News Release

SIU Concludes Windsor Investigation

Case Number: 06-OCI-200

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TORONTO (13 December, 2006) --- James Cornish, the Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), has concluded there are no reasonable grounds to believe that a Windsor Police Service (WPS) officer is criminally responsible for the serious injuries to Timothy O' Brien.

On November 20, 2006, Mr. O'Brien suffered serious burns to his body. He remains at Hamilton General Hospital in critical condition. Two officers also suffered superficial burns to their hands when they attempted to put out the fire.

Six SIU investigators were assigned to probe the circumstances surrounding Mr. O'Brien's injuries to determine what role, if any, the police played. The investigation revealed that on November 20th, at about 7:50 p.m., two WPS officers responded to a suspected arson call at a bar on Ottawa Street in Windsor. The officers arrived within a minute and saw Mr. O'Brien walking around a parking lot adjacent to the bar. He had a gas can and started to douse himself with the gasoline he had brought. The officers immediately radioed for fire and ambulance services as Mr. O'Brien continued to walk around and pour gasoline on himself.

Additional officers arrived and helped to control the crowd from getting close to Mr. O'Brien. The subject officer shouted several times to Mr. O'Brien to put the gas can down but he did not respond. He lit himself on fire with the cigarette lighter he was holding. The officers, with the help of civilians, rushed to try and extinguish the flames with their jackets. A man grabbed a fire extinguisher from the bar and sprayed Mr. O'Brien, extinguishing the fire.

Based on all the available evidence, Director Cornish stated, "The police did nothing that caused or contributed to this man's self-destructive actions. Indeed, a number of the civilians credit the police action with saving others from being harmed that day."

The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials (police officers as well as special constables with the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers with the Legislative Protective Service) that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, the Director of the SIU must

  • consider whether the official has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
  • depending on the evidence, cause a criminal charge to be laid against the official where grounds exist for doing so, or close the file without any charges being laid
  • publicly report the results of its investigations
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