Family say OPP special teams took too long to arrive

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Heather Wright/The Independent

The OPP’s Professional Standard’s Branch is looking into a mental health call near Petrolia which ended with one man dead.

This after the province’s Special Investigations Unit cleared two Petrolia officers of any wrong doing in connection with the night.

But the man’s family says it took too long for the emergency response team to get to the Marthaville area home – time the man’s wife believes may have changed that night’s tragic outcome.

Lindsay Sinclar-Mainsfield says her husband, Michael, lay injured in the barn on their property for hours before police got close enough to see him directly and hear him moaning from his wounds.

In his report, released Feb. 26, SIU Director Joseph Martino released details of the Oct. 26th call 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 hole in the barn boards and saw the man 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.

“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.

Martino 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.”

Mansfield’s widow has issues with the SIU report. It reported some of the details of his self-inflicted wounds wrong. And she says the report doesn’t say she and the first officers on the scene originally headed for the barn when they arrived. Halfway there, the officers said it was too dangerous because Mansfield had a gun. They called in the ERT and evacuated Sinclair-Mansfield and their four children.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was caught in a mix of emotions of what the hell is going on? How did everything go so wrong so fast? I didn’t want to leave.”

Sinclair-Mansfield says she was in constant contact with the OPP. “I was hounding them, ‘can you hurry up and get into the barn?’ I continuously reminded them he had not spoken to anybody since 6:35 pm.”

It would be 10:44 pm before the police saw him lying injured and in pain.

Sinclair-Mansfield thinks her husband’s outcome could have been different with quicker intervention.

“It would have been four hours of controlling the swelling of the brain, that would have been four hours less blood loss, it would have been four hours less lying on an ice cold barn floor.”

She says the delay in the ERT arriving should concern anyone who lives in a small town. “I don’t feel that two hours for an emergency response team to gather, just because we live in a small town, it is not fair to anyone.”

Sinclair-Mansfield’s sister-in-law, Michelle Currie agrees. She understands why the police needed to take precautions, but the delay to get to her brother is troublesome. She hopes the OPP will consider finding a way to get resources to small towns faster.

The OPP is doing its own review of the incident. Petrolia’s Media Relations Officer, Const. Jamie Bydeley says “the OPP have commenced our own review through our Professional Standards Bureau” on the incident.

Bydeley wasn’t able to give details of the review since it has just begun.