Charges withdrawn against OPP officer in the death of Debra Chrisjohn

Debra Chrisjohn.
Debra Chrisjohn. Supplied photo.

Charges against an OPP officer, stemming from the death of a 39-year-old Oneida Nation of the Thames woman last year, have been dropped.

Debra Chrisjohn’s death on Sept. 7, 2016, after she was arrested in London by city police and turned over to Elgin County OPP on an outstanding warrant, prompted a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) probe. It led to charges announced in July, of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life against OPP Const. Mark McKillop and London police Const. Nicholas Doering.

READ MORE: SIU probe into death of 39-year-old woman results in charges against London police officer, OPP officer

The lawyer providing counsel for the Chrisjohn family said Crown attorney Jason Nicol withdrew all charges Monday against McKillop, after determining there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction.

“As any family would be, they were initially very disappointed and upset,” said Aboriginal Legal Services lawyer, Caitlyn Kasper, of Chrisjohn’s relatives.

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And while they understand the Crown’s decision, Kasper explained that there must have been reasonable and probable grounds for charges to be laid in the first place.

“That’s why we’re encouraging that the OPP do an internal investigation,” Kasper said, to ensure there were no breaches of the police services act.


READ MORE: Family of indigenous southern Ontario woman who died in police custody speaks out

The SIU didn’t offer much detail about the circumstances surrounding Chrisjohn’s death, except that she’d been arrested by London police in the area of Highbury and Trafalgar Road in the late afternoon for allegedly disrupting traffic at an intersection.

Kasper believes she was transferred to Elgin County OPP on a shoplifting charge, before being rushed to hospital shortly before 8 p.m.

Less than an hour later, Chrisjohn was pronounced dead.

In a statement to the media, Chrisjohn’s family says she moved to Oneida Nation of the Thames when she was around 13-years-old. She was the second oldest of her three other sisters, Ruby, Cindy, and Brittany.

“She was always smiling, friendly and was talkative, which made it easy for people to both approach her and befriend her,” the statement reads.

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“She had an excellent sense of humor and lit up the room when she entered. She was kind and patient, and was the type of person that could always be seen playing with the youngest members of the family, whether it was skip rope with her nieces or pushing her nephew on the swings. She was actively involved in the family right up until a week before her death, when she went to a local pow-wow with her sister Cindy. She was so happy to be there and watched the dancers with her son.”

Chrisjohn was a mother to 11 children, and had three grandchildren.

Provincial police say McKillop remained on active duty after charges were announced, while the London Police Service confirmed Doering had been assigned to administrative duty.

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