Peel police officers not facing charges in connection with death of Mississauga man

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Peel Regional Police officers will not be facing criminal charges in connection with the death of a 34-year-old man in Mississauga in 2019, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says. 

The man, who was not identified by the SIU, died after being tasered by police. 

According to an SIU report, two officers involved in the situation refused to turn over their notes and another refused to be interviewed. The SIU says both officers acted within their rights. 

The report says that on Sept. 10, 2019, officers were called to a residence on Morning Star Drive in Malton to respond to reports of a family disturbance. A man at the home called police because his brother was reportedly acting erratically. 

Police say the man said it was a "bad situation" and that his brother had been having mental health issues for the last five days. The SIU says police had attended his mother's house the previous Sunday for similar issues with the man's brother. The report says the call-taker could hear "loud, angry shouting and banging in the background."

The report says another resident in the house also called 911, telling the operator that her sons were fighting.  

Two officers were dispatched to the house before that 911 call and arrived while the mother was reporting the fight. According to the SIU, one officer, believing there was an active altercation happening in the home, entered with his CEW drawn. 

The report says the brothers rushed up from downstairs and each told the officer he had been assaulted by the other. The SIU says the officer with the CEW drawn asked the two men to sit on opposite sides of the room and that while one brother complied, the other was still agitated and would not sit still. 

The SIU says the man got up and "failed his arms around shouting at [the officer] not to use his CEW on him." At this time, the other officer, who had been locked outside, was invited inside by a resident. He also had his CEW drawn. 

The report says the agitated man appeared to calm down, so the first officer holstered his CEW. 

The SIU says that shortly after he holstered his weapon, the agitated man ran across the room and the officer believed "he was lunging at him in an aggressive and agitated state." The officer deployed his CEW twice at the man to no effect, and the man pulled off the CEW wires and continued to run toward the front door, yelling and flailing his arms.

The report says that another officer grabbed hold of the man near the front door and they struggled before the second officer intervened to assist his partner.  The report says the man struck one officer and that, given the close quarters and their difficulty in gaining control of the man, an officer deployed his CEW. Again, the CEW appeared to have no effect and the man reportedly opened the front door and the struggle spilled out onto the entrance walkway.

The report says the officers, who were eventually able to overpower and arrest the man, called for paramedics, as a prong from the CEW was lodged in the man's body. The report says the other man in the house told officers that his brother may have ingested cocaine and alcohol that day.

According to one officer, he turned the man onto his left side to ensure he did not have trouble breathing.

The report says another officer who arrived at the scene reported seeing the man yelling repeatedly for his father (who was deceased) and seeing him thrashing around as he lay on his front with his hands handcuffed behind his back. The report says the officers told the man they were going to help him sit up, but he did not stop thrashing and was kept on his stomach, with the two officers holding onto him, as a result.

The report says the man's words became slurred and difficult to understand and that the officers tried to move him back onto his side because he appeared to have difficulty breathing. The report says the officers kept talking to him and called to find out the ambulance's ETA, citing concerns about EMS taking too long to arrive. 

Paramedics arrived and found the man "subdued and making incomprehensible noises." While he was being placed in the ambulance, he went into medical distress and lost all vital signs. Paramedics attempted to revive him and he was transported to Etobicoke General Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased soon after arrival.

The report says the pathologist at autopsy attributed the cause of death to excited delirium (cocaine and ethanol toxicity) during restraint. 

"The post-mortem report concluded that the cumulative effects of agitation and struggles, the position with impaired respiratory movements and cocaine likely all contributed to cause sudden cardiac arrest. The CEWs likely did not play a major role, if any, in his death," the report reads. 

Joseph Martino, the Director of the SIU, wrote that "there are no reasonable grounds to believe that either subject officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the man's death." 

Martino said that while he is troubled by the evidence suggesting the man was held prone on the ground for some period of time prior to the paramedics' arrival, he doesn't believe that the officers' conduct amounted to a "wanton or reckless disregard for the life or safety of the man." 

In the report, Martino said that officers told him that they did attempt to move the man into more ideal positions while waiting for EMS to arrive, but that his agitation made it difficult. However, Martino said some evidence suggests that officers did not place him on his side like they said they did, as he was lying on his stomach when paramedics arrived at the scene. 

Martino says the man's position may have played a role in his death. 

"As the pathologist at autopsy concluded, the fact that the [man] was handcuffed behind the back and in the prone position 'likely' played a role in his death if he lost consciousness prior to being rolled over and unrestrained. If unconsciousness set in after the handcuffs were removed and he was rolled over, their role, though less clear, 'may also' have contributed to the Complainant's death," he wrote. 

"In the final analysis, it remains unclear on the evidence whether and to what extent the role of restraints and the prone position caused or contributed to the [man's] death. Be that as it may, while it may be that the subject officers acted unreasonably in placing the [man] in a prone position for any length of time given his highly agitated state at the time, I am unable to reasonably conclude that the officers' indiscretions, weighed in the balance with the totality of the evidence, rendered their conduct a marked and substantial departure from a reasonable level of care in the circumstances." 

Calling the man's death a tragedy, Martino wrote that "there is insufficient evidence" to reasonably conclude that the level of force used was lawful or that the level of care the officers exercised was so substandard as to warrant criminal charges. 

Martino says that the file has been closed.

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