SIU Director’s Report - Case # 17-PVI-024
Issued: August 18, 2017
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Mandate of the SIU
The Special Investigations Unit is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents involving police officers where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. The Unit’s jurisdiction covers more than 50 municipal, regional and provincial police services across Ontario.
Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must determine based on the evidence gathered in an investigation whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation. If, after an investigation, there are reasonable grounds to believe that an offence was committed, the Director has the authority to lay a criminal charge against the officer. Alternatively, in all cases where no reasonable grounds exist, the Director does not lay criminal charges but files a report with the Attorney General communicating the results of an investigation.
Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act (“FIPPA”)
Pursuant to section 14 of FIPPA (i.e., law enforcement), certain information may not be included in this report. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Confidential investigative techniques and procedures used by law enforcement agencies; and
- Information whose release could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement matter or an investigation undertaken with a view to a law enforcement proceeding.
Pursuant to section 21 of FIPPA (i.e., personal privacy), protected personal information is not included in this document. This information may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- subject officer name(s)
- witness officer name(s)
- civilian witness name(s)
- location information
- witness statements and evidence gathered in the course of the investigation provided to the SIU in confidence and
- other identifiers which are likely to reveal personal information about individuals involved in the investigation
Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 (“PHIPA”)
Pursuant to PHIPA, any information related to the personal health of identifiable individuals is not included.
Other proceedings, processes, and investigations
Information may have also been excluded from this report because its release could undermine the integrity of other proceedings involving the same incident, such as criminal proceedings, coroner’s inquests, other public proceedings and/or other law enforcement investigations.
The Unit’s investigative jurisdiction is limited to those incidents where there is a serious injury (including sexual assault allegations) or death in cases involving the police.
"Serious injuries" shall include those that are likely to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim and are more than merely transient or trifling in nature and will include serious injury resulting from sexual assault. "Serious Injury" shall initially be presumed when the victim is admitted to hospital, suffers a fracture to a limb, rib or vertebrae or to the skull, suffers burns to a major portion of the body or loses any portion of the body or suffers loss of vision or hearing, or alleges sexual assault. Where a prolonged delay is likely before the seriousness of the injury can be assessed, the Unit should be notified so that it can monitor the situation and decide on the extent of its involvement.
This report relates to the SIU's investigation into the serious injuries sustained by a 66-yearold male during an interaction with an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer on January 28th, 2017.
Notification of the SIU
On January 28, 2017, at 3:15 p.m., the OPP notified the SIU of a vehicle injury that occurred that day.
The OPP reported that at about 2:00 p.m., an OPP officer pulled over a truck that was towing a trailer on the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 just east of Dodge Line near Woodstock.
The police officer had an interaction with the driver regarding a traffic violation and thereafter returned to the police cruiser to complete his notes. When the truck did not move for some time after, the police officer exited the cruiser to check on the driver. When the police officer arrived at the truck, he did not see the driver in the truck. The police officer walked to the front of the truck and saw the driver’s head pinned between the pavement and the front driver’s side wheel of the truck.
An ambulance was called and the driver was taken to the hospital with vital signs absent. He was resuscitated but had life-threatening head injuries and was transferred to a hospital in London.
Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 3
Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2
SIU Forensic Investigators responded to the scene and identified and preserved evidence. They documented the relevant scenes associated with the incident by way of notes, photography, measurements, and vehicle examinations.
66-year-old male, medical records obtained and reviewed.
CW #1 Interviewed
CW #2 Interviewed
CW #3 Interviewed
CW #4 Interviewed
CW #5 Interviewed
CW #6 Interviewed
CW #7 Interviewed
CW #8 Interviewed
SO Interviewed, notes received and reviewed
This incident occurred on the right (south) shoulder of the eastbound Highway 401 lanes, west of Sweaburg Road in Oxford County.
The SO's OPP cruiser was positioned with the centre area of the front bumper against the left side of the rear of the Complainant’s trailer. The trailer was hitched to the GMC pick-up truck.
The Complainant’s GMC pick-up truck was stopped on an uphill grade of 0.8%. That was found to be negligible and not enough to cause a stopped vehicle to roll backward while in neutral gear.
The SO's cruiser was a white, unmarked 2013 Ford Taurus with interior mounted emergency lighting. The vehicle was not equipped with in-car camera recording equipment.
The Complainant’s vehicle was a GMC pick-up truck with a Duramax Diesel engine andfour-wheel-drive system. The truck had four doors and a closed cap over the cargo box and was towing a closed trailer containing a snowmobile.
Research of the manufacturers' specifications of both vehicles revealed that the Complainant’s GMC truck exerted over 520 pound-feet (lb/ft) of torque at 1600 RPM
Examination of the Complainant’s truck
A mechanical examination of the Complainant’s pick-up truck revealed that the transmission cable was separated from the transmission linkage arm. Dirt and debris suggested that the linkage was in that condition for some time.
In repairing the defect, mechanics from a towing company removed and replaced the broken linkage arm from the side of the transmission and reattached the cable to the new arm.
Investigators were advised that the defect is a common occurrence. The "ball" type joints linking the transmission cable to the lever arm wear and deteriorate over time. The defect prevents the transmission to engage in any gear and from shifting the lever in the vehicle. With the defect, the transmission gears could be changed manually from underneath the vehicle. When such repairs are made and as was done in repairing the Complainant’s truck, two people are required to safely carry out the repair. One individual who is seated in the vehicle applies the brake while another individual accesses the vehicle underside to change the gears. When changing gears from the linkage arm under the vehicle, the transmission cycles through the gears in the same order as they do from the lever inside the vehicle. Simply put, if the vehicle is in "Park", clicking the lever arm once would engage "Reverse", another click engages "Neutral" and a third engages "Drive" gear.
The area was not canvassed by the SIU for any video or audio recordings, and photographic evidence.
According to the communication recordings, the SO's alarm was transmitted at 1:56:40 p.m., and he was out of breath as he reported, "I need an ambulance ASAP and send me more units. It looks like a truck has rolled back on a gentleman. He’s underneath the truck. I can't get him out. Transmission’s jammed . I need to get another car here with a push bar so I could push this thing off him."
The WO immediately responded, "I'm here right now," while five other police officers reported that they were en route.
About 90 seconds after the WO reported that he was arriving, the SO requested a rush on the ambulance as they were beginning CPR.
Over three minutes later, the SO inquired about the ambulance arrival time. He said the Complainant had no pulse and was turning blue.
About another three minutes after that transmission, it was reported that the ambulance was just getting on the highway.
Materials obtained from Police Service
Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the OPP Ingersoll Satellite Office (Oxford) and the London Highway Safety Division:
- Event Details
- Notes from the WO
- Occurrence Details
- Occurrence Report
- Property Report, and
- Supplementary Occurrence Reports
On January 28, 2017, just before 1:56 p.m., the Complainant was operating his GMC pickup truck and towing a closed trailer on Highway 401 west of Sweaburg Road in Oxford County. He was observed by the SO, who was operating an unmarked police cruiser. The SO pulled the Complainant over for failing to have the proper annual inspection sticker affixed to his trailer. The Complainant pulled to the right shoulder of Highway 401, and the SO got out of his cruiser and spoke to the Complainant through his passenger window. The SO advised the Complainant about the inspection requirements for his trailer, and issued the Complainant a warning. The SO returned to his police cruiser and left his roof lights activated while he stayed parked behind the Complainant’s vehicle, waiting for the Complainant to re-enter the flow of traffic.
When the Complainant’s vehicle had not moved, the SO approached the Complainant’s vehicle a second time. The SO observed the Complainant to be lying on his back on the ground under the vehicle with his upper body under the left side of the truck and his lower body extended toward the roadway. The Complainant’s head was pinched between the front left wheel and the ground and he was blue in colour.
The SO attempted to pull the Complainant out from under the truck, but was unable to do so. The SO entered the Complainant’s truck and tried to shift the vehicle into drive to move it off of the Complainant, but found that the gear shift would not engage.
The SO radioed for an ambulance and police assistance. The WO immediately responded and got into the Complainant’s truck while the SO attempted to push both the truck and trailer with his police cruiser. The Complainant’s truck eventually moved forward enough that the Complainant was pulled free. CPR was administered until paramedics arrived. The Complainant was subsequently transported to the hospital where he was diagnosed with eight fractured ribs, likely secondary to the administration of CPR, and a pneumothorax (collapsed lung).
Analysis and Director’s decision
On January 28th, 2017, shortly before 1:56 p.m., the Complainant was operating his motor vehicle and towing a closed trailer on Highway 401, travelling eastbound west of Sweaburg Road in Oxford County when he was observed by the SO, an OPP officer from the Highway Safety Division of the London Detachment. The SO pulled the Complainant over with his roof lights activated for failing to have the proper annual inspection sticker affixed to either his truck or his trailer. The Complainant had an interaction with the SO, following which he was transported to hospital by ambulance.
Unfortunately, likely due to his injuries, the Complainant had no recollection of having been stopped by police or anything that transpired thereafter.
Despite the inability of the Complainant to provide any details as to what occurred when he was stopped by the SO, due to the cooperation and assistance of civilian witnesses, and the SO and WO, we are able to confirm with a fair degree of accuracy exactly what happened the afternoon of January 28th, 2017, that led to the injuries to the Complainant. The following is a compilation of the evidence of all witnesses setting out the sequence of events:
The SO was on uniform patrol operating an unmarked police cruiser on the afternoon of January 28th, 2017, when he observed the Complainant driving his pick-up truck eastbound on Highway 401. As he passed the Complainant’s vehicle he noticed the absence of the mandatory annual inspection sticker and pulled the Complainant over by activating his roof lights. The Complainant pulled to the right shoulder of Highway 401 west of Sweaburg Road. The SO then approached the Complainant’s vehicle and spoke to him at some length about the inspection requirements for his trailer and then issued him with a warning and returned to his cruiser. As is the SO's practice, he left his roof lights activated while he stayed parked behind the Complainant’s vehicle waiting for him to safely re-enter the flow of traffic.
After some moments, when the Complainant’s vehicle had not moved, the SO approached the Complainant’s vehicle a second time to see if there was a problem. As he approached the vehicle, he observed the Complainant to be lying on his back on the ground under the vehicle with his upper body under the left side of the truck and his lower body extended toward the roadway. Initially, the SO believed that the Complainant was working on the truck, which he considered to be extremely dangerous, and was going to speak to him about this. He noted that whereas, when he had first approached the vehicle, the wheels had been aligned straight; they were now angled and locked to the right. As he neared the Complainant, he noted that the Complainant’s head was pinched between the front left wheel and the ground and that the Complainant was blue in colour and appeared to be lifeless with a pool of blood underneath his head. The SO confirmed that the Complainant was not breathing and believed him to be dead.
The SO then immediately ran towards the Complainant and grabbed his left arm to attempt to pull him out from under the truck, but was unable to do so as he was pinned by the wheel. The SO then entered the truck and tried to shift the vehicle into drive to move it off of the Complainant, but found that the gear shift would not engage. The SO then pushed the emergency button on his portable radio following which he ran to his cruiser to contact dispatch.
Four emergency transmissions were received from the emergency button on the SO's portable radio by the communication centre at 1:56:40 p.m. When the dispatcher responded, she was initially unable to get a verbal message from the SO, but then the following transmission from the SO's car radio was received: "Just out of breath. I need an ambulance ASAP and send me more units. It looks like a truck has rolled back on a gentleman. He’s underneath the truck. I can't get him out. Transmission’s jammed. I need to get another car here with a push bar so we can push this thing off him". During this transmission, the SO is clearly heard to be out of breath. The WO immediately responded indicating that he was on scene.
Upon the WO's arrival, the SO shouted that they had to get the Complainant out and directed the WO to get into the Complainant’s truck while he attempted to push both the truck and trailer with his police cruiser. The SO then placed his cruiser in contact with the trailer and attempted to force it forward, and when that failed, he tried a second time, this time ramming the trailer. When the trailer still did not move, the SO reversed his cruiser further back and then accelerated ramming the trailer more forcefully a third time, at which point the truck moved forward five or six inches. The WO then immediately exited the Complainant’s truck and grabbed the Complainant’s left calf and pulled him free. The WO also observed that the Complainant’s face was blue in colour, he had no pulse and there was blood on the ground where his head had been. Both WO and SO began to administer CPR to the Complainant. Civilian witnesses pulled over to help and CPR was performed until the Complainant began to breathe on his own.
At hospital, the Complainant was diagnosed with eight fractured ribs, likely secondary to the administration of CPR, and a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). According to medical personnel, the Complainant’s life was saved as a result of the quick action of police officers in removing the truck from the Complainant’s head, thereby freeing him from the pressure on his chest from which he would have asphyxiated. A forensic pathologist who reviewed this file advised that traumatic asphyxiation, consistent with what occurred to the Complainant, is fatal in approximately 98 percent of cases and the Complainant is fortunate to have survived.
An examination conducted of the Complainant’s truck after the fact, confirmed that the transmission cable had been separated from the transmission linkage arm and from the collection of dirt and debris, it appeared that the linkage had been in this condition for some time. The defect was not uncommon and could occur over time thereby preventing the driver from engaging any gear from the gear lever inside the vehicle; the gears could, however, still be engaged manually from the underside of the vehicle. Similar to engaging the gear using the lever inside of the vehicle, when the gears are manually engaged, they cycle through the various gears from "Park" to "Reverse" to "Neutral" to "Drive", in that order.
On a review of all of the evidence, it appears clear that after the SO stopped the Complainant and then returned to his cruiser, the Complainant was unable to re-engage the gear shift in order to continue driving his vehicle. As such, he turned and locked the wheels to the right to allow him better access to the underside of his vehicle, and then got under the truck to try and engage the gears manually. In doing so, he engaged the "Reverse" gear first, and without a second person inside the truck depressing the brake pedal, the truck reversed over the Complainant and then came to a stop, pinning the Complainant’s head under the wheel, thereby stopping the continuous movement of the truck.
It is obvious in these circumstances that the injury to the Complainant was caused by his own actions and without intervention by any police officers. In fact, had the Complainant attempted to carry out this manoeuver in the absence of the SO, he would likely have died. It was the quick thinking of the SO in calling for assistance and in then removing the deadly pressure from the Complainant’s head, as well as the diligence and perseverance of both officers and the civilian witnesses who stopped to assist, in continuing lifesaving techniques when it appeared that the Complainant might already be dead, that ultimately saved the life of the Complainant.
On that basis, it seems trite to say that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any criminal offence has been committed by any officer involved with the Complainant. In the final analysis, there is no basis for the laying of criminal charges.
Date: August 18, 2017
Original signed by
Special Investigations Unit