Official acted 'reasonably' during arrest, suspect awaiting sentencing
Michael Lee – North Bay Nugget
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit has found no basis to proceed with criminal charges against an Ontario Provincial Police officer who discharged an Anti Riot Weapon ENfield, or ARWEN, during an arrest in May.
The SIU released its decision from director Joseph Martino, who found “no reasonable grounds” to believe the officer, described as the subject official, committed a criminal offence or “comported himself other than lawfully throughout his engagement with the complainant.”
“There is no suggestion raised in the evidence that the police were without a lawful basis to effect the complainant’s arrest for serious criminal offences,” the director’s report states, while noting that a firearm was located in the vehicle the complainant was found in when arrested by police.
The OPP notified the SIU May 5 at 3:12 p.m. after members of the Emergency Response Team and North Bay Police Service Emergency Response Team arrested the complainant earlier in the day on Lakeshore Drive, during which the subject officer discharged an ARWEN.
The SIU investigates the conduct of police officers that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault or the discharge of a firearm at a person.
The complainant, who while not named by the SIU has since been identified as 22-year-old Bradley Stevens, was wanted on a warrant for a number of charges.
In August, Stevens pleaded guilty to 11 charges, including multiple firearm offences, in part for his role in an armed home invasion earlier this year. He is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 24.
As part of the SIU’s investigation, the complainant, a civilian witness and three witness officials, or officers, were interviewed. The subject officer declined an interview, which is his legal right, but did provide copies of his notes.
Police communications, namely radio transmissions, also were used as evidence.
According to the incident narrative provided by the SIU, the subject officer was part of an OPP Emergency Response Team that had been brought in to assist North Bay police officers in arresting the complainant.
The SIU’s report says the complainant was wanted for a number of violent and firearm-related offences and was considered a high-risk subject, as police had information that he had a firearm.
While a passenger in a pickup operated by an associate, identified as the civilian witness in the case, the complainant was tracked from a residence on Lee Avenue to a parking lot on Lakeshore Drive.
Details shared in court indicate police performed a high-risk takedown in front of the Pizza Hut.
The SIU reports that just as the civilian witness was about to turn onto Lakeshore Drive from the driveway that ran along the north side of a restaurant, his truck was surrounded by officers in police vehicles.
A North Bay police officer, one of the witness officials, was among those officers and pulled his vehicle to a stop at an angle toward the driver’s door of the vehicle, after which he exited with a C8 rifle pointed at the civilian witness.
The officer ordered the civilian witness to shut off the engine and show his hands, to which he complied.
The subject officer stopped his vehicle a distance behind the truck and approached it on foot with an ARWEN at the ready.
The SIU’s report says the complainant remained in the passenger seat, despite repeated commands that he exit.
The subject official aimed at the passenger door window and discharged two rounds from his ARWEN, both of which bounced off the truck without penetrating it.
The officer repositioned himself and fired two more rounds, which partially broke the window.
After the window broke, the complainant exited the truck and was handcuffed without further incident.
The SIU reports that neither the complainant, nor the civilian witness, suffered any serious physical injury in the course of the incident.
“With respect to the SO’s (subject official’s) four ARWEN discharges, I am unable to reasonably conclude that they constituted excessive force,” Martino wrote.
“The officers involved in the operation to arrest the complainant had cause to be concerned that the complainant was armed with a firearm. They had received intelligence reports to that effect and were aware of the nature of the offences that the complainant was alleged to have committed. Indeed, a revolver was recovered from the pickup truck in the centre console after the complainant’s arrest.
“In the circumstances, confronted with a potentially lethal threat, I am satisfied that the SO acted reasonably when he resorted to his less-lethal ARWEN in an attempt to neutralize the complainant. The tactic was successful; though the complainant was not struck, he was persuaded to exit the pickup truck and surrender peacefully shortly after the third and fourth rounds were discharged, breaking the passenger door window.”