Thunder Bay

OPP officers 'acted lawfully' in Pikangikum arrest that left man with broken wrist: SIU

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit won’t pursue charges against an OPP officer over an arrest that left a man in Pikangikum First Nation with a broken wrist.
The SIU will not press charges against an OPP officer over a February arrest in Pikangikum that left a man with a broken wrist. (The Canadian Press)

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit won't pursue charges against a provincial police officer involved in an arrest that left a 28-year-old man with a broken wrist.

The incident occurred at about 4 a.m. on Feb. 11, when Red Lake OPP officers were dispatched to a residence in Pikangikum, First Nation following a report of a domestic disturbance.

Three officers responded — identified in the investigation as the subject officer, and three witness officers — and were granted entrance by one of the people who lived there.

They found a man in one of the bedrooms, along with three small children, according to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) report.

Another person at the home told police that no assault had taken place.

The SIU said the officers didn't believe they had the grounds to arrest anyone with assault, but were aware that the complainant was on bail, and one of the conditions was that he stay away from a person who was in the home.

The officers decided to arrest the complainant on that basis and he resisted, the report said.

He grabbed one of his children and raised her in his arms, the report said. Police officers, with help from another female occupant, were able to take custody of the children.

Two officers attempted to take hold of the complainant's arms, but he pulled away, according to the SUI.

The officers forced the complainant down and handcuffed him, the report said. Then, as he was being helped back up to his feet, he spat in the face of one of the witness officers, who struck the complainant in the abdomen with his knee.

Pepper spray used

The SIU said the complainant continued to struggle as the officers escorted him out of the house, and was again brought to the ground and sprayed with pepper spray.

The complainants legs were also shackled, and he was put in the back seat of one of the police cruisers.

The SIU report said a civilian witness gave a different version of events, saying the complainant was "largely passive" during the arrest.

However, the report said, the witness was significantly intoxicated at the time, and many of the claims made conflict with other evidence.

The day after his arrest, the complainant was taken to hospital, where his fractured wrist was diagnosed.

In its investigation, the SIU interviewed and reviewed the notes of the officer who was the subject of the complaint.

Three witness officers were interviewed, and the notes of a fourth reviewed.

Four civilian witnesses were also interviewed, and investigators also interviewed the complainant and reviewed his medical records.

Police 'acted lawfully'

Surveillance video from the Pikangikum detachment, as well as video of a portion of the arrest captured on an iPhone was also reviewed.

In his decision, SIU director Joseph Martino said the evidence was clear the complainant physically resisted arrest, and the subject officer had minimal physical contact with the complainant during the incident.

The officers involved were justified in forcing the complainant to the ground, and in their use of pepper spray.

As for the witness officer who struck the complainant after being spit on, Martino said the force used "was on the cusp of being excessive given the complainant was handcuffed at the time."

However, the complainant's conduct constituted an assault on the officer, and Martino said he is satisfied the officer was within his rights in using the force he did to defend himself.

"In the result, while it is likely that the complainant broke a hand/wrist in the course of the takedowns and grappling that occurred during this arrest, I am satisfied that the involved officers acted lawfully throughout the encounter," Martino said.