MISSISSAUGA, ON, Nov. 18 /CNW/ - The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to believe two Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers with the Leeds County Detachment committed any criminal offence in relation to the firearm death of a Hammond man in July 2009.
The SIU assigned five investigators and three forensic investigators to probe the circumstances of the incident.
On the evening of July 3, 2009, officers conducting a RIDE program on Highway 401 at the off-ramp for County Road 29 in Brockville directed Jeffrey Phillip Charbonneau to pull his black pickup truck over. The 35-year-old did not properly identify himself and the officer detected the odour of an alcoholic beverage on Mr. Charbonneau's breath. Mr. Charbonneau fled north on CR 29, causing the officers at the RIDE program to enter into a pursuit. The pursuit vehicles reached speeds of up to 150 km/h. Mr. Charbonneau ran a red light at CR 29 and Centennial Road, and drove around two civilian vehicles on the shoulder of the roadway. At one point, an oncoming car was forced off the road in order to avoid Mr. Charbonneau. About 6.7 km into the pursuit, a spike belt was used, causing punctures to the front tires of the truck. However, Mr. Charbonneau continued to drive. In response, the officers initiated a rolling block (tactic used to slow a vehicle down by surrounding it on all sides). Mr. Charbonneau rammed the police vehicles in front of his truck in an attempt to escape the rolling block. When the officer directly in front of Mr. Charbonneau applied his brakes, the truck was forced to stop approximately 13.3 km north of Hwy 401.
A total of six police vehicles surrounded Mr. Charbonneau. The diagram below shows all of the vehicles in their final position. As can also be seen in the schematic, there was a gap between vehicles No. 1 and No. 2. In an apparent attempt to escape through that gap, Mr. Charbonneau (vehicle No. 7) began to ram the police vehicles directly behind and in front of him (vehicles No. 3 & No. 6).
To see the diagram, please click here: http://files.newswire.ca/750/SIU_Charbonneau.doc
In the meantime, a number of the officers had exited their vehicles. One of the subject officers ran toward the area of the left front corner of the pickup truck and used his baton to smash the front windshield. The second subject officer approached the pickup truck with his gun drawn and smashed the driver's side window with his baton. Many of the officers were shouting the police challenge, which Mr. Charbonneau ignored.
Mr. Charbonneau continued to ram the police vehicles blocking his escape, and he eventually succeeded in creating enough space that he could begin to point his truck toward the gap. During the vehicle's last movement forward toward the opening, the two subject officers discharged their firearms at Mr. Charbonneau a total of eight times. One of the bullets went through the driver's side mirror and struck Mr. Charbonneau in the head, killing him instantly.
Director Scott said, "There are two issues that cannot be determined. First, due to the nature of bullet projectiles from the two identical police issue hand guns, it is impossible to determine which of the two subject officers discharged which bullets and therefore which officer was responsible for causing the death of Mr. Charbonneau. Second, because the pickup truck was moving forward at the time of the discharges and continued to move forward after the fatal shot, it is impossible to ascertain the exact location of the subject officers at the critical moments. The problem of their positioning at the critical moment is further exacerbated by the fact that they were moving both before and after discharging their weapons. As previously indicated, the above diagram depicts the vehicles in their final position and not at the time of the gun fire. Finally on this point, neither subject officer provided a statement to the investigators making it even more difficult to determine their precise location at the critical moment.
"Turning to the applicable law in these circumstances, the officer who stopped Mr. Charbonneau at the RIDE checkpoint had the lawful authority to both detain Mr. Charbonneau and to demand identification from him: s. 216 & s. 33 of the Highway Traffic Act. Further, the officers had the authority to enter into a suspect apprehension pursuit once he fled after refusing to identify himself: s. 3 of O.Reg. 543/99 to the Police Services Act. Mr. Charbonneau's driving also gave further grounds to continue the pursuit because he was driving in a dangerous manner and he represented a threat to public safety. The use of a rolling block was appropriate due to his callousness toward the safety of the driver of an oncoming vehicle, the light traffic and the shredded front tires which slowed the pursued vehicle down.
"Once the rolling block had been completed, the officers had reasonable grounds to arrest Mr. Charbonneau for dangerous driving at the minimum. They also had reasonable grounds to believe he would use any means necessary to continue fleeing from them. This belief was justified by his actions up to this point in resisting the rolling block and his ramming of the police vehicles parked directly in front and behind him in order to create enough space to turn his vehicle to the left. In my view, it is a reasonable conclusion for the subject officers to draw that the driver would have been prepared to run over anybody in the way in an attempt to escape through the gap. The fact that officers were in the way of the truck when it likely would be driven in such a deliberately reckless manner raises significant training issues, but those issues are largely irrelevant to the question at hand: did the subject officers reasonably perceive that they were in imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm caused by the actions of Mr. Charbonneau? Alternatively, did they reasonably believe that his actions were about to cause immediate and serious injury to another person? I believe the answer to both questions is yes.
"While we do not know which subject officer fired the fatal bullet, we do know that both were situated in the gap between vehicles No. 1 and No. 2, that other officers were also in the gap area, and that Mr. Charbonneau was apparently intending to drive through that gap, putting all of their lives in danger. Whichever subject officer fired the lethal shot was standing at such an angle to the pickup truck that it was almost directly in front of him and reasonably capable of running him over. Accordingly, he was justified pursuant to ss. 34(2) of the Criminal Code in shooting at the driver. The other subject officer was also justified in shooting at the driver, even though the shots were not lethal, to prevent the commission of an offence that would likely cause immediate and serious injury to another person pursuant to ss. 27(a) of the Criminal Code, that being injury or death caused by being run over by Mr. Charbonneau's fleeing vehicle. Accordingly, each subject officer was justified in shooting at Mr. Charbonneau for different reasons, and it does not matter for the purposes of criminal liability which one fired the fatal shot."
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.
SOURCE SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT
For further information: For further information: Monica Hudon, SIU Communications, Service des communications, UES, Telephone, No de telephone: (416) 622-2342 or, ou 1-800-787-8529 extension 2342