SIU clears Petrolia OPP officers after October death

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OPP took more than three hours from the time of the first call for police to see the injured man through a hole in the barn wall

The Special Investigations Unit has cleared two Petrolia OPP officers in charge of a mental health call near Petrolia which ended with one man dead.

SIU Director Joseph Martino released his report into the Oct.26, 2020 call today saying the officers on the scene “acted with due regard for the health and safety” of the man in distress.

In his report, Martino says at 7:29 pm that night, two officers went to the home near Marthaville after a woman called saying her husband had posted a message on social media saying “Tonight is the night,” referencing suicide. She told them he had gone to their barn to do chores, but he wasn’t answering calls or texts and she was worried.

The officers, Martino says, removed the woman and the couple’s children from the home when they arrived.

The director says the responding officers knew the man had a gun so immediate action was not taken. “They had been informed that the complainant was suicidal and armed with a rifle. Police intervention was clearly necessary.”

Martino says the Emergency Response Team is equipped to deal with situations involving a weapon and was called in. The team didn’t arrive on the scene until 10 pm.

“There is no indication they did not move with all due dispatch,” says Martino.

At 10:44 pm, ERT officers peeked through a knot hole in the barn boards and could see the man injured and in pain and called in paramedics.

He died Nov. 1 in hospital.

Martino considered whether the delay could be considered criminal negligence causing death under Canada’s Criminal Code, which states there must be “a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances.

“The issue is whether there was any want of care on the part of the subject officers in their decision-making that caused or contributed to the complainant’s death and was sufficiently derelict to attract criminal sanction,” he says in his report.

Martino says he is “satisfied…the involved officers, including the subject officers, acted with due regard for the health and safety of the complainant throughout the course of police operations.”