Hearing for Toronto police officer who shot car in Distillery District held over
TORONTO – Toronto Police Const. Tash Baiati faces a charge of insubordination under the Police Services Act for his involvement in a police pursuit that ended in the Distillery District last September.
After Baiati and fellow officers boxed a suspect in and brought his car to a stop, amateur video captured the officer firing up to 15 rounds into the stopped vehicle’s engine block with the suspect still in the car and civilians and other officers nearby.
No one was injured and the 60-year-old suspect was arrested but an internal review by Toronto Police’s Professional Standards Unit led to the Police Services Act charge.
In a brief hearing at police headquarters Tuesday morning, Baiati’s lawyer asked for the case to be put over until April 19.
Speaking to reporters afterward, lawyer Lawrence Gridin explained the insubordination charge against his client as a violation of a “policy;” not a direct order.
“In this case there’s a policy in Toronto…that says you can’t shoot at a vehicle,” said Gridin.
“And so the officer is charged with shooting at a vehicle, violating that policy.”
Gridin said officers are only allowed to open fire on a vehicle if there is a “lawful excuse,” which is the main argument in this case. Gridin also cited a similar but not identical case in which he is representing an officer appealing an insubordination conviction.
Const. Dmitry Chouryguine was recently convicted and issued a reprimand for firing at and hitting the trunk of a car in a 2010 incident.
Documents from the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, where his conviction will be appealed Monday, show officers had tried to stop a suspect with “a history of dangerous driving and violence against the police” at a gas station. That lead to one of them being assaulted before a pursuit.
When Chouryguine and his partner stopped the suspect later, documents say the suspect sped off again when Chouryguine’s partner reached into his car and that Chouryguine fired at and struck the car three times.
The court ruling states that “although Constable Chouryguine had an honest belief in his actions, his position was unreasonable.”
Gridin is appealing the decision on the belief that the facts of the case do amount to a lawful excuse.
He says a successful appeal of the Chouryguine case would not necessarily have an impact on Baiati’s.
Const. Baiati appeared at his hearing Tuesday in full uniform and is still currently on active duty.
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