News Release

SIU Concludes Hamilton Death

Case Number: 06-OCD-207

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SIU Investigates Death in Hamilton

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TORONTO (31 May, 2007) --- The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), James Cornish, has concluded that there is no basis to believe that a Hamilton Police Service (HPS) officer is criminally responsible for the death of 42-year-old James Best.

Seven SIU investigators were assigned to probe the circumstances of Mr. Best's death to determine what role, if any, the police played. The investigation determined that on November 28, 2006, at approximately 7:42 p.m., HPS officers responded to a kidnapping call at a motel on King Street East. Officers arrived and ultimately determined the call to be false. While the officers were inside the lobby, the landlord told them about loud noises coming from one of the rooms. The landlord tried to open the door with a key but the door was barricaded.

The officers went outside and looked through the room's window. They saw that the room was in disarray and there was blood on the bed and floor. The paramedics were called. Officers forced the room door open and found Mr. Best on the floor, covered in blood, with serious wounds to his arms and hands. He was cutting and stabbing himself with a piece of glass. The subject officer had a TASER device in the ready position with the laser pointed towards Mr. Best. The officers demanded Mr. Best put the glass down. He refused the officers' commands and continued to cut his wrist.

The subject officer discharged the TASER in an attempt to immobilize Mr. Best. After the first cycle, an officer tried to remove the glass from Mr. Best's hand. He clenched up but then continued to cut himself. The subject officer discharged the TASER one or two more times (the evidence varies on this point), and an officer managed to take the piece of glass from Mr. Best.

Minutes later, Mr. Best started to convulse. He was immediately transported to Hamilton General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 8:24 p.m. A post mortem ultimately concluded Mr. Best died from blood loss associated with a severed artery in his arm and acute toxicity from an illegal drug.

Director Cornish concluded there were no reasonable grounds to believe the subject officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the use of his TASER and the death of James Best. He said, "I believe that the subject officer acted reasonably in an attempt to save Mr. Best from further harming himself. The TASER discharges ultimately proved successful in assisting the officers to disarm Mr. Best. The evidence is undisputed that the TASER discharges, while ultimately of no assistance in saving Mr. Best's life, also did nothing to contribute to his death."

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
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES
Telephone/No de téléphone: 416-622-2342 or/ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342