No Charges Against OPP Officer in Woman’s Self-Inflicted Death in Chapleau

The Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Joseph Martino, has found no reasonable grounds to believe an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the death of a 58-year-old woman in Chapleau in January.
On the evening of January 20, 2022, officers went to the woman’s home after receiving a 911 call to check on her wellbeing. Officers attempted to contact her in the home and received no response. In the early hours the next day, Tactical Response Unit officers entered the residence and found the woman deceased.
Director Martino concluded that the subject official and other officers involved did not transgress the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law, leaving no basis for criminal charges in this case. The file has been closed.
Full Director’s Report (with Incident Narrative, Evidence, and Analysis & Director’s Decision):

Analysis and Director’s Decision

The Complainant was found deceased in her home in Chapleau by OPP officers in the early morning of January 21, 2022. She had died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the left chest. OPP officers had been on scene around the Complainant’s home from the late afternoon of the day prior. One of those officers – the SO – was identified as the subject official for purposes of the ensuing SIU investigation. The investigation is now concluded. On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death.

The offence that arises for consideration is criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code. The offence is reserved for serious cases of neglect that demonstrate a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons. Simple negligence is not enough to give rise to liability; rather, what is required is a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised. In the instant case, the issue is whether there is any indication in the conduct of the SO or any of the other officers involved in the police operation of a want of care, sufficiently egregious to attract criminal sanction, that caused or contributed to the Complainant’s death. In my view, there is not.

The SO was in the lawful execution of his duty when he attended at the Complainant’s residence to check on her well-being. He had received word from an acquaintance of the Complainant that she was imminently planning to end her life with a firearm. A police officer’s foremost obligation is the protection of life and the officer was within his rights, as were those that accompanied and followed him, to do what they reasonably could to prevent harm coming to the Complainant.

I am also satisfied that the SO and the officers involved in the operations that culminated in the discovery of the Complainant’s body in the home comported themselves at all times with due care and regard for the Complainant’s welfare. The SO was prudent to pull back and wait for the arrival of tactical officers before entry was made into the home. He had good reason to believe that the Complainant was in distress and apparently in possession of a firearm. The tactical officers under the overall command of WO #1 acted with care and dispatch once at the scene. Again, because of their understanding of a firearm potentially at play, they reasonably refrained from making immediate entry into the home. Instead, they deployed a robot and repeatedly called-out to reach the Complainant. When those efforts had been exhausted without success, TRU officers entered the home and located the Complainant with the assistance of a police dog. The Complainant was obviously deceased, leaving little for the officers to do at that point other than have the paramedics attend the scene.

In the final analysis, it is unclear whether the Complainant had been shot or was even alive by the time the first officers arrived at the scene. In fact, it might well be the case that the Complainant was already dead by the time of their arrival. Be that as it may, as I am satisfied for the foregoing reasons that the SO and the other involved officers did not transgress the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case.

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