SIU clears London police in man’s injuries

(File photo by Maureen Revait, BlackburnNews.com)

The director of the Special Investigations Unit has determined there are no grounds on which to charge any London police officers after a man was seriously injured during an arrest.

According to the SIU’s final report into the matter, officers with the Emergency Response Unit went to an apartment building on Simcoe Street around 1:55 a.m. on December 6, 2019. They had learned that a man wanted on firearms charges was in one of the apartments. For several hours, they tried to get the man to come out and surrender. However, they eventually forced their way into the apartment by breaking through the door.

“With the door open, the complainant made his way into the hallway from the kitchen/living room area of the unit,” the report said. “He was holding a can of beer. From the threshold of the doorway, the officers directed the complainant to walk in their direction, but he refused. The complainant left the hallway but returned shortly, again holding the can of beer, which he proceeded to open. With his free hand, the complainant reached into a pocket to access his cell phone.”

The report said the man continued to refuse to approach the officers and he was hit with a taser. However, he was able to walk back to the kitchen/living room area. A second burst from the taser was discharged and the man was taken to the floor by officers. The man struggled and tried to get up, but was hit with a knee to the chest by one of the officers. The SIU said he continued to resist and was punched in the shoulder and left ear. He was then put into handcuffs.

The man was then taken to the London Health Sciences Centre, where he was diagnosed as having sustained one and possibly two broken hands, a collapsed lung, and possible fractured ribs.

“While another source offers a different picture of events regarding the altercation, I am unable to rely on it to any significant degree for a variety of reasons,” SIU Director Joseph Martino said in his report. “According to this more incriminating account, the complainant was beaten up by a total of six or seven officers, some of whom repeatedly punched the back of his head and side of his face. The complainant, according to this account, had his ribs punched as he lay prone on the floor, and his hands and arms were stomped upon. However, by his own admission, the source of this incriminating account was significantly inebriated at the time of the incident and would have had trouble accurately perceiving and recalling the events in question.”

Martino said, given that the officers were at the apartment to arrest a man wanted on firearms charges, it was reasonable for them to assume he might be armed and that the use of the taser was a reasonable tactic. He added that the officers acted with prudence in taking the man to the floor, saying they had reason to believe he would continue to resist arrest and had yet to be convinced that he was not armed.

“Finally, I am satisfied that the complainant struggled with the officers on the ground and refused to surrender his arms to be handcuffed,” he said. “In response, each of the subject officers delivered a single strike to various parts of the complainant’s body. Given the volatility of the situation at hand, the potential dangers associated with a possible firearm in the mix and the need to quickly bring the complainant under control, I am unable to reasonably conclude that these blows were more than were reasonably necessary to overcome the complainant’s resistance and take him into custody.”

While accepting that the man was subjected to considerable force from the officers and suffered serious injuries, Martino said the officers did not act outside of the law and there is no basis for criminal charges against any of them.