No Charges for Police in Man’s Drug Overdose Death While in Custody in Northwestern Ontario
(24 August, 2021) ---
The Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Joseph Martino, has found no reasonable grounds to believe that Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers committed a criminal offence in connection with a 37-year-old man’s death in custody last October.
On October 18, 2020, OPP officers arrested a man in Atikokan, for being in breach of a term of his release, and put him in a cell. The officers, aware of the man being at risk of self-harm, removed his clothing and brought in a civilian guard to monitor him while in the cell. When the man fell from the cell bench onto the floor and appeared unresponsive, the civilian guard notified an officer. The officer responded and was able to get a verbal reaction from the man after he rattled the cell bars. Minutes later, the civilian guard alerted the officer that the man had stopped breathing, and paramedics were called.
Director Martino said that while it may have been preferable in hindsight to call for paramedics at the first sign of the man’s unresponsiveness, he was unable to reasonably conclude that any such lapse in judgement amounted to a marked departure from a reasonable level of care. He added that the officers did not have any reason to believe the man was suffering from the effects of fentanyl and methadone. The man had denied any drug consumption when he was booked at the station. In conclusion, Director Martino found no reasonable grounds to believe either officer transgressed the limits of care prescribed by criminal law and found no basis for proceeding with criminal charges. The file has been closed.
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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Kristy Denette, firstname.lastname@example.org
SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES