Ottawa·THE FIFTH ESTATE

Police raid on Anthony Aust's apartment didn't match tipster information, court documents show

Unsealed court documents show Ottawa police expected to find a 9mm handgun and evidence of drug trafficking when they conducted a no-knock raid in an apartment tower where Anthony Aust plunged to his death. But there was no gun recovered. 

Aust, 23, fell to his death from 12th-storey window in October

Anthony Aust, 23, died after falling 12 storeys from a bedroom window following a no-knock raid by Ottawa police in October. (Submitted by the Aust family)

Unsealed court documents show that Ottawa police expected to find a 9mm handgun and evidence of drug trafficking when they conducted a no-knock raid in an apartment tower where Anthony Aust plunged to his death.

But there was no gun recovered.

Instead, Aust, 23, fell from a 12th-floor bedroom window after SWAT officers rammed through the apartment door and threw a flash-bang grenade in a so-called dynamic entry just before 9 a.m. on Oct. 7.

There were six people in the apartment at the time, including Aust's younger half siblings, ages 12 and 13, his 94-year-old grandmother and his stepfather, who has a heart condition. Aust's girlfriend was also in the home.

Aust's family believes he was startled from his sleep and may have jumped from the window after hearing police crash into the apartment. His death is still under investigation by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which has interviewed two subject officers, while the third has provided access to his notes.

The document that lawyers for CBC's The Fifth Estate fought in court to unseal contains information that police presented to a justice of the peace to get authorization to search Aust's apartment.

Initially, the Crown and Ottawa police lawyers refused to release the Information to Obtain (ITO) a Search Warrant on the grounds the SIU was still investigating. It took CBC six weeks to successfully petition a judge to partially lift the sealing order. 

WATCH | Surveillance footage of 'dynamic entry' by Ottawa police of Aust's home:

Surveillance footage of no-knock raid by Ottawa police

11 months ago
0:21
This 'dynamic entry' by Ottawa police of an apartment in October preceded the death of Anthony Aust, who fell from a 12th-storey window in that unit. 0:21

The ITO consists of 17 pages, six of which are completely blacked out.

The document states that Aust lived on the 12th floor of an apartment building and that he was out on bail and wearing a GPS ankle bracelet. He was released from jail and put under house arrest at the end of March.

After her son's fatal fall, Nhora Aust told the CBC she provided information about who lived in the home and the security camera during Anthony's bail hearing.

When pressed by the CBC's lawyers, the Crown acknowledged there was no information in the ITO about children or an elderly person living in the home. The court document also does not indicate that the justice of the peace knew a "dynamic entry" would be used when signing off on the warrant.

"You think that information would be critical to know," said Lawrence Greenspon, the lawyer representing the Aust family. "It  would be consistent with the police responsibility to provide full, frank and fair disclosure to the issuing justice. Those details were not disclosed here."

There's also no mention in the ITO that there was a private video surveillance system in the home installed as part of Aust's bail agreement.

It was that camera that captured video of eight tactical officers, guns drawn, barging unannounced into the apartment. It also captured officers draping a piece of paper over the camera after their entry.

WATCH | Surveillance camera is covered during police raid:

Surveillance camera in Ottawa home covered

11 months ago
0:21
During the Oct. 7 raid of Anthony Aust's home, a surveillance camera installed in the apartment was covered up. 0:21

Ottawa Police are not commenting on the investigation because the SIU has yet to complete its probe.

Tips from 3 confidential informants

The redacted details in the ITO pertain to the identities of confidential informants and may include information such as criminal records, whether they are paid and if their previous tips have led to successful searches.

Without that information, CBC cannot ascertain the reliability of these sources.

According to the documents, Ottawa police relied on information from three unnamed informants. Starting in September, detectives started to receive tips that Anthony Aust was trafficking firearms, cocaine and fentanyl from his residence on Jasmine Crescent, east of downtown Ottawa.

Investigators believed he was using apps on his cell phone to post photos of guns he had for sale, and that he was storing ammunition inside the home. There were no photos of ads for guns seen by CBC in the court documents.

Det. Const. Matthew Cox has been a detective with the Ottawa Police Drug Unit since 2010 and drafted the ITO and obtained the search warrant that led to the dynamic entry at the Aust apartment. Cox was recently elected as a director for the Ottawa Police Association. (Ottawa Police Association)

Prior to the raid, an officer was sent to the building to check the layout. The ITO states that there is an elevator, and two exit stairwells flanking the 12th floor.

Details of Aust's past criminal record was also put in the ITO. In January, Aust was arrested and charged, along with two other young men, after police found drugs, cash and a loaded handgun during a traffic stop. 

The search warrant application was drafted by Det. Const. Matthew Cox, who has been with the Ottawa Police drug unit since 2010. His past duties included going undercover to successfully purchase street drugs and conducting wiretaps.

He was also involved in the planning of a 2016 raid involving dynamic entry that was criticized by a judge this past February for displaying a "casual disregard for Charter rights." Cox was recently elected as a director for the Ottawa Police Association.

What police found

Based on the information in the ITO, a justice of the peace authorized the search of Aust's home on Oct. 7 to be conducted between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Aust's 68-year-old stepfather Ben Poirier says that during the search, he was pushed to the ground, handcuffed and saw police point their semi-automatic rifles at his 13-year-old daughter.

Ben Poirier and Raymond Aust stare at the bedroom window through which Anthony Aust jumped to his death. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

After the raid, Poirier says he was taken out to the hallway and watched as 10 plainclothes officers walked into his apartment and conducted a search. 

According to their evidence log filed in court, police found approximately 33 grams of heroin and more than 86 grams of fentanyl. They also found a Ziploc container of "buff," or powder that's used to dilute drugs. 

The search netted a "large" amount of cash, two digital scales, a money counter, a pink iPhone and an orange one. No illegal firearm was found, but police did find a Voodoo pellet shotgun in Aust's bedroom.

In a phone interview, Raymond Aust, 21, said the pellet gun has a bright orange nozzle and belongs to him, not his brother.

A document titled "Report to a Justice," which detailed the fruits of the search, was time-stamped 10:41 a.m. on Oct. 7, less than two hours after Aust's death. At 10:48 a.m., the SIU tweeted that it was taking over the investigation.

The SIU declined to answer questions about the removal of evidence or possible contamination of the crime scene for this story.

Family concerns

Greenspon said the public needs to know how many search warrants are executed by Ottawa police using no-knock entries and what the criteria is for doing them.

In Ottawa, tactical officers are often deployed in executing search warrants for drugs, firearms and child pornography, or in cases where police worry evidence can be destroyed. 

Right now, police don't have to inform the justice of the peace or the judge of how they're going to enter a residence. To prevent death, injury and Charter breaches, Greenspon said no-knock entries should be authorized by judges or justices of the peace. 

Only a police officer and Crown are present during a search warrant application before a judicial officer.

A vigil was held in memory of Anthony Aust on Nov. 8. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

"The only people in the room are the police and the Crown, and it's not a matter that somebody will get tipped off by that. There's no reason why [a no-knock entry plan] shouldn't be disclosed and every reason that it should be," Greenspon said.

Given that Aust was being monitored by an ankle bracelet and home surveillance, Greenspon said police could have easily arrested him by knocking first. 

"They knew or were capable of knowing when he was on the premises," Greenspon said. "He was on strict house arrest and not in the position to leave the premises. But despite knowing all that, they carried out a dynamic entry."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Judy Trinh

CBC Reporter

Judy Trinh is an investigative journalist with CBC News. She covers a diverse range of stories from breaking crime news to the #MeToo movement to human rights court challenges. She aims to be both critical and compassionate in her reporting. Follow her on Twitter @judyatrinh

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