Skip to main content

SIU clears OPP officers in man's death after fleeing Long Sault, Ont. RIDE checkpoint

An SIU vehicle is seen in this undated file photo. An SIU vehicle is seen in this undated file photo.

Ontario's police watchdog has cleared three Ontario Provincial Police officers of wrongdoing in the death of a 66-year-old man, who fled a RIDE check near Long Sault, Ont. last summer.

The Special Investigations Unit says while the man's cause of death remains under investigation, Director Joseph Martino is "reasonably satisfied" the man's death was "not attributable to criminal conduct" on the part of the officers involved and there is no grounds to charge the officers.

On July 22, police were conducting a RIDE program on the Hwy. 401 westbound off-ramp at Moulinette Road, about 20 kilometres west of Cornwall.

The SIU says the driver of a vehicle failed a breath test while at the RIDE checkpoint, but fled the scene while being advised of his arrest by officers. Officers pursued the man's vehicle briefly, with one officer speeding 188 km/h, but called off the pursuit, according to the SIU.

"The man continued to flee until he failed to negotiate a right hand turn from Eamon Road to Gravel Pit Road and entered a corn field. Officers later located the man in the truck in the field," the SIU said in a statement on Saturday, adding officers driving to the suspect's home discovered a "fresh gap" in a cornfield and followed it to the vehicle.

"One of the officers ordered the man to get down on the ground. He refused and resisted as three officers removed him. The man was unsteady on his feet and fell to the ground.  He continued to resist on the ground and was handcuffed."

The SIU says that within moments of his arrest, the man struggled to breathe.

"Officers uncuffed him and placed him in the recovery position. Shortly after, the man became unresponsive and officers provided medical care."

The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

In his report, Director Martino said he is satisfied it was "legally justified" for officers to use force in extricating the complainant from his vehicle and placing him in handcuffs.

"The evidence indicates that some force was used in removing the Complainant from the pick-up truck, but this was made necessary when he did not exit of his own volition and then held onto the steering wheel refusing to let go," Martino said. "A level of force was again necessary when the Complainant resisted the officers’ efforts on the ground. In neither case does it appear that strikes of any kind were used; the officers simply used their superior manpower to wrestle control of the Complainant."

Martino does raise concerns about the police pursuit, including the speeds at which the officers travelled and the "failure to completely disengage once ordered to discontinue the pursuit", but notes they were travelling on "sparsely populated rural roads" and the weather was sunny.

"It is also important to note that both officers were a fair distance behind the pick-up truck throughout their active engagement and cannot be said to have recklessly pushed the Complainant," Martino wrote.

"He was at all times able to alter his driving had he been so inclined. Nor am I persuaded that the officers acted unreasonably in commencing the pursuit. They had grounds to believe that the Complainant had committed a criminal offence with respect to his failed breathalyzer test and his dangerous flight from the RIDE program."

Martino says he is satisfied the death is not linked to criminal conduct on the part of the officers, and the file is closed.

"Though it remains unclear how or why the Complainant died, I am satisfied that his death is not attributable to criminal conduct on the part of the officers. As such, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges. The file is closed." Top Stories

Stay Connected