SIU Director’s Report - Case # 17-OVI-201
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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 serious injury reportedly sustained by an 18-year-old man leading up to his arrest on August 3rd, 2017.
Notification of the SIUAt approximately 11:46 a.m. on August 3rd, 2017, the Guelph Police Service (GPS) notified the SIU of the apparent serious injury sustained by the 18-year-old Complainant subsequent to a motor vehicle collision following a bank robbery in which the Complainant was involved.
The GPS reported that at 10:30 a.m., on August 3rd, 2017, three masked men attempted to rob the Scotia Bank on Clair Road in the City of Guelph. The robbery was unsuccessful in large part because the bank had not yet opened. Minutes later, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) on Gordon Street was robbed and the same culprits were believed to be responsible.
The suspects fled in a damaged white Volkswagen Jetta that was soon located on Gordon Street travelling back towards the original attempted robbery where a dozen or so police officers remained. Police officers soon located the suspect vehicle and were in the process of trying to stop it when the suspect vehicle left the roadway and collided with a commercial signpost. The Complainant suffered a facial injury as a result of the impact.
The TeamNumber of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
Complainant18-year-old male, declined interview but consented to release of medical records
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
Subject OfficersSO #1 Interviewed, but declined to submit notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right.
The suspects then drove north on Gordon Street, the main road through Guelph, and went on to rob the RBC. During the robbery, the suspects were reported as indicating that they were armed with firearms and would be willing to shoot anyone in the bank if they did not cooperate. After that robbery, the suspects drove south on Gordon Street directly into a heavy police presence due to police having responded to the reporting of the first attempted robbery.
The Volkswagen Jetta was soon located and the SO managed to get behind it, in his police cruiser, at a distance of approximately 120 metres. The SO broadcast his location, and 12 seconds later, reported that the Jetta had veered right and into the lot of a mechanic’s shop where it collided with a raised curb and pole.
SIU forensic investigators thoroughly examined the SO’s police cruiser and the Volkswagen Jetta for any evidence of contact and found no such evidence.
Subsequent investigation revealed that CW #1 was the driver of the Jetta, and the Complainant was an unbelted rear seat passenger. The force of the collision with the raised curb was enough to lift the Jetta off the ground and force it to stop abruptly, in all likelihood propelling the Complainant forward and into the front seat headrest. The Complainant had apparently had a front tooth recently replaced, and a front tooth was dislodged in the collision, causing heavy bleeding.
Nature of Injury/TreatmentThe Complainant was observed to be bleeding heavily from the mouth and was transported to hospital and examined. The medical records indicated that “the only significant (sic) is trauma to the head which has resulted in a concussion and whiplash injury as well as trauma to the front of the mouth for which he had a tooth dislodged and had a quite serious avulsion of his lip which caused some bleeding.” The Complainant remained in hospital for eight days and then was discharged with no further treatment required. It is unclear whether the dislodging of the tooth was a permanent tooth, or one which had just recently been implanted.
The SceneThe Jetta involved in the collision left the southbound lane of Gordon Street, veered right (west), and struck a fixed pole at 1499 Gordon Street in the City of Guelph.
Forensic Evidence No submissions were made to the Centre of Forensic Sciences.
Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence The following photos were taken by a civilian witness following the attempted robbery at the Scotia Bank. The photos depict the alleged robbers re-entering their vehicle, a white Volkswagen Jetta, and driving away.
The search was fruitless but, at 10:29 a.m., a subsequent communication indicated that the RBC at 987 Gordon Street was in the process of being robbed. The caller said that two men were involved and although no weapon was seen, the culprits ordered everyone in the bank to the ground and threatened to kill people if the stolen funds were delivered in dye packs. The men, wearing black masks and black bandanas, said they had a gun and would shoot customers.
The bank staff further advised that the men had left the bank and had entered a white, four door Jetta and went southbound on Gordon Street. Moments later, WO #4 saw the vehicle on Gordon Street and alerted other police officers. The SO broadcast that he had the suspects in sight and 12 seconds later reported that the Jetta had collided with a pole at the Pharmasave store and one occupant had fled on foot.
Materials obtained from Police ServiceUpon request, the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the GPS:
- Arrest Record of the Complainant, CW #1, and CW #4;
- Dispatch from Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) Details;
- GPS Motor Vehicle Accident Report;
- Notes of WO #s 1-4;
- Occurrence Notes;
- 911 call recordings;
- Police transmission communications recording;
- Prisoner Property Reports of CW #1 and CW #4; and,
- Witness List.
The SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from other sources:
- Medical records of the Complainant related to this incident.
Sections 1-3, Ontario Regulation 266/10, Ontario Police Services Act -- Suspect Apprehension Pursuits
(a) if the police officer has reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed or is about to be committed; or(b) for the purposes of motor vehicle identification or the identification of an individual in the vehicle.
(a) the police force of the officer established under subsection 6 (1), if the officer is a member of an Ontario police force as defined in the Interprovincial Policing Act, 2009;(b) a police force whose local commander was notified of the appointment of the officer under subsection 6 (1) of the Interprovincial Policing Act, 2009, if the officer was appointed under Part II of that Act; or(c) the local police force of the local commander who appointed the officer under subsection 15 (1) of the Interprovincial Policing Act, 2009, if the officer was appointed under Part III of that Act.
Section 219 and 221, Criminal Code -- Criminal Negligence Causing Bodily Harm
(a) in doing anything, or(b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do,
Section 249, Criminal Code -- Dangerous Operation of Motor Vehicles, Vessels and Aircraft
(a) a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place…(3) Every one who commits an offence under subsection (1) and thereby causes bodily harm to any other person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
Section 343, Criminal Code -- Robbery
(a) steals, and for the purpose of extorting whatever is stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to the stealing, uses violence or threats of violence to a person or property;(b) steals from any person and, at the time he steals or immediately before or immediately thereafter, wounds, beats, strikes or uses any personal violence to that person;(c) assaults any person with intent to steal from him; or(d) steals from any person while armed with an offensive weapon or imitation thereof.
Section 344, Criminal Code -- Robbery with Firearm
(a) if a restricted firearm or prohibited firearm is used in the commission of the offence or if any firearm is used in the commission of the offence and the offence is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, a criminal organization, to imprisonment for life and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of(i) In the case of a first offence, five years, and(ii) In the case of a second or subsequent offence, seven years;
(a.1) in any other case 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
Numerous police officers responded to the call for all units and flooded the area looking for the Jetta involved.
At 10:29 a.m., a second dispatch went out to all available units alerting them of a robbery in progress at the RBC at 987 Gordon Street in the City of Guelph. The dispatch again outlined two men as being involved, and that those two men had ordered everyone in the bank to the floor and threatened to kill people if the funds delivered to the robbers had dye packs. The men were further described as wearing black masks and black bandanas and had indicated that they had guns and were prepared to shoot people. The involved motor vehicle at this second robbery was described as a white four door Volkswagen Jetta which was last seen travelling southbound on Gordon Street.
Within seconds, the police transmissions communication recording reveals an officer calling in to dispatch and advising that “the Jetta is southbound Gordon, passed me, three males in vehicle”. He then provides a partial licence plate.
While a second officer is heard to indicate that he is going to try and head the vehicle off, the SO is then heard to interrupt, indicating “just passed me … didn’t get the plate … heading southbound lane two” and he then goes on to give a very brief description of the driver when he shouts out that the car just went into the plaza, struck a sign, and “bailed.” He further indicated that two of the occupants were still in the car and one was running.
From the SO’s first sighting of the suspect vehicle, until his reporting that it had struck the pole, no more than 12 seconds had elapsed.
Upon arrival of the police, a second occupant of the vehicle was just exiting the vehicle to flee when he was apprehended, leaving behind only the Complainant, who was seated in the rear passenger seat of the Jetta. The Complainant was transported to hospital where he remained for eight days. The discharge summary in his medical records concludes that he suffered a concussion, possible whiplash, an avulsion (a part was torn away) of his lip, and he had lost a tooth.
While the Complainant declined to provide the SIU with a statement, the driver of the Jetta and the second passenger both consented to being interviewed.
According to CW #1, he was the driver of the Jetta at the time of the collision but had no knowledge as to the owner of the vehicle or the identity of either of his passengers. CW #1 recalled being involved in a collision, but not what he collided with, how the collision occurred, the speed at which he was driving at the time, or if anyone was behind him.
CW #1 professed that he did not hear any sirens, nor did he see any emergency lights, and he was unaware that the police were following him. CW #1 did recall opening the door of the car in order to flee, after looking in the back seat and seeing a male who was passed out or knocked out and bleeding. He also recalled a police officer (the SO) then pointing his firearm at CW #1, pulling him from the vehicle, placing him face down on the ground, and then handcuffing him. CW #1 indicated that no use of force was employed against him and that the SO treated him well.
CW #4, the second passenger in the Jetta, said that he was seated in the left rear seat while the Complainant was seated to his right. CW #4 stated that the Complainant had recently, prior to this date, broken a front tooth and had received a replacement (as the Complainant did not provide a statement, it is unclear whether or not this is the tooth that is indicated in the medical records as having been lost during the collision).
CW #4 indicated that CW #1 was driving in the centre lane when he alerted the two rear seat passengers of the presence of police and they saw one police cruiser suddenly come up behind them with its lights and sirens activated. CW #4 also observed a second police cruiser about 30 metres back also with its emergency lighting activated. According to CW #4, CW #1 then applied his brakes and turned to the right into a car repair shop, where he spun out and struck a pole. CW #4 estimated that the collision occurred approximately ten seconds after he first heard the police siren. After the collision, CW #4 looked behind them and saw multiple police cruisers present, and he got out of the car and ran away, leaving his two co-passengers behind.
CW #4 indicated that he was apprehended shortly thereafter at gunpoint, but no force was used against him, nor did police do anything harmful to his co-passengers in the car. CW #4 opined that CW #1 panicked when he saw the police, which is why he collided with the pole.
Of the four independent civilian witnesses who were interviewed, all of whom heard and saw the collision as it was occurring, none described the incident as involving a police pursuit, with each apparently believing that this was simply a collision without any police involvement. Of those witnesses, CW #5, who observed the actual collision with the Jetta striking the commercial sign, estimated that the SO arrived at the scene some ten seconds after the collision, with lights and siren activated, while CW #3, who observed the Jetta heading across the parking lot seemingly out of control and then hitting the curb and a rigid sign, advised that he observed the first police vehicle arrive within five seconds of the collision.
Additionally, each of the four independent civilian witnesses described the Complainant as resisting and struggling when he was removed from the vehicle, with one witness describing the Complainant as trying to kick at the police officers, while a second witness described the Complainant as swearing the entire time that it took to handcuff him, some 15 minutes in total, due to his ongoing resistance and refusal to put his hands behind his back. CW #1 described three police officers trying to put the handcuffs on the Complainant and continuously yelling at the Complainant to “stop resisting”. This evidence is consistent with that of the officers involved in the arrest of the Complainant.
The SO advised that after hearing the dispatch regarding the attempted robbery at the Scotia Bank, he attended that location and viewed the photos of the suspect vehicle taken by the witness. As he was leaving the Scotia Bank, he heard the dispatch about the robbery in progress at the RBC and he activated his emergency lights and siren and headed in that direction. Further information received from officers who had spoken to witnesses at the RBC confirmed that it was the same suspect vehicle involved, and that the suspects had yelled that they would shoot people, and also that all persons in the bank had been ordered to get on the ground.
The SO initially observed a white Jetta, which he thought might be the suspect vehicle, pulled over to the side for his cruiser, but after taking a closer look, noted that it did not have the same distinctive features that had been referred to by dispatch. He then made a U-turn to return southbound on Gordon Street, when he observed the suspect vehicle ahead and decided to perform a traffic stop. At that point, he activated his sirens and observed the suspect vehicle pass Heritage Drive and then abruptly turn right in an attempt to drive into a plaza, when the front end of the Jetta lifted off the roadway and he thought the vehicle had struck a pole. The SO then drove in behind the crashed Jetta.
On all of the evidence, as between both the occupants of the suspect vehicle and the independent civilian witnesses, as well as all police witnesses, there is no dispute that the Complainant sustained his injuries as a result of the motor vehicle collision and the fact that he was not wearing his seatbelt at the time.
There is no allegation that any police officer used any unnecessary force as against the Complainant and it is not in dispute that his injuries had already been sustained prior to his first police contact and before he was removed from the vehicle, and that a minimal amount of force was used to hold the Complainant down when he was combative and struggling, and thereafter to handcuff him.
Furthermore, based on the evidence from the 911 calls, as confirmed by each of the police officers who attended the respective banks, there is no question that the police had ample grounds upon which to stop and arrest the occupants of the suspect vehicle for the bank robbery and the initial attempted bank robbery.
With respect to the SO’s actions in attempting to perform a vehicle stop on the Jetta being driven by CW #1, if one accepts the evidence of CW #1 that he had no inkling that police were behind him, then it is clear that nothing that the SO did contributed to the collision and subsequent injuries to the Complainant, as CW #1 apparently crashed the Jetta for reasons totally unrelated to anything that the SO was doing.
Unfortunately, the evidence of CW #4 directly contradicts the assertion by CW #1 that he was unaware of the police behind him, as CW #4 indicated that it was CW #1 who alerted the others in the car of the presence of the police vehicle behind them, following which he appeared to panic and crashed the car.
Even if CW #1 crashed the car as a result of seeing the SO’s police cruiser behind him, with lights and sirens activated, and then panicking, I am still unable to find any evidence to support a finding that the SO was engaged in a police pursuit. Clearly, in the time between when the SO first saw the suspect vehicle, which was a distance ahead, and the time of the crash, some 12 seconds later, there would scarcely have been sufficient time for him to engage in a pursuit, as he had not yet even caught up to the vehicle, which was not travelling particularly quickly (between 60-70 km/h).
Pursuant to Ontario Regulation 266/10 of the Ontario Police Services Act entitled Suspect Apprehension Pursuits,
s. 2(1) A police officer may pursue, or continue to pursue, a fleeing motor vehicle that fails to stop,
(a) if the police officer has reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed or is about to be committed; or
(b) for the purposes of motor vehicle identification or the identification of an individual in the vehicle.
As such, since the SO clearly had reason to believe that the occupants of the suspect Volkswagen Jetta had just committed a serious criminal offence, he would have been justified in engaging the vehicle in a pursuit, had it failed to stop when directed to do so.
However, on these facts, it appears that the SO never had to make that decision, as he was still at the point wherein he was hoping to perform a vehicle stop when the suspect vehicle crashed. Pursuant to the legislation, ‘a suspect apprehension pursuit occurs when a police officer attempts to direct the driver of a motor vehicle to stop, the driver refuses to obey the officer and the officer pursues in a motor vehicle for the purpose of stopping the fleeing motor vehicle’. It is clear that since at no time did the SO have the opportunity to direct the Jetta to stop, as it was still some distance ahead of him when he first spotted it, that the driver never refused to obey the officer, and as such there was no pursuit.
Furthermore, even if the actions of the SO could be tortured to fit within the definition of vehicle pursuit, its duration would have been less than 12 seconds, as the communications recording clearly indicates that from the time that the SO first spotted the Jetta until it crashed into the pole in the plaza, no more than 12 seconds had elapsed.
As indicated, however, I can find no evidence to conclude that the SO ever engaged the Jetta in a vehicular pursuit for the following reasons:
- CW #1’s indication that police did not influence his driving;
- CW #4 advised that as soon as CW #1 saw the police cars behind him, he immediately lost control of the vehicle and crashed;
- Of the four independent civilian witnesses present, none heard a siren or observed a police vehicle at the time that CW #1 crashed the car, and none appeared to be of the view that there was actually a police pursuit in progress;
- The evidence of both of CW #1 and CW #4 at no time made any mention of their belief that they were involved in a police pursuit;
- As the SO was radioing in that he had spotted the suspect vehicle, and began to describe the driver, he suddenly stopped and shouted that the car had crashed. During this radio transmission, no sirens could be heard in the background; and
- Two of the civilian witnesses indicated that the first police vehicle that arrived at the scene, did not arrive until some five to ten seconds after the collision.
Therefore, on the undisputed evidence, it appears clear that the SO, who was in possession of information that the white Volkswagen Jetta he observed ahead had just been involved in a bank robbery where firearms had been threatened, turned on his emergency equipment in order to conduct a vehicle stop in order to investigate the occupants of the suspect vehicle, when the vehicle almost immediately mounted the curb and crashed into the pole causing the Complainant’s injuries. As such, I can find no causal connection between the actions of the SO and the injuries to the Complainant, nor can I find that the actions of the SO are open to any criticism, as it is clear that he was doing exactly as the law, and his duties, required him to do in these circumstances.
On these facts, I can find no criminal charge which would be even remotely relevant for consideration on these facts. With respect to either dangerous driving causing bodily harm, or criminal negligence causing bodily harm, the evidence reveals neither a causal connection between the actions of the SO and the subsequent collision and injuries to the Complainant, nor any actions by the SO that could possibly fall outside the limits of the criminal law. Therefore, as I lack the grounds for the laying of any criminal charges, none shall issue.
In concluding, however, I wish to make note of the efficient and professional behaviour of the members of the GPS in their concerted effort to apprehend the alleged bank robbers. Their behaviour, which involved the use of a very minimal amount of force, in the successful apprehension of these parties was commendable in the circumstances and should be a standard towards which all police services strive.
Date: June 27, 2018
Original signed 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.