No grounds to charge officers for shooting death of London man, says Ontario police watchdog

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit said Tuesday that there are no reasonable grounds to lay charges against London Police in relation to the shooting death of Sam Maloney in 2016.

35-year-old Sam Maloney was shot by police in December 2016

The SIU has wrapped up its investigation into the police-involved shooting of Sam Maloney. (Kerry McKee/CBC)

The London Police involved with the shooting of 35-year-old Sam Maloney have been cleared by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU), SIU director Tony Loparco said Tuesday. 

Maloney had been fatally shot inside his home on Duchess Avenue, just days before Christmas in 2016. He had been known to police, and a previous search warrant executed in 2007 revealed a cache of weapons and ammunition in his home.

In his report, Loparco details just what happened that day in south London, based on interviews with police and civilian witnesses.

London Police had initially intended to arrest Maloney on Dec. 22, 2016 when he left his house, for mischief to data and unauthorized use of a computer. Maloney had been posting anti-Semitic materials to the website of a local cinema, for which he had administrator access.

But Maloney never did leave his home on the 22nd, Loparco wrote.

Instead, police chose to execute a search warrant at Maloney's home in the early morning of Dec. 23, 2016. 

Just after 6 a.m., eleven police officers used a ram to enter Maloney's house on Duchess Ave. They entered to find Maloney in his computer room, and his two young children in a bedroom at the rear of the house. 

Maloney was awake and at his computer when the officers arrived on-scene. He was likely watching the officers via the computer, using cameras attached to the exterior of the house, Loparco wrote in his report. 

When an officer opened the door of the computer room, Maloney shot him with a crossbow. The officer, believing Maloney might shoot again, fired one shot. Then, as Maloney continued to point his crossbow, the officer shot twice more, hitting Maloney in the shoulder. 

At that point, Maloney had dropped the crossbow, but held onto another object that the officer believed to be a gun.

The officer backed slowly out of the room. He tried to negotiate with Maloney, when suddenly Maloney started screaming and running towards the rear bedroom of the house—where his wife and children were—while carrying a hatchet over his head with the blade pointed out. 

A second officer, who was in the bedroom with the kids, saw Maloney run towards them with the hatchet. When Maloney was five feet away from the door, the officer shot him in the chest. Maloney fell to the floor, still holding his weapon, and a third officer shot him in the head. He was declared dead on-scene.

SIU analysis

Although Loparco pointed out several issues with the officers' search warrant, his report determined that it was ultimately Maloney's own action that led to his death, not the officers' planning or execution of the warrant.

"It was his decision to shoot a crossbow at an armed officer, instead of complying with his demands; it was his decision to ignore officers' requests to surrender; and, it was his decision to run down the hallway towards his children, screaming, while armed with a hatchet and knives," Loparco wrote. 

"Accordingly, I must find again that it was the intervening acts of Mr. Maloney that lead to his death and I am unable to find the necessary causal connection between the actions of police and the death of Mr. Maloney."

Based on the evidence, Loparco said that none of the officers involved committed a criminal offence, and that no charges will be issued.

The SIU is an arm's length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. It has jurisdiction over all municipal, regional and provincial police officers.