SIU Concludes Investigation into Fatal Shooting in Toronto

    TORONTO, June 12 /CNW/ - The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has
concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that two Toronto
Police officers committed a criminal offence in connection with the shooting
death of a Toronto man earlier this year.
    On February 16, 2008, 28-year-old Byron Debassige was shot following a
confrontation with police in Oriole Park near the Davisville subway station.
Officers had gone to the area to investigate a robbery involving a knife at
the nearby D & Y Market on Yonge Street. When officers attempted to question
him, Mr. Debassige reached into his pocket, pulled out a knife with a
three-inch blade and pointed it towards them. Both officers reacted by drawing
their firearms and back pedaling. They yelled at Mr. Debassige to drop the
knife and not move, warning him that he would be shot if he persisted;
however, he continued to move towards the officers while wielding the knife in
a threatening posture.
    The Director of the SIU, James Cornish, concluded: "When stopped by the
officers, Mr. Debassige pulled a knife and advanced upon them, notwithstanding
the officers' repeated commands that he stop and drop the knife. It was dark
and the ground, slippery with ice, sloped away from the officers as they
retreated backwards from Mr. Debassige. In these circumstances, I am satisfied
that the officers' belief in the necessity of a resort to lethal force as Mr.
Debassige lunged in their direction from less than six feet away, with no
further option effectively available to them given the condition of the
ground, was honestly held and reasonable."
    The investigation into the circumstances leading up the shooting revealed
that Mr. Debassige had stolen lemons from the food market about half and hour
before the fatal encounter with police, and had threatened the proprietors
with a knife when they confronted him.
    "A clear picture emerges from the eyewitness evidence gathered in this
case, from police and civilian witnesses alike, which is remarkably consistent
and compelling," said Mr. Cornish. "The officers were lawfully carrying out
their duties when they responded to investigate a reported theft and
confronted Mr. Debassige in Oriole Park." Mr. Cornish added: "The evidence
establishes that each officer shot Mr. Debassige believing it necessary to
protect himself and his partner from death or grievous bodily harm."

    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: John Yoannou, SIU Communications/Service des
communications, UES, Telephone/No de telephone: (416) 622-2342 or/ou

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