The province’s police watchdog has cleared London police of any wrongdoing after a 21-year-old man was seriously injured after he jumped and fell four floors from the balcony of his King Street apartment during an interaction with officers last year.
Police responded to the scene at an apartment building in the 700 block of King Street around 11:20 a.m. on Sept. 24, 2020.
According to the SIU, police had been called there by the 21-year-old complainant, who said another man, 22, was in his eighth-floor apartment, in breach of conditions not to be there.
Two officers arrived 13 minutes later and were allowed into the unit by the complainant, who the SIU notes was heard sobbing by the officers before they entered.
Upon learning that the 22-year-old man had a warrant out for his arrest, officers took the man into custody, prompting the complainant to break down crying, saying the two had reconciled, that he didn’t want the other man to be arrested, and that he thought police would give him a chance to explain this change in circumstances, the SIU says.
As the two officers began to lead the 22-year-old out of the unit, one officer asked the complainant whether he was all right. The complainant replied that he was, and police continued escorting the other man out of the apartment building.
Around 11:45 a.m., after officers had left, the SIU says the complainant tried to kill himself by jumping from his eighth-floor balcony. The man fell four stories before landing on a fourth-floor ledge, fracturing his pelvis. He was later transported to London Health Sciences Centre in critical but stable condition.
In his decision, SIU director Joseph Martino says the three officers at the scene when the man fell — one arrived later and was outside — were “in no way physically responsible for the complainant’s falling.”
Martino says as far as potential criminal liability, the issue turns to whether there had been a failure on the part of the officers to act that caused or contributed to the injuries the complainant had sustained “and, if so, whether those failures attract criminal sanction.”
The offence at hand, Martino says, would be criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
“This offence is premised, in part, on conduct that amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the standard of care which a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances,” he writes.
“In my view, there is insufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that the officers who attended at the complainant’s apartment to arrest (the 22-year-old) transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law.”
The officers were not present when the man decided to jump, and were not neglectful in failing to take measures to prevent him from trying to harm himself, Martino said, highlighting that one officer had asked the complainant whether he was all right.
In addition, Martino says the complainant had no history of being suicidal or having mental illness, and that his crying alone would not have justified officers apprehending him for his own protection under the Mental Health Act.
“Simply put, the officers had no reason to suspect that the Complainant, upset though he was, presented a foreseeable risk of harm to himself or others, and therefore no reason to exercise any heightened caution in relation to his well-being,” Martino says.
The SIU says it interviewed all three officers and obtained their notes, and interviewed four civilian witnesses, including the man taken into custody.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
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