SIU finds no negligence by police in death of Kingston woman

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is a civilian-based organization that investigates circumstances involving police in Ontario that have resulted in a death, serious injury, involved sexual assault, or involved a firearm being discharged at a person. Kingstonist file photo.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has concluded its investigation into a Kingston woman’s fatal fall from a Bath Road apartment building in May, finding that Kingston Police officers on the scene were not culpable in her death.

On his assessment of the evidence, SIU Director Joseph Martino determined there were no reasonable grounds to believe any officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the woman’s death. There was no basis for proceeding with criminal charges, and the file has been closed. This finding was detailed in a report released Thursday, Sep. 21, 2023.

The SIU had begun its investigation after the woman died on the evening of Tuesday, May 23, 2023 while Kingston Police officers were on scene.

The report noted that the offence that arose for consideration by the SIU was “criminal negligence causing death contrary to section 220 of the Criminal Code.” According to Martino, this designation “is reserved for serious cases of neglect that demonstrate a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons… conduct that amounts to a marked and substantial departure from the level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the circumstances.” Thus, the SIU must consider “whether there was a want of care on the part of any KP officer, sufficiently egregious to attract criminal sanction, that caused or contributed to [a person’s] death.”

The evidence

The report stated that on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, at 5:22 p.m., Kingston Police (KP) received a 911 call from a woman who said her close relative was experiencing heightened mental distress, and she feared for the other woman’s safety. At 5:28 p.m., two KP officers were dispatched, and at 5:40 p.m. they arrived at the apartment building on Bath Road in central Kingston.

The evidence collected by the SIU, including interviews with four civilian eyewitnesses and video footage that captured the incident in parts, gives rise to the following scenario.

According to the report, the officers arrived on the scene and spoke briefly with the person who had called 911, before making their way to an upper floor. They knocked on the door of the apartment and announced their presence as ‘police,’ explaining that they were concerned for the woman’s safety and wanted to check on her. The Complainant told the officers to “fuck off.” The officers told the Complainant that the woman who had called 911 was with them, but there was no further word from inside the apartment.

(“Complainant” is the term used to refer to an individual who was involved in some form of interaction with an official or officials, during the course of which the individual “sustained a serious injury, died, was reported to have been sexually assaulted, or was shot at by a firearm discharged by an official,” according to the SIU.)

At 5:57 p.m., the report noted, the two officers were speaking to the apartment superintendent to obtain a key to the Complainant’s apartment when they were told by the communications officer that there had been several calls to 911 reporting that someone had fallen or jumped from the balcony.

Soon after the arrival of the officers outside her door, the the Complainant went onto her balcony, climbed over the railing, and fell. Video footage from a nearby residence captured the sides of the apartment building on Bath Road. “Starting at about 5:54:28 p.m., the Complainant was captured falling from a balcony and landing on the grass below,” stated the report. 

The officers made their way outside and found the 59-year-old woman deceased, lying below her balcony.

Since the KP officers were present outside the apartment door moments before, and during, the fall, the SIU was notified of the incident by KP and initiated an investigation. 

The day after the incident, on May 24, 2023, the scene — the interior of an apartment and the outside vicinity immediately below the balcony of the apartment — was examined by an SIU forensic investigator, according to the report. The forensic investigator took photographs that revealed a scrawled note from the deceased woman indicating a possible will.

On May 25, 2023, the SIU obtained the following records from KP:

  • Communications recordings;
  • Occurrence Synopsis;
  • Occurrence Report;
  • Arrest Report;
  • Apprehension Report;
  • Initial Missing Person Report;
  • Occurrence Initial Report;
  • Supplemental Report;
  • Record of computer-assisted dispatch;
  • Witness List;
  • Video footage from two buildings on Bath Road, Kingston;
  • Two sets of Officers’ Notes.


Findings

After his analysis, Martino wrote, “on my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any KP officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the Complainant’s death… The question is whether there was a want of care on the part of any KP officer, sufficiently egregious to attract criminal sanction, that caused or contributed to the Complainant’s death. There was not. [The two officers] were lawfully placed and in the exercise of their duty when they attended outside the apartment… to check on the Complainant’s welfare. They had reason to believe that the Complainant had designs on harming herself, and were duty-bound to do what they reasonably could in the circumstances to prevent that from happening.”

He continued, “While on scene, the officers comported themselves with due care and regard for the Complainant’s health and well-being. They repeatedly called out to the Complainant to unlock and open the door, assured her that they were there to help, and took steps to locate a key to the apartment. It is apparent that the Complainant was not receptive to their overtures. It is also apparent that the Complainant, within minutes of [their arrival], climbed her balcony railing and fell. In the circumstances, it is not at all clear that the officers had any real time to consider a more proactive posture, such as forcibly entering the apartment, or, if they had, that it would have made any difference given the speed with which events unfolded.”

“As there are no reasonable grounds to conclude that any KP officer transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law in their dealings with the Complainant, there is no basis for proceeding with charges in this case,” stated Martino, declaring the file closed.

2 thoughts on “SIU finds no negligence by police in death of Kingston woman

  • This was a health issue not a public security issue. We need to pay trained social workers to accompany police on these “heightened mental distress” calls and to take the lead for their police colleagues in communicating with the person.

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