MISSISSAUGA – When there is a report involving police in Ontario that involves a death, a serious injury or allegations of a sexual assault, the Special Investigations Unit. investigates the incident. Under the Police Services Act, the Director of the SIU must consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation. Depending on the evidence, the Director may lay a criminal charge against the officer if appropriate or close the file without any charges being laid. Reports of all investigations must be made to the Attorney General.
The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge an officer of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) with a criminal offence in regards to the deaths of 28-year-old Jacob Sabourin and 19-year-old Rachel Merredew in a collision in Orillia following a police pursuit on May 3, 2011.
The SIU assigned eight investigators, three forensic investigators (FI) and a collision reconstructionist to the investigation. The scene was measured, photographed and a diagram was prepared. The reconstructionist collected technical data and compiled a report. The route of the pursuit was traced and surveillance video was analyzed from several businesses. A video recording of part of the pursuit which had been posted on the social network, ‘YouTube,’ was obtained and examined by data recovery technicians at the Ministry of Revenue. The pursued vehicle, a 1991 Honda, was examined and evidence retrieved. Pertinent documents, including recordings of the communication transmissions, were requested and received from the OPP. The area was canvassed and five civilian witnesses were identified and interviewed.
The SIU designated and interviewed six witness officers. One officer was designated as a subject officer. He, as is his right, declined to be interviewed or supply his notebook entries to the SIU.
The SIU investigation determined that in the early hours of May 3, 2011 the subject officer was driving a marked cruiser and noticed a Honda Civic driving erratically northbound on Hwy 11 north of Barrie. The Honda was being driven by Mr. Sabourin. The subject officer motioned the car to pull over but Mr. Sabourin chose to speed away. The subject officer ascertained the plate number of the Honda and was informed that it was not registered to that vehicle. The subject officer initiated a pursuit and activated his emergency equipment. He kept in contact with the Communications Centre. The speed of the Honda kept increasing, ultimately reaching 130 -140 km/hr. Other officers joined in the pursuit. A spike belt was deployed in the vicinity of Line 15, causing the tire on the Honda’s right side front wheel to deflate. The Honda turned on to Memorial Avenue, Orillia, and accelerated through the intersection of Highways 11 and 12. The Communications Centre supervisor gave an order to discontinue the pursuit due to the excessive speed of the pursued vehicle. The subject officer decelerated and shut off his emergency equipment. In the meantime, Mr. Sabourin continued to flee, failed to negotiate a left curve on Memorial Avenue near Dunn Avenue and collided with a concrete pole, causing the immediate deaths of Mr. Sabourin and his passenger, Ms. Merredew.
Director Scott said, “By all accounts, the subject officer complied with the requirements of the Suspect Apprehension Pursuit Regulation and committed no criminal act. The subject officer had the lawful authority to initiate the pursuit for the purpose of identifying the vehicle or the driver when Mr. Sabourin did not stop. He also had the authority to continue the pursuit because the plates did not match the vehicle. As a result, he did not have either the correct identity of the driver or identification of the vehicle. According to the communications tape, road conditions, weather, speeds and traffic volume were updated by the officers involved in the pursuit. The subject officer discontinued the pursuit at the behest of the Communications Centre supervisor. Finally, there is no suggestion of contact between the pursued and pursuing vehicles.”
Director Scott concluded, “Although extremely tragic, Mr. Sabourin lost control of his vehicle after driving in a dangerous manner in an attempt to flee from the police.”