Investigators have found no grounds for criminal charges against officers involved in a Sept. 7 crash where a Hamilton filmmaker lost his leg.
After a three-month investigation, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) concluded that “there are no reasonable grounds to charge any Hamilton Police Service officer with a criminal offence” after two men were injured in the crash.
The man who prompted the police pursuit by speeding away from officers bears sole blame, the SIU says.
The incident happened around 10:30 p.m., when a Hamilton officer patrolling in a marked cruiser watched a Honda go through a stop sign and squeal its tires at Hess Street North and Napier Street.
'The Honda driver alone is to blame.'- Joseph Martino, SIU acting director
The officer pursued the vehicle, which went through another stop sign and turned right to head southbound on Caroline Street.
At one point, the Honda driver temporarily stopped but then sped away with the officer still in pursuit, the SIU says.
The cars headed eastbound on Main Street West where a second officer joined the pursuit. The first officer managed to pull in front of the Honda and force it to stop, but as he got out to rush toward it, the Honda driver reversed and fled southbound on MacNab Street South. The second officer chased him, followed by the first officer.
Shortly after, a supervisor told the officers to stop pursuing the vehicle, and they did, the SIU says. At their fastest, the officers drove in the “mid-70 km/h range.”
The Honda headed southbound on Hess Street, blew through another stop sign and hit a Kia heading eastbound on Herkimer Street, the SIU says. The Kia hit a bus shelter on the southeast corner of the intersection, and also hit Stephen Hayes, a 50-year-old Hamilton filmmaker who was walking home from the Locke Street Festival. Hayes lost his right leg above the knee, and also suffered cracked ribs and a head injury, among other ailments.
Officers allowed to speed
The Honda driver received serious head and neck injuries.
The three investigators, two forensic investigators and one collision reconstructionist investigated.
“I am satisfied on reasonable grounds that the officers’ conduct throughout this chain of events did not transgress the criminal law,” Joseph Martino, acting director of the SIU, said in a media release Thursday.
Their conduct was not “a marked departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstance — the key criminal liability test in these cases.”
The officers had their emergency lights on, he said, and they did speed at certain points, but officers are entitled to do that when they carry out their duties.
Money raised for Hayes
The pursuit itself was “relatively moderate in duration and distance,” Martino said. From the station, the supervisor determined that public safety “tipped the balance in favour of discontinuing the pursuit.” The Honda driver also had “reasonable opportunity to desist.”
“The Honda driver alone is to blame for causing himself and an innocent bystander serious bodily harm in the collision that ensued.”
Hayes is still in hospital. He has worked on numerous film and television productions and was about to move into a new condo. Now the condo is inaccessible, and his life is “in limbo,” he told CBC Hamilton last month.
“It was the worst moment of my life.”
The Hamilton Film Festival held a fundraiser for Hayes, raising about $6,000. Donors contributed online and attended a Nov. 7 fundraising screening Hayes's Hamilton-based feature, Lucky 7. Donations can still be made at hamiltonfilmfestival.com.