SIU Director’s Report - Case # 21-OFP-124
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Mandate of the SIU
Under the SIU Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence was committed. If such grounds exist, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the official. Alternatively, in cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director cannot lay charges. Where no charges are laid, a report of the investigation is prepared and released publicly, except in the case of reports dealing with allegations of sexual assault, in which case the SIU Director may consult with the affected person and exercise a discretion to not publicly release the report having regard to the affected person’s privacy interests.
Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019Pursuant to section 34, certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- The name of, and any information identifying, a subject official, witness official, civilian witness or affected person.
- Information that may result in the identity of a person who reported that they were sexually assaulted being revealed in connection with the sexual assault.
- Information that, in the opinion of the SIU Director, could lead to a risk of serious harm to a person.
- Information that discloses investigative techniques or procedures.
- Information, the release of which is prohibited or restricted by law.
- Information in which a person’s privacy interest in not having the information published clearly outweighs the public interest in having the information published.
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy ActPursuant to section14 (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 that could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter or an investigation undertaken with a view to a law enforcement proceeding.
- The names of persons, including civilian witnesses, and subject and witness officials;
- 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.
Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004Pursuant to this legislation, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.
Other proceedings, processes, and investigationsInformation may also have 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.
A person sustains a “serious injury” for purposes of the SIU’s jurisdiction if they: sustain an injury as a result of which they are admitted to hospital; suffer a fracture to the skull, or to a limb, rib or vertebra; suffer burns to a significant proportion of their body; lose any portion of their body; or, as a result of an injury, experience a loss of vision or hearing.
In addition, a “serious injury” means any other injury sustained by a person that is likely to interfere with the person’s health or comfort and is not transient or trifling in nature.
This report relates to the SIU’s investigation into the discharge of a firearm at a 33-year-old woman (the “Complainant”).
Notification of the SIUOn April 17, 2021 at 9:02 p.m., the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) notified the SIU that two Anti-Riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN) weapons had been discharged at a suicidal woman.
According to the DRPS, at approximately 8:00 p.m. that evening, the DRPS received a 911 call regarding a suicidal person. Officers located the Complainant near the Whitby Public Library. The woman had her hand in her purse and, at some point, took a knife from the purse. DRPS tactical officers discharged ARWEN weapons and the Complainant was disarmed. The Complainant was transported to the Lakeridge Health Oshawa.
The TeamDate and time team dispatched: 04/17/2021 at 9:27 p.m.
Date and time SIU arrived on scene: 04/17/2021 at 10:43 p.m.
Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
Affected Person (aka “Complainant”):33-year-old female interviewed
The Complainant was interviewed on April 20, 2021.
Civilian WitnessesCW Interviewed
The civilian witness was interviewed on April 20, 2021.
Subject OfficialsSO #1 Interviewed, but declined to submit notes, as is the subject
SO #2 Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject
SO #1 was interviewed on April 28, 2021.
Witness OfficialsWO #1 Interviewed
WO #2 Interviewed
WO #3 Interviewed
The witness officials were interviewed on April 22, 2021.
The Scene The incident occurred in front of the main branch of the Whitby Library. At the northeast end of the library there was a coffee shop, called Presse Café.
Between the café and Dundas Street, a series of posts along the sidewalk supported a raised architectural structure (two of the posts are marked in the scene diagram). The Complainant was reportedly standing next to the first of the posts, immediately in front of the Presse Café.
Two DRPS police vehicles, one a marked patrol SUV operated by WO #1, the second a black Ford pickup truck operated by tactical unit members, were parked on Dundas Street West. Four spent ARWEN cartridges were found in the area between the two vehicles.
Two ARWEN projectiles were found in the area in front of the Presse Café. A front door of the Presse Café had been struck by an ARWEN projectile and the door glass had shattered. Two other ARWEN projectiles were found west of where the Complainant had been standing.
The knife the Complainant had been carrying had been collected by the police and it was turned over to SIU investigators.
SIU forensic investigators photographed the two ARWEN weapons that were deployed, and the weapons were returned to the police.
Physical Evidence The SIU collected four ARWEN impact projectiles and four spent ARWEN cartridges from the scene.
DRPS Communications RecordingsAt 6:41 p.m. on April 17, 2021, a woman called 911 to report her friend, the Complainant, had stated she intended to slice her throat. The caller provided a description of the Complainant, and the Complainant’s cellular telephone number and address to the call-taker. The caller advised that the Complainant was not dangerous to others, just to herself. Police officers were dispatched to the library.
At 6:47 p.m., WO #2 and an undesignated officer arrived at the library, and WO #2 advised the dispatcher he was with the Complainant. At 6:50 p.m., the undesignated officer reported they were standing in front of the library and the Complainant refused to take her hand out of her purse. The Complainant was reported to be calm at the time.
At 6:58 p.m., WO #1 reported the Complainant had a knife in her hand and police officers were negotiating with her. Members of the DRPS tactical unit reported they were on their way to the scene.
At 7:14 p.m., a request was made for a police dog handler to attend the scene.
At 8:01 p.m., WO #1 reported they had removed the knife from the Complainant and ARWEN weapons had been deployed. WO #1 reported the Complainant was in custody and everything was okay.
Video RecordingsA video recording obtained from the public library captured some of the interaction between the Complainant and the DRPS. Unfortunately, the recording appeared to be motion-activated and the footage jumped from 7:22 p.m., at which point police officers were standing between the two police vehicles and likely speaking to the Complainant, to 8:01 p.m., at which point the incident had been concluded and the Complainant was in custody. The deployment of the ARWEN weapons was not captured on the recording.
Materials Obtained from Police Service The SIU obtained the following records from the DRPS between April 21, 2021, and April 26, 2021:
• A copy of the telephone and radio communications;• General Occurrence report;• Incident Narrative Reports from the three witness officials;• The notebook entries of the three witness officials;• Photos of the scene; and• ARWEN requalification training records for SO #1 and SO #2.
Materials Obtained from Other SourcesThe SIU obtained and reviewed the following records from the following other sources:
• Surveillance camera recordings from the Whitby Library – Main Branch; and• A screen shot from a Facebook posting from the Complainant.
At about 6:41 p.m. of April 17, 2021, the DRPS received a 911 call from a woman. The woman was calling to report that her friend – the Complainant – had confided in her that she intended to end her life by cutting her throat with a knife. The Complainant was reported to be in the area of the Whitby Central Library. Officers were dispatched to the scene.
WO #2 was among the first officers at the library, arriving at about 6:47 p.m. The Complainant was leaning against a pillar in front of the Presse Café that was part of the library building. The officer exited his vehicle and, from a distance east of the Complainant’s location, began to speak with her. The Complainant confirmed that she had a knife and was intent on ending her life by cutting her throat. After several minutes of conversation, the Complainant pulled a knife from her purse. She ignored repeated requests from WO #2 that she drop the knife, and spoke of being tired and depressed.
Members of the DRPS Tactical Support Unit (TSU), including SO #1 and SO #2, were also dispatched to the scene, arriving at about 7:00 p.m. One of their members took over from WO #2 as the lead officer in conversation with the Complainant. Other tactical officers stood by with their ARWENs at the ready. It was decided that negotiations would be given every opportunity to resolve the situation, but that ARWENs would be used if, necessary, to prevent harm coming to the Complainant. As she had done with WO #2, the Complainant talked about her struggles with mental health and previous suicide attempts. She expressed frustration that the hospitals she had been to had failed to help her. SO #1, who had taken over the negotiation, assured the Complainant that they would get her the medical help she needed and that she would be seen by different doctors. Despite the officers’ repeated requests, the Complainant refused to drop the knife.
Shortly before 8:00 p.m., the Complainant brought the knife up to her throat with both hands causing a dimple in the skin. That action prompted the tactical officers to decide that they would use their ARWENs at the first opportunity, namely, the moment the Complainant removed the knife from her neck. One of the officers, having been told by the Complainant that she had not eaten in days, persuaded her to drink from the chocolate milk container she had in her purse. As the Complainant removed her hand with the knife in it to unscrew the cap of the container, SO #1 and SO #2 discharged their ARWENs firing four rounds in total.
The Complainant was struck in the thighs and one of her hands. She dropped the knife and fell to the ground. Officers quickly moved in on the Complainant and took her into custody.
Section 25(1), Criminal Code -- Protection of persons acting under authority
(a) as a private person,(b) as a peace officer or public officer,(c) in aid of a peace officer or public officer, or(d) by virtue of his office,
Section 17, Mental Health Act -- Action by police officer
(a) has threatened or attempted or is threatening or attempting to cause bodily harm to himself or herself;(b) has behaved or is behaving violently towards another person or has caused or is causing another person to fear bodily harm from him or her; or(c) has shown or is showing a lack of competence to care for himself or herself,
(d) serious bodily harm to the person;(e) serious bodily harm to another person; or(f) serious physical impairment of the person,
Analysis and Director's Decision
Pursuant to section 25(1) of the Criminal Code, police officers are immune from criminal liability for force used in the course of their duties provided such force was reasonably necessary in the execution of an act that they were required or authorized to do by law. The Complainant had a significant history of suicidal ideation, of which the officers learned in the course of the negotiations. She had attempted suicide the night prior, and was clearly depressed and suicidal as she held a knife and threatened to kill herself in the instant case. On this record, I am satisfied that the officers were within their rights in acting to apprehend the Complainant under section 17 of the Mental Health Act.
I am further satisfied that SO #1 and SO #2 did not use excessive force in aid of the Complainant’s apprehension. They and the other officers who responded to the scene were content to give negotiation every chance to succeed. Indeed, they had very deliberately set upon a course in which they would only use their ARWENs if it appeared the Complainant was on the precipice of hurting herself. In my view, that is precisely what occurred. It was only when the Complainant moved the knife up to her throat that the officers decided to adopt a more proactive posture. Even then, fearing that an ARWEN discharge with the knife in that position might inadvertently cause harm to the Complainant, they were able to first coax her into lowering the knife before SO #1 and SO #2 fired their weapons. Their shots, aimed at the Complainant’s lower mass, were effective in dispossessing the Complainant of the knife. On this record, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the officers used unnecessary force, particularly as lesser force, such as direct physical engagement, would have placed the officers within reach of a potentially dangerous weapon and provided the Complainant a window of time to inflict self-harm.
For the foregoing reasons, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that SO #1 and SO #2 acted other than lawfully throughout their engagement with the Complainant. Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case, and the file is closed.
Date: August 13, 2021
Electronically approved by
Special Investigations Unit
- 1) The following records contain sensitive personal information and are not being released pursuant to section 34(2) of the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019. The material portions of the records are summarized below. [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.