Ontario’s police watchdog has cleared two Northumberland OPP officers of any wrongdoing following the shooting death of a man in early April 2021.
Around 10:15 a.m., OPP officers first responded to a 911 call regarding a man sitting in a vehicle, reportedly threatening motorists and assaulting one driver in the area of County Road 25 and Tobacco Road near the village of Castelton, about 40 km northeast of Cobourg.
Martino said when officers arrived, the man brandished a baseball bat and advanced at the officers, striking a police cruiser’s windshield. He then entered a pickup truck and drove the vehicle at the cruisers and continued from the scene.
Officers pursued the vehicle, which on a couple of occasions turned and drove at the cruisers, forcing the officers to take evasive action to avoid a collision, Martino said.
Eventually an officer in a cruiser was able to force the truck into a ditch. Martino said the man then exited the vehicle and ignored officers’ repeated commands to drop the baseball bat.
Martino said the man advanced towards one officer who then discharged a fireram four times. Around the same time, another nearby officer also discharged a firearm once at the man. The incident ended around 11:35 a.m., Martino’s report noted.
Paramedics responded to the scene to administer first aid, however, the 43-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. The name of the victim was not released.
Martino said the investigation also revealed the man “struggled with mental illness” and on the morning of April he was of “unsound mind” and had “lost touch with reality and embarked on a course of erratic behaviour” which included taking the family’s truck and confronting two motorists, slapping one in the face.
The director concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to believe either subject officer committed a criminal offence in connection to the man’s death. Martino said the use of force was necessary to protect themselves against a “reasonably apprehended attack.”
“With respect to the officers’ resort to gunfire, I am satisfied that each of subject officer 1 and subject officer 2 discharged their firearms believing it was necessary to thwart an imminent attack at the hands of the complainant,” he said.
“Though neither officer interviewed with the SIU, depriving the investigation of first-hand information regarding their mindsets when they fired their guns, each of the officers makes this clear in their notes. Moreover, the circumstances that prevailed at the time lend credence to their documented assertions.”
Martino also noted the officers were aware the man suffered from mental illness.
“Though the officers appear to have been aware of this fact, it does not appear that there was ever a real opportunity to bring mental health interventions to bear, were they available, given how quickly events escalated and the violence characterizing the complainant’s behaviour that had precipitated police involvement in the first place,” he said.