Sault police cleared in case where they tazed man who was trying to harm himself
Ontario's Special Investigations Unit has cleared Sault Ste. Marie Police involved in an April 23 incident in which they tazed a troubled man who was trying to cut his own throat. (File)
SUDBURY -- Ontario's Special Investigations Unit has cleared Sault Ste. Marie Police involved in an April 23 incident in which they tazed a troubled man who was trying to cut his own throat.
The SIU, which investigates cases where the public is injured during contact with police, said the actions of the officers involved likely saved the man from serious self-harm.
The incident began at 1:45 a.m. when police were called to Sault Area Hospital for someone in mental-health distress.
"Upon arrival, the police officers tried to arrest the complainant," said the SIU report. "The complainant got into his car and drove around the hospital."
Slow police chase
While police tried to contain the scene to prevent the man from leaving, he managed to elude them and began a very slow police chase, which was quickly terminated.
"A short time later, officers made their way to the complainant’s residence located at an address on Korah Road," the report said.
Using a tracking dog, they found the man's apartment. At that point, the man grabbed two knives from his residence and went to a neighbour's apartment, accompanied by another resident of the building.
When the resident of the apartment opened the door, police could see the complainant inside, holding the two knives to his throat. They asked the two other residents to leave the apartment, but only one did. The second resident left the apartment with the complainant behind him, still holding the knives to his neck.
At that point, they entered a communal bathroom in the hall.
Asked police to kill him
"From outside the bathroom door, (police) spoke to the complainant, attempting to persuade him to put the knives down and exit," the report said. "The officer assured the complainant that the police were there to help him. The complainant initially refused to leave the bathroom. He expressed fear of the police and repeatedly indicated he wanted to die, at times asking the police to kill him."
After about 10 minutes, the resident and the complainant left the communal bathroom, heading down a staircase, all the while holding the knives to his neck "in a scissors shape," the report said.
As they reached the bottom of the stairs, from behind police saw the complainant "motioning with one of the knives across his neck." At that point, police tazed the man in the back.
"The complainant fell forward onto the ground, but still had possession of at least one of the knives, which he used to continue to cut his neck," the report said. "(The police officer) deployed his (Taser) a second time, and (the second police officer) did the same.
'The complainant resisted as the officers physically engaged him, but was quickly subdued and handcuffed behind his back," the report said.
In his analysis, SIU Director Joseph Martino wrote that there are no grounds to charge the officers for their conduct. In fact, Martino said their actions prevented a more serious injury.
"It appears the officers’ intervention, including the subject officers’ use of their CEWs, likely prevented the complainant from self-inflicting further, more grievous harm," he wrote. "Accordingly, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in this case and the file is closed."