After man dies from being repeatedly Tasered in Mississauga the Peel police officers not facing charges
Published March 29, 2021 at 7:19 pm
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says that Peel Regional Police officers will not be facing any criminal charges in connection with the death of Clive Mensah, a 30-year-old schizophrenic man who went into medical distress after being struck repeatedly by conducted energy weapons (Tasers) in Mississauga.
Two of the three officers involved in the investigation refused to be interviewed or turn over their notes (which is within their legal rights).
An SIU report says that around 3:00 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2019, a tenant in an apartment located at 1185 Runningbrook Drive called police on behalf of his landlords to report that another tenant had been creating a disturbance in the home and around the neighbourhood.
The same caller had called police about 20 minutes earlier to report that the man in question was being “exceptionally loud and refusing to have an acquaintance of his removed from his room.”
At about 3:15 a.m., a neighbour in the area called police to complain about a man who was screaming and yelling. Officers were subsequently dispatched to investigate the complaint.
The report says that an officer arrived on scene and saw the man walking south on Riverspray Crescent, flailing his arms and making unintelligible sounds. According to the report, the officer drove beside him and asked him to go home, but the man did not acknowledge him and eventually walked into the backyard of a nearby home.
The report says that the officer, concerned that the man was trespassing on private property and a possible threat to the residents, was joined by two other officers.
Officers later discovered that the backyard the man walked into was his own.
The report says the officers entered the yard and ordered the man to the ground. The man reportedly complied, but refused to place his hands behind his back and continued to flail his arms.
The SIU says that an officer discharged a Taser at the man and that shortly after, the man got up and “lunged” at an officer. The man was Tasered again and fell face down on the ground, rigid. According to the report, a strenuous struggle ensued between all three officers and the man was repeatedly Tasered and also hit with a blast of OC (pepper) spray.
The report says that since the officers were trying to catch their breath after the struggle, they did not immediately notice that the man was having difficulty breathing. Another officer who arrived on scene noticed a foamy substance around the man’s mouth and found no pulse.
Two officers began CPR and called for a rush on the ambulance. Paramedics arrived on scene and the man was transported to hospital, where he was subsequently pronounced dead.
According to the report, the man’s death was labelled a “sudden death in a prone, restrained, agitated, morbidly obese man with blunt injuries in the setting of struggle, conducted electrical weapon (CEW) and oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray deployment. The mechanism of death was most likely a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.”
The report says the cause of death was multifactorial in nature, brought on by his “agitated state, the interaction with police (including blunt injuries), his restraint, his prone position in the context of morbid obesity, and the perimortem deployment of CEWs and OC spray.”
In the report, Joseph Martino, the director of the SIU, said that he does not believe the force used against the man was excessive under the circumstances and that while the officers could have acted faster to save the man’s life, he does not believe their conduct amounts to criminal negligence.
“On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the subject officers committed a criminal offence in connection with the [man’s] death,” Martino wrote.
Martino wrote that it is concerning that the man was first hit by a Taser after he placed himself on the floor of the backyard deck, even though he reportedly continued to flail his arms.
“Might not the officers have been better advised to simply move in to attempt to take physical control of the [man] before resorting to a weapon? Perhaps. However, allowance must be made for the fact that police officers embroiled in potentially volatile situations need not measure the nature and extent of their force with precision,” Martino wrote, adding that the man had indicated that he was intoxicated and appeared to be trespassing at the time of the incident.
Martino said that while bruising suggests the officers struck the man multiple times during the struggle, the man “showed incredible strength and was able to ward off the officers’ efforts,” thus prompting them to use their Tasers.
The report says the man was Tasered at least 12 times.
Martino said the force used was justified give the man’s size and “frenzied state,” but that the evidence “raises issues of potential negligence,” especially since the man was left in a prone position with his hands restrained behind his back for a period of time before losing vital signs.
“In addition, the evidence suggests that the [man] was in mental distress at the time of his confrontation with the police, raising the question of the propriety of the police response in relation to an individual who was not of sound mind,” Martino wrote, adding that the man suffered from schizophrenia and was on medication to treat his condition. The report also says the man consumed cannabis shortly before the incident, which could have aggravated his illness.
Martino also wrote that police did not call for assistance from a Crisis Outreach Assessment Support Team (COAST), which pairs a plainclothes officer with a mental health professional,
“COAST was not deployed in response to this call. Ought it have been?” Martino wrote.
Martino said that while questions remain, he is not satisfied that the subject officers were criminally negligent in the manner in which they approached the man and treated him after his arrest.
“In the circumstances, while I find that the subject officers on scene may not have acted as quickly as they could have to remove the [man] from the prone position after he had been handcuffed, their lapses fall short of constituting a marked and substantial deviation from a reasonable level of care,” he said, adding that calling COAST might not have occurred to officers as they were initially responding to a noise complaint.
“In the circumstances, the officers had reason to believe they needed to intercede quickly in light of what they perceived, reasonably in my view, to be an emergent risk to the safety of the home’s occupants,” he wrote.
“In view of these considerations, I am unable to find fault with the failure to mobilize COAST in this event, nor does it appear that COAST, had it been deployed, would have made a difference given the speed with which events unfolded.”
Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah called Mensah’s death a tragedy.
“On behalf of Peel Regional Police, I’d like to again express our condolences to the family of Mr. Mensah. This tragedy has taken a terrible toll on Mr. Mensah’s family, friends, our community, and our officers,” Duraiappah said in a statement.
“We have dedicated our lives to protect and help the communities we serve. Due to the unpredictable nature of policing on the frontline, our officers often find themselves in difficult situations. Despite their best intentions to navigate these situations safely, there is at times a tragic outcome. We are committed to seeking collaborative opportunities to mitigate risk for persons in crisis.”
The file is considered closed.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its previous version to include more information from Peel policeinsauga's Editorial Standards and Policies