News Release

SIU Concludes Investigation into Beamsville Custody Death

Case Number: 05-OCD-098

Other News Releases Related to Case 05-OCD-098

SIU Investigates Custody Death in Beamsville

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TORONTO (2 February, 2006) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), James Cornish, has found there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) officers are criminally responsible for the death of James Foldi.

Mr. Foldi died on July 1, 2005, after a physical struggle with police officers on Crescent Avenue in Beamsville. During the struggle, pepper spray and a TASER device were used by police. Mr. Foldi was eventually taken into police custody and sometime thereafter, he stopped breathing and died.

SIU investigators focused on the events leading up to Mr. Foldi's death to determine what the nature and extent of police involvement was. As part of the probe, the SIU designated three subject officers from the NRPS. The SIU collected and examined evidentiary items such as the subject officers' equipment, including an X-26 TASER, and the NRPS's policies on use of force and use of the TASER. Investigators interviewed a total of 20 police and civilian witnesses. Forensic identification technicians extensively analyzed the area around Crescent Avenue and collected a number of biological samples. In addition, the homes that Mr. Foldi entered during this incident were measured and mapped.

The SIU investigation determined that at about 2:40 a.m. on July 1st, a panicked and frantic Mr. Foldi went to a home on Village Park Drive for no apparent reason and pounded on the door, shouting, "help me, help me." He smashed a window and severely cut his hand, causing it to bleed. Mr. Foldi then ran to another home where he kicked down the front door and entered. The startled occupants calmed Mr. Foldi and managed to usher him out of their home. Mr. Foldi ran down the street and continued on to various homes on Crescent Avenue, shouting and pounding on the front doors.

NRPS officers were dispatched to a number of 911 calls made from these homes. As two officers arrived, they saw Mr. Foldi run into a house on Crescent Drive. Mr. Foldi stood in the front hallway and shouted incoherently at the two occupants of the home. He then ran into a rear bedroom and closed the door behind him.

The officers entered the home and confronted Mr. Foldi in the bedroom. An officer fired the TASER once, discharging two probes from the device. On the evidence, it appears the two probes did not strike and remain in, or on, Mr. Foldi's body. The TASER seemed to have little effect as Mr. Foldi did not fall but continued to move.

He leapt out of the bedroom window and fled to a narrow walkway at the side of the home. The officers ran to the front of the home and confronted Mr. Foldi over a fence. They repeatedly ordered him to get down on the ground. When Mr. Foldi ignored the police commands, both officers pepper sprayed Mr. Foldi with no effect. He smashed a garage window and crawled inside where he began beating on a car.

The officers confronted him inside the garage and then followed Mr. Foldi as he jumped through the broken window back to the walkway. Three officers grabbed him as they tried to gain control and subdue him. Mr. Foldi continued to struggle and resist arrest. During this struggle, it appears one of the subject officers discharged the TASER multiple times in a 'drive stun' mode. (A 'drive stun' technique involves contacting a subject's body with the electrical contact points on the nose of the TASER in order to initiate a pain-compliance response so that the subject will stop struggling and comply.) Similar to the first TASER discharge, it is uncertain whether all the multiple discharges made contact with Mr. Foldi.

The entire struggle lasted approximately three minutes during which time Mr. Foldi never stopped struggling with the officers. The data downloaded from the TASER indicates it was discharged a total of 12 times during a three-minute period.

Eventually, the three officers managed to subdue and handcuff Mr. Foldi. Shortly thereafter, they noticed he was breathing heavily and called for an ambulance. Mr. Foldi lost consciousness and in spite of resuscitation efforts by both the police and paramedics, was pronounced dead in a hospital.

A post mortem examination revealed no life-threatening injuries and no anatomical cause for Mr. Foldi's death. An analysis of his blood did show that he had a potentially lethal amount of an illegal substance in his system at the time of his death.

Having carefully reviewed all the available evidence, Director Cornish concluded that Mr. Foldi's death could not be attributed to the use of the TASER or to the force used by the police. He stated, "The officers in this case had grounds to arrest Mr. Foldi and in all the circumstances, they were justified in using force to affect that arrest. In regards to the TASER use, it is clear that they first tried to subdue the inconsolable Mr. Foldi by firing the TASER, attempting to incapacitate him with the electrical jolt that is delivered over the wires that connect to him. In the first discharge, it is clear the probes did not fix into his skin.

"A protracted struggle then ensued wherein Mr. Foldi continued to exhibit phenomenal strength. During this struggle, the TASER was apparently discharged 11 times in a 'drive stun' mode to evoke the pain-compliance response. It is unclear how many of those discharges made contact with Mr. Foldi. It must be remembered that the TASER was being used during the course of a violent struggle and thus it is likely that some of the discharges occurred while the TASER was not in contact with Mr. Foldi or if there was initial contact, that contact may have been broken by the movement of either the officer or Mr. Foldi. Mr. Foldi continued to struggle and breathe for some time after the TASER was used.

"Whatever the cause of Mr. Foldi's death, I am satisfied (based upon all the evidence including the evidence of experts) that Mr. Foldi was not killed by unlawful police action. Our investigation has ruled out any conduct of the police as being the cause of Mr. Foldi's death. Accordingly, it will be left to other processes to examine the evidence in this case and determine the exact cause of Mr. Foldi's demise."

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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