SIU: no grounds to charge OPP officer who shot anti-riot weapon at Harriston brothers

MISSISSAUGA – An OPP officer won’t face criminal charges for firing an Anti-riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN) gun at two Harriston brothers, and striking them with less-lethal impact rounds.

As the Advertiser reported in November, the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) began looking into the circumstances of the incident on Nov. 21, 2023, after police contacted the oversight agency about firing the weapon.

In a March 20 decision, SIU director Joseph Martino cleared the officer who fired the gun of any criminal wrongdoing.

The publicly available report,based on body-worn camera footage, interviews, notes and recordings, details more about what happened that Tuesday afternoon last year.

After a Children’s Aid Society worker went to a Harriston home to check on an infant’s welfare, she was pushed down the home’s front steps by a 16-year-old boy who then chased her to her car while threatening her with a brick.

Police and the worker entered the home but left after threats were made. Backup was requested and it was decided the infant needed to be taken away.

An unnamed man, described in the report as the father of the 16- and 18-year-old brothers, spoke with police outside the home, telling them to return with a warrant to take the infant.

“You’re going to get smashed,” the younger brother screamed, punching through a screen in the front door.

The father went inside and told the boy to calm down, but to no avail; the boy said he was going to beat the cop and continued punching at the screen.

A female inside the home was heard on an officer’s body-worn camera saying, “They are not taking the baby.”

After the four-minute interaction, police walked away.

But the 16-year-old threw a brick at the officers. An officer unholstered his taser weapon.

“You’re going to get shot,” the older brother told his sibling.

The officer’s body-worn camera was turned off, but roughly 45 minutes later, according to the report, someone threw a brick through the window of a neighbouring home. An officer said the 16-year-old was smashing a window.

Officers ran toward the home. Glass was heard breaking.

“Get out now,” police commanded to the brothers who were then inside.

At least five officers were at the doorway, one with a taser drawn, another with the ARWEN.

“We can’t let him do that,” an officer said.

There’s no reference to what the officer was talking about in the SIU report.

“For the safety of the neighbours,” one officer said, adding, “they got a little kid.”

“Let’s get the door open and see what we got,” an officer said.

Police did not have a warrant to enter the home, but Martino opined it wasn’t required because the brothers had retreated there after the neighbour’s window was broken and were being freshly pursued.

That was enough of a link, according to Martino, to justify the warrantless entry.

What police got when they opened the front door was the younger brother standing in the kitchen with a chair, apparently prepared to throw it, and the other brother with an emptied kitchen drawer.

An officer twice fired 37-mm impact rounds from the ARWEN; each weighed about 78 grams and quickly closed the distance – at around 242 feet per second – between police in the home’s entrance, and the brothers in the kitchen.

One was struck in the arm, and the other in his “centre mass,” according to the report.

Both were handcuffed and transported to Palmerston and District Hospital. They suffered bruising, but there were no additional injuries reported.

Martino concluded the officer, who refused to be interviewed by the SIU or provide his notes, acted reasonably in firing the weapon, and wrote that it worked as intended: to “temporarily neutralize” a person long enough for an arrest.

SIU investigators interviewed the brothers and two other officers who were involved.

“There are no reasonable grounds to believe that the [officer] committed a criminal offence in connection with the use of his ARWEN,” Martino wrote in his March 20 decision.