SIU: no reason to charge officer in January crash

The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has concluded there are no reasonable grounds to charge an OPP officer in relation to injuries sustained by a man and woman after a brief chase in former Arthur township in January.

SIU acting director Joseph Martino made the announcement on Sept. 4.

The SIU assigned five investigators, two forensic investigators and one collision reconstructionist to probe the incident and interviewed  seven civilian witnesses and three witness officers. The subject officer provided a copy of his duty notes and consented to an interview with the SIU.

On Jan. 18 at about 2:35pm Wellington County OPP officers attempted to stop a vehicle that police suspected was stolen and previously involved in a gas theft at Pioneer gas bar in Minto. The vehicle was originally spotted on the 12th Line in Minto, but “the driver refused to stop,” police said in a press release at the time.

While travelling eastbound on the 3rd Line of Wellington North, just south of Mount Forest, “the driver lost control and rolled the vehicle into the north ditch,” police stated.

Both the driver of the vehicle, a 31-year-old male of no fixed address, and an 18-year-old female passenger from Listowel, were ejected from the vehicle. The male driver suffered back injuries and “multiple fractures and lacerations,” according to the SIU, while the  female passenger sustained serious internal injuries.

The SIU investigation found that:

– the officer activated his emergency lights hoping the pickup truck would pull over, but the pickup truck driver responded by increasing his speed. The subject officer continued for some time … to keep pace with the truck, but soon determined that the roadway conditions were unsafe and broke off his active engagement; and

– the officer lost sight of the truck, but came upon the vehicle a short time later. The pickup truck had lost control, fishtailed on the slippery road and flipped before coming to rest on its wheels on the front yard of a home on Sideroad 3. The vehicle sustained “incredible damage.”

In his decision, Martino said, “The offences that arise for consideration are dangerous driving and criminal negligence causing bodily harm … It is difficult to find any fault in the conduct of the subject officer in the course of his involvement in this incident.

“On the contrary, the officer appears on the evidence to have discharged his duties throughout in a professional and reasonable fashion.

“Given the information at his disposal, he was well within his rights to begin a pursuit of the pickup truck; he had good cause for believing it was stolen and that its occupants had just made off with unpurchased gasoline.”

Martino continued, “The pursuit, from start to finish, travelled about seven to eight kilometres and lasted four to five minutes, during the course of which there is no reason to believe the officer drove dangerously or ran any unnecessary risks as far as the public’s safety was concerned, including the health and well-being of those in the pickup truck.”