SIU Concludes Investigation into Fatal Collision in Toronto



    TORONTO, Nov. 22 /CNW/ - James Cornish, the Director of the Special
Investigations Unit (SIU), has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds
to believe that two officers of the Toronto Police Service (TPS) are
criminally responsible for a fatal collision that claimed the lives of two
young women and a young man, all teenagers.
    Twelve SIU investigators including three SIU Forensic Identification
Technicians (FIT) and a Collision Reconstructionist probed the circumstances
that lead to the deaths.
    The SIU investigation determined that on June 2, 2007, shortly after
1:32 a.m., TPS officers were dispatched to the area of Islington and Finch
Avenues to investigate a 911 call about a man armed with a handgun. The caller
said the man had tried to enter her home on Duncanwoods Drive and then left
the area. The police had information that the man may be in a black Chevrolet
Malibu and at a home on Tandridge Crescent. Four officers in two police
cruisers went to Tandridge Crescent to search for the vehicle.
    The officers were parked at the end of Tandridge Crescent and speaking to
each other from within their cars when they saw the driver of an Acura
abruptly slow down as he passed them. The car did not have any headlights or
taillights on. The two police cruisers were positioned such that the officers
had a view of the front and then the rear of the Acura is it approached and
passed by. The officers checked the licence plate and learned the car was
stolen.
    One officer activated his cruiser's emergency lights and started to
follow the driver of the Acura. The second officer made a three-point-turn on
Tandridge and also followed. The police pursued the driver of the Acura as he
ignored several stop signs while traveling westbound on Irwin Road. The young
man turned north onto Islington Avenue and nearly collided with a northbound
van. The officers continued to pursue the Acura north on Islington, while
updating the dispatcher of their locations and speed. The officers in the lead
cruiser activated its siren periodically throughout the pursuit.
    The pursuit continued north on Islington and the Acura changed lanes a
number of times and passed some northbound cars. The Acura was traveling in
excess of 120 km/h. The driver of the Acura approached Finch Avenue, disobeyed
a red light and entered the intersection. There the Acura collided with a taxi
that was traveling through the intersection eastbound on Finch Avenue. That
taxi, in turn, careened into another eastbound taxi. The entire pursuit lasted
approximately 90 seconds.
    One of the taxis had two young women seated in the rear seat. One of
them, a 16-year-old suffered fatal injuries in the collision and was
pronounced dead at the scene. The other young woman, a 17-year-old, succumbed
to her injuries in hospital on June 3, 2007. The 15-year-old driver of the
Acura was taken to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries later in the
morning of June 2, 2007.
    Director Cornish said, "Following my review of the evidence obtained by
this Unit, I am of the view that there are no reasonable grounds to support
charges against the subject officers in respect of this catastrophic and
tragic case.
    In attempting to determine what was reasonable in the circumstances of
this pursuit, one must consider all the circumstances including the regulation
in effect governing police pursuits in the province (O. Reg. 546/99 Suspect
Apprehension Pursuits). Though not determinative of the reasonableness
inquiry, it is an important barometer of the standard of care in the
circumstances of a police pursuit. Since one of the questions to be answered
in respect of the consideration of a charge of dangerous driving is whether
the driving was unreasonable in the circumstances, compliance with the
regulation, while not determinative of the issue, provides some evidence of
reasonableness. Accordingly, while cognizant of the SIU's focused criminal law
mandate, one needs to examine the police conduct in light of all the evidence
including the regulation.
    According to the regulation, suspect apprehension pursuits must be
carried out by balancing the risk to public safety posed by the pursuit and
the risk of not immediately apprehending the suspect. In this case, the
officers were in the Islington and Finch area in search of a vehicle involved
in a high priority gun call when they encountered an Acura being driven
without its lights turned on. The officers involved in this incident both
checked the status of the licence number that they could clearly see on the
Acura and they immediately received word back that the vehicle was a stolen
car. Both subject officers, who were driving the cruisers, decided to follow
the Acura believing as well that it may be involved in the gun call.
    The evidence indicates that once the emergency lights of the cruisers
were activated, the Acura increased its speed to in excess of twice the posted
speed limit and was headed to the area where the gun call originated. The
cruisers were also driven at high speeds, but were seen by independent
witnesses to have been driven at a speed less than that of the Acura. The
officers noted the light traffic and the lack of pedestrians in the area while
driving. The subject officer in the lead vehicle also reported his speed.
    By their very nature, every police pursuit carries with it some risk of
harm. The issue is whether that risk is disproportionate to the law
enforcement and community interests in the conduct of police investigations.
In the criminal law context, that weighing of evidence will only attract
sanction where, on balance, the impugned conduct amounts to a marked departure
from the standard of care that a reasonable person similarly situated would
have exercised in the circumstances.
    Traffic in the area was light and there was a lack of pedestrians in the
area. In addition, the roadways were dry, in good repair and well lit
throughout the pursuit route. There is no suggestion that the cruisers ever
made contact with the Acura, nor can it fairly be said in my view that the
manner in which the subject officers operated their cruisers unduly "pushed"
the Acura or otherwise prevented it from coming to a safe stop. The evidence
establishes that the officers were for most of the pursuit well back of the
Acura, especially the moments just prior to the collision on Islington Avenue.
When I consider these circumstances and the totality of the evidence,
including the pursuit regulation, I am satisfied there are no reasonable
grounds to believe the officers' conduct amounted to a marked departure from
the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised."

    The SIU is a civilian government agency that investigates circumstances
involving police and civilians, which have resulted in serious injury or
death. Under Section 113 of the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU
has the authority to decide whether or not charges are warranted based on the
findings of an investigation. The Director's decision is reported 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 extension 2342

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