The Special Investigations Unit has found no grounds to lay charges after a suspect was injured during an interaction with police in Arva, Ont., just north of London last November.
The police watchdog’s investigation included interviews with two witness officers, though the subject officer declined an interview and to provide notes “as is the subject officer’s legal right.” The complainant also “declined to speak with SIU or authorize release of his medical records.”
The SIU also obtained records including a 911 call, custody video, CCTV video and other items.
The SIU says the investigation was launched after West Region OPP alerted it just before 6:30 a.m. Nov. 3 about an incident four hours earlier.
West Region OPP reported that members of Middlesex OPP were called at 2 a.m. to a section of Clarke Road in Arva after someone reported a suspicious man knocked on his door looking for gasoline.
According to a 911 call, the homeowner says the man told him that he ran out of gas at Adelaide Street and Sunningdale Road. When the homeowner asked why the suspect didn’t go to the gas station at that intersection, the homeowner said he started “tripping over his words” and mentioned a fight with his friends.
On the call, the SIU reports that the homeowner said the man asked for a ride but he told him he was going to bed.
The suspect then said he’d sleep in the homeowner’s neighbour’s shed across the road, the SIU report says, and the homeowner last saw him “as he disappeared into the darkness at the end of the caller’s driveway.”
CCTV footage shows the arrival of the subject officer and one of the witness officers “at a great distance from the camera, in the pitch black,” the SIU says, but only the light from their flashlights can be seen.
The SIU report says OPP found a 31-year-old man at the end of the driveway and started a conversation with him when “he suddenly fled on foot.”
The subject officer and one of the witness officers interviewed by the SIU followed on foot.
The SIU says the suspect “stumbled on a concrete curb, striking an air conditioning unit,” then “regained his footing” before quickly tripping on another curb and falling again, at which point he was arrested.
During the arrest, the SIU says the suspect “resisted and kicked out with his feet” and the subject officer “punched the Complainant twice in the head or upper body.” The suspect then released his arms and was secured in handcuffs, the SIU says.
Police reported to the SIU that a search of the suspect turned up a loaded .22-calibre handgun and $15,000 cash.
The suspect complained of pain in his right hand and wrist and an ambulance transported him to hospital from the scene. He was found to have three fractured bones in his hand and a broken finger, the SIU says.
SIU director Joseph Martino says the suspect’s injuries “were likely the result of one or the other of his spills to the ground” and that “he appears to have acknowledged as much to hospital staff in the wake of the incident.”
Martino adds that the evidence does not suggest that the subject officer used excessive force in this case.
“Police officers are immune from criminal liability for force used in the course of their duties provided such force was reasonably necessary in the execution of an act that they were required or authorized to do by law,” he wrote in his decision.
“Confronted at night by an apparent trespasser who had fled from the police and given indication he would not surrender peacefully into custody, the (subject officer) was within his rights in resorting to a measure of force when the Complainant struggled with the officers on the ground and refused to release his hands to be handcuffed.”
Martino says “it would not appear” that the subject officer’s two punches were “disproportionate, particularly as the second was delivered after the first had failed to subdue the Complainant.”
The full report can be found on the SIU’s website.
The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates events involving police in Ontario that have resulted in death, serious injury, or reports of sexual assault.