Brantford cop said he 'murdered' 2 people, cleared by SIU
2nd investigation concludes officer was dealing with mental health crisis when he made admission
The provincial police watchdog has cleared a Brantford police officer who walked into a police station in 2014 and said he had "murdered" two people years earlier.
The officer had already been cleared of wrongdoing in the two deaths during previous Special Investigations Unit investigations.
The SIU says the officer was dealing with a mental health crisis when he made the admission, and that contributed to the findings.
The first death happened in 2009, when Benjamin Wood fell through the ice that was covering the Grand River near the Brantford Casino after a struggle with the officer. The officer was investigating a stolen car at the time.
He was paranoid, delusional, obsessive, disheveled, unstable and frenzied.- SIU director Tony Loparco
The second happened in 2010, when the officer shot a man named Evan Jones, who was brandishing a meat cleaver and was threatening to kill himself — while the man's sister and two-year-old niece were home.
In both cases, the SIU cleared the officer of any criminal wrongdoing, in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
But then at the end of 2014, the SIU reopened both investigations, after the officer walked into Brantford police headquarters and said he was, in fact, criminally responsible for both of the deaths.
"He made statements to a number of police officers concerning the deaths… indicating that he had lied to the SIU during previous investigations and that he was criminally responsible for those two deaths," a news release from the SIU reads. "That same day, the subject officer was admitted to a healthcare facility. While there, he made further comments of a similar nature to other officers who visited him over the ensuing days."
'Mental health crisis'
SIU Tony Loparco said in a statement that when the officer came to the station that morning, he was "in the midst of a mental health crisis."
"While the witness officer accounts vary in terms of the precise content of what the subject officer said, they are unwavering in their descriptions of the subject officer's demeanour and well-being," Loparco said.
"He was paranoid, delusional, obsessive, disheveled, unstable and frenzied. He made persistent references to biblical passages, God and insisted on discussing the deaths."
The officer provided statements in both original investigations, but wouldn't participate in the reopened investigation, "as is his legal right," the SIU said.
Loparco said, in his conclusion, that the officer repeated a number of times that he had 'murdered' Jones and Wood.
A spokesperson did not respond when asked whether or not the officer is still employed with Brantford police.
"Today is a particularly difficult day for those who are revisiting emotions connected to these incidents and the loss of Mr. Wood and Mr. Jones," said police chief Geoff Nelson in a statement. "Our thoughts are with all those affected."
In that same statement, Brantford police said it would be making no further comment because of "ongoing civil litigation" in connection with Jones' death.
The SIU brought in a forensic psychiatrist to review the "pertinent documentation" regarding the officer and his conduct, but the psychiatrist said he was only able to give a preliminary opinion without further information.
"As a result of this conclusion, I made the decision to evaluate the body of evidence legally available to determine whether or not there were reasonable grounds to believe an offence had been committed," Loparco said, adding that he "accepted the preliminary opinion of the forensic psychiatrist."
The SIU's investigation also included the review of internal communications from Brantford police, medical documentation about the subject officer and transcripts of a 2012 coroner's inquest into the death of one of the men.
Even with those pieces of evidence, Loparco said the way the SIU was left to examine the officer's statements at the police station is still "problematic in terms of evidentiary integrity." That's because no one at the police station used video or audio recordings of what the officer was saying, though it would have been available.
Instead, the SIU investigators had to rely on interviews with the officers, and the "evidentiary value" of statements obtained this way depends on the "quality and accuracy of the witness' recall," the SIU says.
In the end, despite the new information, the SIU determined that there were still no reasonable grounds to charge the subject officer in connection with either death.