UPDATE: SIU charges OPP officer in man’s death

Special Investigations Unit logo.

An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer has been charged with the shooting death of a man in Chatham-Kent.

Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Director Joseph Martino said he has reasonable grounds to believe that the officer committed criminal offences relating to the shooting death of a 24-year-old man in Chatham-Kent in July.

The investigation found that on July 7, 2021, the Chatham-Kent OPP responded to a call about a gasoline theft and found the vehicle believed to be involved in the theft on Highway 401 and followed it. The vehicle ended up in the median near Ridgetown, and when one of the officers approached the vehicle, his firearm discharged and the driver was shot. The man later died in the hospital.

Constable Sean O’Rourke is charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of criminal negligence causing death. O’Rourke was arrested by members of the SIU on Friday and was released with conditions. He will appear before a Chatham court on February 16, 2022.

“As the matter is before the courts, and in consideration of the fair trial interests of the accused, the SIU will not provide further comment on the investigation,” read a news release from the SIU.

The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of police officers that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians.

“The OPP Association supports Provincial Constable Sean O’Rourke of the Chatham-Kent OPP Detachment, and all of our members who acted in the good faith performance of their duties on the night of July 7, 2021, while responding to a call for service on Highway 401 near Ridgetown, Ontario,” said OPP Association President Rob Stinson in a statement. “Our members have cooperated as mandated by law with the investigation led by the Special Investigations Unit.  It was an absolutely tragic event. Our lawyers will vigorously defend the actions of our officer in a court of law. The upcoming judicial process will be long and stressful for all impacted and we urge all OPPA Members who are impacted by this incident to reach out for professional and or peer mental health supports.”