No criminal charges for London officer who broke man’s ribs: SIU

London Public Library's Central Branch at 251 Dundas St., where a violent arrest happened on March 1, 2023. Global News

Ontario’s police watchdog is closing its file into the circumstances surrounding the broken ribs suffered by a suspect arrested in front of the London Public Library’s Central branch in broad daylight earlier this year.

The Special Investigations Unit has concluded that while the officer’s actions were responsible for fracturing three of the suspect’s ribs, “there are no reasonable grounds” to believe the officer used excessive force when he punched and kneed the 39-year-old man.

The London Police Service reported to police that two officers on foot patrol near the downtown library branch learned of an assault. The officers found the suspect and “a struggle ensued when they attempted to arrest him.”

Click to play video: 'The rise of violence in Canada’s public libraries'
The rise of violence in Canada’s public libraries

The SIU received video surveillance which it says showed that just before 1:30 p.m. on March 1, the suspect, or Complainant, was grabbed by police and directed to the door of the library and each officer moved to grab the suspect’s arms behind his back but the subject officer had more difficulty.

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The suspect then turned towards the subject officer (SO) and the officer “delivered a left knee strike” to the suspect’s left side, put his arm around the suspect’s neck, and began to pull him backward before positioning himself in front of the suspect and punching him three times to the upper left side of the suspect, while the other officer kept hold of the suspect’s right arm.

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The subject officer then pulled the suspect away from the building and, with help from the other officer, got him to the ground on his back.

“The Complainant had a hold of the door handle but lost his grip. Another two right-handed punches were delivered by the SO, but where the punches landed was blocked by (the other officer’s) body. The SO delivered a right knee strike, but where it struck could not be seen,” the report reads.

At that point, a third officer arrived. The handcuffing of the suspect could not be seen on camera because of the number of people around at the time. Two plainclothes officers also arrived on the scene, the SIU said.

Later on, the suspect is seen face-down on the sidewalk in handcuffs.

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Joseph Martino, director of the SIU, writes that police were within their rights to arrest the suspect because they had reasonable grounds to believe he had just assaulted someone.

“With respect to the force used by the SO in the Complainant’s arrest, I am unable to reasonably conclude that it was unlawful. From the outset, the Complainant resisted the officers’ efforts to take him into custody by refusing to give up his arms to be handcuffed,” he writes.

“When, after a period, the SO was not able to pry the Complainant’s left arm behind the back, the officer was entitled to escalate his force to effect his purpose. It would not appear that the knee strike and punches delivered at this stage were disproportionate to the task at hand, particularly as the Complainant continued to grasp the door handle even after the punches had been struck.”

The director adds that the takedown to the ground would allow the officers to “better manage any continuing resistance” and that even though the officer punched the suspect twice while he was on the ground and struck him again with a knee, “that force does not give the appearance of being excessive given the nature of the struggle unfolding at the time.”

Both the subject officer and the complainant declined to be interviewed as part of the investigation, but the officer’s notes were received and reviewed. The investigation, which is now closed, also included video surveillance, interviews with two witness officers and two civilian witnesses, as well as other items.


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