Nova Scotia’s independent police watchdog has ruled that the death of a man who fell from the MacDonald Bridge in 2019 was a death by suicide.
A report released by SiRT on Tuesday says that the incident occurred on the morning of October 21, 2019, when an officer was involved in a slow-speed pursuit of a vehicle.
The pursuit began in Dartmouth after the driver failed to stop at a red light at the Highfield Park Drive intersection.
During the pursuit, the vehicle travelled between Halifax and Dartmouth via the MacKay and MacDonald bridges.
Several attempts were made to stop the vehicle, SiRT said, but were unsuccessful.
When the man began to drive in a dangerous manner, police deployed a spike belt at the Dartmouth end of the MacKay bridge, while the gates on the toll lanes were closed.
The vehicle would strike the belt, flattening a tire, but kept travelling on the rim.
The vehicle travelled at 86 km/h and drove through the toll gate, snapping it off.
SiRT said that man would continue to drive the vehicle toward Dartmouth with police losing track of it for a few moments. They believed the man was in the Highfield Park area and travelling by foot.
At that point, the police watch commander began driving to Dartmouth.
At approximately 2 a.m., the watch commander travelled across MacDonald Bridge and met the man’s vehicle at mid-span of the bridge.
The officer radioed his position and requested officer assistance. Several other officers responded.
The man stopped his vehicle, exited from the driver’s side door and ran to the fencing along the pedway in an attempt to climb over the fence.
One of the responding officers, who is unnamed in the report, ran after the man. The officer caught up to the man just as he climbed over the bridge’s safety barrier.
Although the officer was able to get a hold of the man, SiRT said he did everything he could to prevent him from falling, he was unable to maintain his hold.
The man fell to the roof of a building about 35 metres below, where he would die a short time later.
SiRT interviewed two civilians who were on the MacDonald Bridge during the incident, a community contact of the man, six police officers that witnessed the incident and the officer that attempted to stop the man from jumping off the bridge.
Their investigation also considered HRP radio communications, Halifax police vehicle GPS records, medical reports, MacPass records and Halifax Harbour Bridges video footage.
SiRT concluded that police did not know the identity of the man was until after his death.
During their investigation, police say they discovered the man had been dealing with significant mental health issues for some time before his death.
Halifax Regional Police had no knowledge of those health issues at the time of the incident, SiRT determined.
The police watchdog concluded that the officer who attempted to stop the man did all that “could be expected of a reasonable person in such circumstances.”