Espanola OPP officer cleared in case where suspect was tased in the eye, damaging his sight permanently
SUDBURY -- An Ontario Provincial Police officer in Espanola didn't nothing wrong when he tased a suspect in February, accidently hitting the man in the eye and puncturing his eyeball.
That's the decision of the Special Investigations Unit, a provincial agency that handles cases in which a civilian is injured during an encounter with police.
The incident began Feb. 23 when police received a report about an unwanted guest in a John Street home in the community. The unwanted guest had assaulted of one of the residents in the home, and was under court orders not to go near the home.
Police arrived and began a search for the man, who had fled.
"The complainant fled from police across several backyards and over fences," said Joseph Martino, director of the Special Investigations Unit, in his report. "Following his entry into the home on James Street, the complainant continued to flee on foot in a southerly direction over private properties toward Albert Street, eventually making his way to the area around the intersection of Adelaide and Marguerite Streets."
Ignoring repeated calls to stop, the suspect jumped over a fence and fell down.
At that point, the police officer aimed a conducted energy weapon (commonly known as a Taser) at the suspect, from a distance of about 3 ½ metres away. The charge hit the suspect as he was trying to get up, hitting him directly in the eyeball.
Permanent loss of sight
He was taken to hospital, and it was expected he would lose vision in that eye, and that vision in his other eye could also be damaged longer-term.
In his decision, Martino wrote the suspect had led police on a chase lasting almost an hour, during which time the man tried to steal a car from someone who was still driving, trespassed through many yards and forcibly entered a home.
"He was clearly determined to escape police apprehension and his effort dogged in that purpose," Martino wrote. "Once finally within reach, the (officer who tased him) was of the view that his immediate apprehension was necessary in the interests of public safety. I agree. Left unchecked, I am satisfied that affording the complainant any more opportunity to flee constituted a real and present danger to persons in the vicinity."
Given the circumstances, discharging the weapon was a measured use of force, Martino said, "notwithstanding the devastating injuries to the complainant."
And there's no evidence to suggest hitting him in the eye was intentional. The officer said the goal was to hit the man's torso, but the suspect was moving when the Taser was fired and it hit him in the eye.
"It is highly regrettable, to say the least, that a CEW probe struck one of the complainant’s eyes, but I have no reason to believe that the (officer) intentionally aimed his weapon at the complainant’s face or that he was criminally negligent in its use," Martino wrote. "The file is closed."
Read the full report here.