SIU Clears Thunder Bay Police Service in Death at Kingsway

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Thunder Bay Police on scene at Kingsway Inn. Photo by Al Corbett
Thunder Bay Police on scene at Kingsway Inn. Photo by Al Corbett

SIUTHUNDER BAY – The Special Investigations Unit has completed their investigation into the death of a man at the Kingsway Hotel. The incident happened on July 13 2016 after police received reports of a man barricaded in a room at the hotel.

The deceased had reportedly killed himself.

The Special Investigation Unit’s investigative jurisdiction is limited to those incidents where there is a serious injury (including sexual assault allegations) or death in cases involving the police.

Here is there report:

This report relates to the SIU’s investigation of an incident that took place at a motel in Thunder Bay on July 12 and 13, 2016. A 33-year-old man, claiming to be armed, barricaded himself in a motel room while police officers set up outside the room and attempted to engage with the man. When police entered the room between 6:30 and 7:00 am on July 13, 2016, they found the man without vital signs. The man was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Thunder Bay Police on scene at Kingsway Inn. Photo by Al Corbett
Thunder Bay Police on scene at Kingsway Inn. Photo by Al Corbett

The investigation

Notification of the SIU

The SIU was notified of the incident by the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) on July 13, 2016 at 7:50 a.m. The SIU was informed that the police service received a telephone call on July 12, 2016, at 11:04 p.m., stating that the man was in a room of the Kingsway Motel. The man reportedly had a handgun and a sawed-off shotgun and said he would shoot the first person who came to the door.

Police officers travelled to the motel and attempted to make contact with the man but he did not respond. At some point, distraction devices were set off outside the motel. In the morning, a robot was sent into the room and by video, police officers saw the man lying on the floor. Police officers entered the room and found him vital signs absent. The man was rushed to hospital.

The Team

Number of SIU Investigators assigned: 4

Number of SIU Forensic Investigators assigned: 2

SIU Forensic Investigators responded to the scene and identified and preserved evidence. They documented the relevant scene by way of notes, photography, videography, sketches and measurements. The Forensic Investigators attended and recorded the post-mortem examination and assisted in making submissions to the Centre of Forensic Sciences.

Complainant

33-year-old male, deceased

Note: A complainant is an individual who was involved in some form of interaction with police, during the course of which she or he sustained serious injury, died or alleged sexual assault.

Civilian Witnesses

CW #1 Interviewed

CW #2 Interviewed

CW #3 Interviewed

CW #4 Not interviewed

Police Employee

PE Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

Witness Officers*

WO #1 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #2 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #3 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #4 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #5 Interviewed

WO #6 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #7 Interviewed

WO #8 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #9 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #10 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #11 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #12 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #13 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #14 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #15 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #16 Interviewed

WO #17 Interviewed

WO #18 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #19 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #20 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #21 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #22 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #23 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #24 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #25 Interviewed

WO #26 Interviewed

WO #27 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

WO #28 Notes reviewed, interview deemed not necessary

* The SIU designated as witness officers many of the police officers who were deployed for this situation. Their notes were reviewed and the SIU interviewed those police officers who were likely to provide the most pertinent information.

Note: A witness officer is a police officer who, in the opinion of the SIUDirector, is involved in the incident under investigation but is not a subject officer.

Witness officers have a duty under Ontario Regulation 267/10 of the Police Services Act, to submit to interviews with SIU investigators and answer all their questions. The SIU is also entitled to a copy of their notes from the police service.

Subject Officer

SO #1 Declined interview and to provide notes, as is the subject officer’s legal right

Note: A subject officer is a police officer whose conduct appears, in the Director’s opinion, to have caused the death or serious injury under investigation.

Subject officers are invited, but cannot be legally compelled, to present themselves for an interview with the SIU and they do not have to submit their notes to the SIU pursuant to Ontario Regulation 267/10 of the Police Services Act.

Evidence

The Scene

The Kingsway Motel, located at 345 Kingsway in Thunder Bay, is a single level strip-style motel. The room in which the complainant had barricaded himself was a typical motel room. However, the entrance to this room was unique to the building because there was a small vestibule one first had to enter. Upon entering the small vestibule, a door to the basement was directly forward, while the door to the room was to the left.

Physical Evidence

The large glass window at the front of the room had been shattered. Windows at the rear of the room had also been shattered. Outside the room, on the sidewalk, were three spent distraction devices and a field of broken glass. Powder marks at the vestibule door indicated the distraction devices had been deployed at the door of the vestibule. The doorframe of the room showed obvious signs of the door having been forced open and the deadbolt on the door was found to be in the deployed (extended) position. The box spring and mattress from the bed in the room had been removed and positioned on their ends, consistent with having been placed against the room windows.

Mirrors inside the room had been covered with bed linens.

Scattered on the floor of the room were numerous empty beer cans and hundreds of white and blue pills. The blue pills were stamped to replicate Percocet pills, but they had been poorly pressed and were clearly not manufactured by a pharmaceutical company. A bag of marijuana was also found. A glass pipe used for smoking narcotics was found on the bathroom floor. Also located inside the room was a small black bag containing cash and a cellular telephone. A blue puck-shaped device [a tactical device that emits light] was found on the floor below the front window of the room.

Forensic Evidence

On July 14, 2016, a forensic pathologist conducted a post-mortem examination on the complainant at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

The SIU also received a toxicology report, which showed the complainant had alcohol, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cocaine and cocaine metabolites, methamphetamine, and furanyl fentanyl in his blood. He also had traces of U-47700, a synthetic opioid. His alcohol level was 100 mg/100 ml.

The forensic pathologist commented in his post-mortem examination report that the levels of cocaine, THC, methamphetamine and alcohol in the complainant’s blood were not lethal. However, in combination those drugs would have had a more pronounced central nervous system depression effect. The forensic pathologist determined the cause of death to be “mixed drug toxicity.”

The complainant was found to have fractured ribs, which the forensic pathologist determined to be the result of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) efforts.

Samples of pills recovered from the motel room were submitted to Health Canada. Health Canada determined the pills were composed of furanyl fentanyl, a controlled substance, and U-47700, a synthetic opioid that is not a controlled substance.

Video/Audio/Photographic Evidence

The SIU canvassed the area for any video or audio recordings, and photographic evidence, but was not able to locate any.

Materials Obtained from Police Service

Upon request the SIU obtained and reviewed the following materials and documents from the TBPS:

  • Event cronology,
  • Incident command plans and an incident command supplement (action plans to resolve the standoff),
  • WO notes,
  • A list of previous offences for the complainant,
  • Photos taken of the command centre white boards,
  • Subject profile for complainant,
  • Supplementary occurrence reports from WO #1, WO #7, WO #12, WO #15, WO#17, WO #20, WO #25 and two additional police officers, and
  • Audio recording of the negotiation attempts.

The Background of the Incident

At approximately 10:30 p.m. on July 12, 2016, the complainant called WO #25, with whom he had had previous dealings. The complainant would not tell WO #25 where he was, and WO #25 did not recognize the phone number. The complainant was agitated, sounded paranoid and confirmed that he had consumed cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol. He told WO #25 that he had lost a suitcase given to him by drug dealers containing a firearm and money. The complainant claimed there were approximately 15 men outside his room who looked like police, and insisted on knowing if police were present. The complainant said he was armed with a loaded 9 mm handgun, and the battery on his cellular phone was dying. The phone disconnected.

WO #25 notified the watch commander and relayed that the complainant may be in possession of a firearm, and was concerned that the police were watching him. The watch commander advised that the police did not have any situations on the go involving the complainant. WO #25 attempted to contact the complainant using the same phone number, but there was no answer.

The complainant called WO #25 back. He was increasingly agitated and claimed he was surrounded. He repeated that he would fire a round at anyone who approached him. The complainant then hung up. WO #25 again advised the watch commander.

At about 11:02 p.m., the complainant called WO #25 again. He was distraught and said he would shoot anyone who approached him. He also said he was going to shoot himself. The complainant claimed that he was with his cousin who was in possession of a sawed-off shotgun. When asked, the complainant would not tell WO#25 where he was. The phone went dead.

At about this time, the complainant’s mother contacted the police and stated that her son was in distress and reporting that he was surrounded. Her caller ID showed the source of the telephone call from the complainant was the Kingsway Motel. Officers in the area of the motel were notified and reported that there did not seem to be anything out of the ordinary. The SO – who was the Incident Commander and so responsible for all the decisions being made regarding the developing situation – was notified. The Emergency Task Unit commander – WO #17 – was also notified, and tactical police officers were dispatched. The threat level was considered to be high, and multiple teams were organized and deployed to various locations. By 1:45 a.m., WO #25 was on scene and briefing the SO. The complainant’s siblings were also present, but were not permitted to make contact with the complainant. The siblings tried to call the phone associated with the room, but it was disconnected.

Given that the complainant claimed to be armed and prepared to shoot anyone who attempted to enter, along with the possibility of a second armed man inside, the SO did not want officers to enter the room. Neighbouring motel rooms were evacuated. Officers were deployed to one of the adjacent rooms to determine if there was any sound coming from inside the room in question. They remained there for over an hour. Nothing was heard.

Extensive efforts were made by the officers to make contact with the complainant, but to no avail. A bullhorn was repeatedly used outside the room, the room phone was called, calls were made to the cell phone the complainant had been using and attempts were made to contact the complainant’s common law spouse for assistance.

Shortly after 4 a.m., officers managed to breach the front window of the room, and two very loud distraction devices were deployed near the door. An officer near the window when it was breached heard a man swear, but still, there was no overt response from the complainant. Officers attempted to insert a remote controlled robot with a camera and several puck lights into the room through the front window, but the effort was not successful as the complainant had pressed a mattress up against the inside of the opening. Next, a “throw-phone” was deployed into the room through the front window, while two more distraction devices were detonated. Unfortunately, it became lodged between the wall and the mattress, although it was able to transmit some audio from inside the room. No voices could be heard on the transmission, but at approximately 5:21 a.m. and 5:50 a.m., the sound of movement on broken glass was heard, although it is unknown what actually caused the sound. At 5:27 a.m., it was reported that someone was trying to peek out the front window, but that may have been simply the curtains blowing from an air conditioner.

At 6:13 a.m., the room’s rear window was breached and the robot was thrown inside. Although there had also been a mattress pressed up against that window, police were able to use a pole to move it slightly and allow the robot to fall to the floor. It provided a partial view of the room. Officers called out to the complainant through the broken rear window, but there was no response. When officers pushed the mattress away from the front window at 6:38 a.m., they observed the complainant lying on the floor. He was surrounded by hundreds of blue pills, later identified as a combination of fentanyl and U-47700, a bag of marijuana, cash, a cellular phone, empty beer cans, and a glass pipe. There were no firearms located inside the room. The complainant had blue powder on his hands and around his mouth and in his nostrils. The complainant was instructed not to move his hands. Once officers were inside the room, it was found that the complainant did not have a pulse. CPR was started by the paramedics. The complainant was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Analysis and director’s decision

At some point during the early morning hours of July 13, 2016, the complainant died of a drug overdose, resulting from a lethal combination of alcohol, THC, cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl and traces of the synthetic opioid U-47700. It is unknown at what point during the late evening hours of July 12, into the early morning hours of July 13, 2016, the complainant consumed the fatal combination of drugs and alcohol, or at what point he lost consciousness, or at what point he then passed on. What is known is that the complainant communicated to a family member and to WO #25, shortly before barricading himself in his motel room, that he planned to shoot anyone who approached, and intended to commit suicide. What is also known is that the police had reasonable grounds to believe that the complainant was high on drugs, paranoid, armed, possibly with a second armed person, and intended to kill others and himself while barricaded in his motel room. The fact that he was actually alone, and unarmed, was unfortunately not determined until the room was entered the next morning and the complainant was already deceased.

The SO decided that it was safer for police to attempt to communicate with the complainant from a distance instead of entering the room. I agree that this was the prudent course to have taken in the circumstances, as it would have been extremely dangerous and reckless to all parties to attempt to enter the room by force any earlier than they did. The SO reasonably believed that the officers may be shot if they attempted to enter the room. The SO had no way of knowing that the complainant was unarmed, and had taken the combination of drugs he had and was in medical distress. If the complainant had been conscious any time during the almost 6 ½ hours that the TBPS Emergency Task Unit were present, he made no effort to seek their assistance at any point.

The SO had the responsibility to ensure the safety of the officers and others at the scene. Given the situation that was being faced, the SO acted cautiously and responsibly. In the circumstances, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any charges should issue.

Date: July 25, 2017

Original signed by

Joseph Martino
Acting Director
Special Investigations Unit