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Sarnia officer cleared by SIU in connection with man’s death

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Tara Jeffrey

A Sarnia Police officer has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the province’s Special Investigations Unit in connection with the death of a 36-year-old man last September.

“Having assessed the evidence, I find that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the [subject officer] committed a criminal offence in connection with the complainant’s death,” SIU director Joseph Martino wrote in his report, released Wednesday.

A description of the incident says police were called to a London Road address around 11:34 a.m. on Sept. 12.

“The caller reported that a man was in the backyard of a residence and was refusing to leave. The man was scruffy and seemed completely drugged,” the report noted.

“Shortly after calling the police, he managed to get up and stagger to the front of the property, where he fell onto London Road. Just before the police arrived, the complainant rolled away from the roadway onto the lawn at the edge of the street in front of the house.”

The subject officer — the officer whose conduct appears, from the opinion of the SIU director, to have been a cause of the incident under investigation — was first to respond, followed by a witness officer, the report noted.

“The officers quickly assumed that the complainant was drugged; he was rolling on the ground and flailing his arms and legs. 

“When officers asked him to identify himself, he replied that his name was Satan.”

The report adds that EMS were called, but the dispatcher said it would probably take some time for them to arrive. The officers placed the complainant in a recovery position and stayed close to him to prevent him from rolling on the roadway.

“At approximately 11:51 a.m., a witness officer noticed an ambulance in the vicinity and signalled for it to join them. The complainant, who was breathing and moving until then, stopped breathing just as the ambulance arrived on the scene,” the report continued.

“Paramedics administered CPR and other emergency treatment to the complainant and transported him to hospital.

“He was pronounced dead at 12:28 p.m. at the hospital. The cause of death was not yet confirmed at the date of this report.”

On September 13, the Sarnia Police Service contacted the SIU to report that a man they had dealt with the previous day had died.

Six SIU investigators and one SIU forensic investigator were assigned to the investigation, which included interviews with three witness officers and two civilian witnesses.

The subject officer provided his notes of the incident but did not consent to an interview.

Subject officials are invited, but not compelled to present themselves for an interview with the SIU and they do not have to submit their notes to the SIU, the agency says.

Evidence included recordings of police communications including 911 and radio transmissions as well as other elements obtained by the police department.

“The presence of the [subject officer] and [witness officer #1] was lawful throughout their intervention with the complainant,” Martino wrote. “They had been called to the scene to deal with a possible trespasser, then remained on site when it became apparent that the complainant required medical attention.

“I am also satisfied that the officers conducted themselves with due diligence and care for the complainant’s well-being throughout their response…while the cause of the complainant’s death remains undetermined at this time, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that it was attributable to any lack of care on the part of the [agent involved]. 

“There is therefore no reason to lay criminal charges in this case.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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