid behind the kitchen wall. Once concealed behind the kitchen counter, he drew his conducted energy weapon (CEW), in case the opportunity should present itself to disable the Complainant, thereby preventing him from discharging his firearm.
SO #2 also radioed in to the communications centre that he was disengaging from the Complainant, as the Complainant appeared agitated by his presence.
The 911 call confirms the Complainant’s agitation when he is heard to shout, “Get away, you get away from me. I told you, get away from me,” and SO #2 is heard to respond, “Look at me. (Complainant’s first name), my name’s (SO #2’s first name). I’m not going to come any closer.” Additionally, the communications recording had SO #2 reporting, “He’s speaking to … I think it’s SO #1 there out of Orillia, but I’m not sure. He can see … he’s got eyes on me and he doesn’t want me to come any closer so I’m just in the kitchen. He’s sitting in the living room, has the gun to his chin now.”
SO #2 advised dispatch that he heard the Complainant continue to speak with SO #1 for some minutes, when Witness Officer (WO) #1 and WO #2 arrived outside of the residence.
SO #2 is heard to indicate over the radio, “ …You guys that just showed up on scene, make sure your repeaters are off. Just hang in there in the basement there for a minute, he’s pretty excited here.”
WO #1, with his firearm drawn, then joined SO #2 behind the kitchen wall.
SO #2 looked around the wall at the Complainant and heard the Complainant apologize to SO #1 on the telephone.
This is confirmed by the 911 call, wherein the Complainant is recorded as saying, “I know what you are trying to do. One … I’m sorry (SO #1’s first name), I’m so sorry,” at which point a noise is heard.
SO #2 then observed the Complainant to discharge his rifle, one time, to the underside of his chin.
Immediately thereafter, the communications recording had SO #2 reporting, “…Male just shot himself in the head.”
SO #2 and WO #1 then immediately ran to the Complainant to administer lifesaving manoeuvres; they were joined shortly thereafter by WO #2.
The communications recording has SO #2 reporting, “We have him in the recovery position here, but it’s not looking good.”
Shortly thereafter, EMS arrived; the Complainant was VSA and a doctor from the hospital advised the paramedic to cease resuscitative efforts.
One .22 shell casing was located in the living room at the feet of the Complainant, as was the rifle. No police officer discharged his firearm or CEW at any time.
A subsequent post-mortem examination carried out on the body of the Complainant confirmed the cause of death as a “Submental (in the area under the chin) Gunshot Wound to Head,” meaning the gunshot originated from under his chin, which was consistent with the observations of SO #2 and the 911 call recording wherein the Complainant indicated that he had the rifle “under my chin.”
An examination of the scene by SIU FIs located 11 handwritten notes authored by the Complainant wherein he bequeaths his property to various parties, he apologizes to loved ones, and he outlines the circumstances which brought him to consider suicide, including the breakdown of his marriage, his arrest for drinking and driving, and the estrangement of his children and grandchildren. The Complainant set out parting words for those he loved and those he did not. In his suicide note, the Complainant begins with “So this (sic) a note I have dreaded my life. If the police are reading this, I am not around.” He goes on to write, “So now is the hardest thing I need to put on paper … I am so sorry I let you down,” and finally, “So why go on? I called a hotline and they put me on hold.”
It is clear, on a review of all of the evidence, that the Complainant had decided to take his own life and had planned and taken all steps to carry out his intention, from writing out a suicide note and what would qualify as a will, to contacting the police in order that his friends and family not be the ones to locate his body, and to loading and arming himself with a rifle. On all of the evidence, it is clear that the Complainant was struggling due to some recent incidents in his life which he apparently felt he could not overcome. While the Complainant appears to have sought out some resources to counsel him and help him to deal with his situation in the days leading up to his death, including apparently the suicide hotline and the police, in the end it is clear that he was unable to come to terms with his situation and decided to end his life. While it is tragic that the Complainant felt that he was finally pushed to the brink, which caused him to resort to the drastic decision to end his own life, it is clear that the officers tasked with attempting to save the life of the Complainant, most specifically SO #1 and SO #2, acted to try to save that life.
On all of the evidence, it is clear that the Complainant took his own life without any intervention by the police. It is further clear that the Complainant, with the rifle always near at hand and, after SO #2 arrived, with the barrel touching the area under his chin, left the police with no options to which they could resort to attempt to disarm the Complainant, other than to try and convince him to abandon his plan.
The only criminal charge open for consideration on these facts would be one of criminal negligence causing death contrary to s.220 of the Criminal Code. There is no dispute that the death of the Complainant was not in any way attributable to the actions of SO #2 or SO #1, the only question being whether or not SO #2 or SO #1 failed in their duty toward the Complainant. Specifically, the question to be posed is whether SO #2 or SO #1 omitted to do anything that it was their duty to do and, in failing to do so, showed a wanton or reckless disregard for the life or safety of the Complainant (s.219 of the Criminal Code: definition of criminal negligence).
There are numerous decisions of the higher courts defining the requirements to prove an offence of criminal negligence; while most relate to offences involving driving, the courts have made it clear that the same principles apply to other behaviour as well. In order to find reasonable grounds to believe that SO #2 or SO #1 committed the offence of criminal negligence causing death, one must first have reasonable grounds to believe that they had a duty toward the Complainant which they omitted to carry out, and that omission, pursuant to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v J.F. (2008), 3 S.C.R. 215, represented ‘a marked and substantial departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person in circumstances’ where SO #2 or SO #1 ‘either recognized and ran an obvious and serious risk to the life’ of the Complainant ‘or, alternatively, gave no thought to that risk’. The courts have also made clear that the risk of death to the Complainant must have been foreseeable in the circumstances (R. v Shilon (2006), 240 C.C.C. (3d) 401 Ont. C.A.).
On this evidence, I cannot find that the actions of either SO #2 or SO #1 amounted to an omission to carry out their duties, nor did they amount to ‘a marked and substantial departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person in the circumstances’. While the intentions of the Complainant, as outlined by him in the 911 call and his actions in arming himself with a rifle, the barrel of which he held firmly under his chin, would clearly have made his suicide foreseeable, I cannot find that the police service, or SO #2 and SO #1 specifically, could possibly have done more than they did to prevent the Complainant’s death.
Rather than reasonable grounds to believe that SO #2 and/or SO #1 showed a wanton and reckless disregard for the life or safety of the Complainant, it appears that they were in fact actively seeking to assist him and to prevent his taking his own life. In all, the actions taken by the OPP were swift and appropriately responsive. Unfortunately, the Complainant had clearly made up his mind to end his life and he too acted swiftly after SO #2 had arrived, and before SO #1 could talk him out of taking his life or SO #2 or WO #1 could take any action to save that life, and he discharged his rifle, thereby ending his own life and thwarting the efforts of the police to the contrary.
On this record, I cannot find reasonable grounds to believe that the actions of either of SO #2 or SO #1, or any of the police officers who responded to the Complainant’s suicide call, satisfy any of the elements required in order to pursue a charge under s.220 of the Criminal Code in that they neither omitted to carry out any duty to act; nor did their actions amount to a marked and substantial departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person in their circumstances; and they did not show a wanton or reckless disregard for the life or safety of the Complainant. Additionally, despite their best efforts, it was not within the power of either officer to prevent the Complainant’s subsequent and tragic death.
On all of the evidence, it is clear that the death of the Complainant was as a result of his own voluntary actions, obviously largely influenced by his depressed state of mind brought about by recent unfortunate downturns in his life, and there is no causal connection between the actions of SO #2, or SO #1, and the death of the Complainant. On this record, I can find no basis for the laying of criminal charges nor any basis for the assignment of blame, and no charges shall issue.
Date: January 10, 2019
Original signed by
Special Investigations Unit
- 1) <80 mg/100ml of ethanol is the legal limit for driving. [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.