SIU Concludes Investigation into Death of Sarnia Man



    TORONTO, Jan. 31 /CNW/ - James Cornish, the Director of the Special
Investigations Unit (SIU), has determined, "Upon careful review of this
extensive investigation, I believe that there are no reasonable grounds to
believe that a Sarnia Police Service (SPS) police officer committed a criminal
offence in connection with the shooting and death of Michael Douglas on March
7, 2007 in Sarnia."
    The SIU assigned seven investigators, three forensic identification
technicians and an accident reconstructionist to probe the circumstances of
this incident. During the course of the investigation one officer was
designated as a subject officer and six officers were designated as witness
officers. Investigators canvassed the area where the incident occurred to
identify other potential witnesses within the community. In total, sixty-eight
civilian witnesses were interviewed. Evidence was also examined at the Centre
of Forensic Science (CFS) in Toronto and numerous experts were consulted in an
effort to analyze the physical evidence collected.
    The SIU investigation determined that in the early morning hours of March
7, 2007, Mr. Douglas escaped from the Psychiatric Ward at Bluewater Health
Services hospital. He broke into a residence on George Street while the
homeowner was there. The homeowner said Mr. Douglas appeared to be confused.
The homeowner called the SPS when Mr. Douglas asked him for help.
    Several SPS officers responded and attempted to apprehend Mr. Douglas
peacefully. Mr. Douglas was not responsive and when one of the officers
reached out to grab his arm it triggered a violent reaction from Mr. Douglas
and a physical struggle ensued. Mr. Douglas was pepper sprayed in the face,
but it had no effect. Another of the officers used a knee strike, but this too
failed to subdue Mr. Douglas. During the struggle, Mr. Douglas injured at
least one of the officers. Mr. Douglas eventually broke free and fled down a
flight of stairs into the basement of the home. The officers followed him
downstairs, but quickly retreated when they saw that Mr. Douglas had armed
himself with a golf club and was swinging it in their direction.
    What followed was a standoff of some three to four hours, during which
time members of the Emergency Response Team (ERT) entered the house. The ERT
leader ventured downstairs at an early point in the standoff with intentions
of possibly using his Taser to take Mr. Douglas into custody. That plan,
however, failed when he was struck in the leg by the golf club swung by Mr.
Douglas. The officer was forced to withdraw back to the main floor.
Negotiations followed during which the police used a variety of tactics in an
effort to have Mr. Douglas peacefully surrender. Mr. Douglas' father (who was
initially not allowed to speak with his son at the scene) was brought back to
the house to speak to his son, as was a mental health worker. These efforts
were unsuccessful in ending the standoff. Mr. Douglas remained unresponsive,
but armed throughout with a golf club, which he held in a threatening posture.
    At around 0800 hours, much to the officers' surprise, Mr. Douglas pried
open and then squeezed through a basement window and made his way outside. The
officers had been led to believe the window was nailed shut. No security
perimeter had been established around the home.
    Mr. Douglas' escape was quickly noticed and a number of ERT officers
chased after him. Mr. Douglas ran south towards Bright Street with the subject
officer and others in pursuit. It was during this foot chase that an ERT
officer fired his Taser at Mr. Douglas, but missed his target. Mr. Douglas
spotted a van idling in the driveway on Bright Street and ran towards it. He
managed to enter the van through the driver's door, despite being challenged
by a resident at that address. Just then the subject officer arrived at the
driver's side door.
    The subject officer grabbed onto Mr. Douglas and attempted to forcibly
remove him through the open driver's door. Another officer arrived shortly
thereafter, and joined in the struggle. Mr. Douglas resisted strenuously and
eventually managed to place the van in reverse and drive down the driveway.
The second officer attempted to get out of the way of the open door as the van
reversed, but was sent spinning when the door struck his right leg. As the van
continued to reverse, the second officer saw the subject officer's feet
dragging alongside the vicinity of the driver's door.
    As the van initially started its rearward movement down the driveway, the
subject officer found himself jammed between the door and the van. He was
hanging onto Mr. Douglas with half his body being dragged outside of and
alongside the vehicle. As the van picked up speed, the subject officer felt
his legs dragging under the vehicle. Believing he might be run over and
killed, the subject officer feared for his life at this point and hung onto
Mr. Douglas with all his might. The subject officer was unable to maintain his
grip, however, as the van entered onto the roadway and began to spin. The
subject officer fell onto the road being narrowly missed by the van as it
continued to spin. Although the subject officer felt disoriented, he scrambled
to his feet fearing the spinning van might yet run him over. As he was getting
to his feet, the subject officer saw the van turned in his direction and
coming "on an angle" towards him. Believing that his life was in danger he
made the decision to shoot the driver. The subject officer drew his firearm
and shot twice at Mr. Douglas while stepping backwards away from the van. The
van turned away from him and continued east down Bright Street.
    The investigation determined that the subject officer believed it
necessary to shoot Mr. Douglas to thwart a reasonably perceived lethal threat.
The forensic evidence, including tire marks, glass particles, ballistic
reconstruction and shell casings that were left at the scene, as well as the
weight of the eyewitness accounts, supported the subject officer's description
of how this incident unfolded.
    Director Cornish said, "In these circumstances, I am satisfied that a
reasonable person in the officer's position, faced with a demonstrably violent
Mr. Douglas, having just been thrown from the van and almost struck by it, in
close proximity to the van as it moved forward and with only a split second to
identify the threat, decide what action to take and then take that action,
would have believed it necessary to shoot Mr. Douglas."

    The SIU is a civilian agency that investigates cases of serious injuries
(including allegations of sexual assault) and deaths involving the police.
Pursuant to section 113 of the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU is
mandated to consider whether a criminal offence has been committed by an
officer(s) in connection with the incident under investigation and, where
warranted by the evidence, to cause a criminal charge or charges to be laid
against the officer(s). The Director reports the results of investigations to
the Attorney General.




For further information:

For further information: Frank Phillips, SIU Communications/Service des
communications, UES Telephone/No de telephone: (416) 622-2342 or/ou
1-800-787-8529

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