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GSPS officers cleared in baby’s premature birth and death following arrest of mother

No reasonable grounds to believe officers committed a criminal offence, said SIU director

The province’s Special Investigations Unit has cleared Greater Sudbury Police Service of any wrongdoing in the death of a premature baby born following the arrest of the infant's mother in 2019.

On June 25, 2019, police officers arrested a pregnant woman. She became violent and tried to resist arrest, and officers took her to the ground during the arrest, the report states.

Five days later, on June 30, the woman prematurely gave birth to a son. The baby died about an hour later.

The SIU commenced an investigation based on a possible connection between the force used against the pregnant woman during her arrest and the death of her child. 

“On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that either of (the officers) committed a criminal offence in connection with (the woman’s) arrest and the (baby’s) death,” said SIU director Joseph Martino.

On the day of the arrest, officers met with the woman in the parking lot in front of a college residence. The meeting had been arranged to discuss the woman’s complaint of an alleged sexual assault against her infant son. 

The police were also there to assist with an investigation by child welfare authorities into the safety of the woman’s two children. Specifically, concerns had been raised that the woman and her partner were living with the children in their vehicle, involved in illicit drugs, and using defective child seats.

During their interaction, SIU said, the woman became agitated with the officers, fearing the authorities were only there to remove her children. The report states she argued with the officers, complaining about what she believed was an injustice being perpetrated on her and her family. 

The woman’s partner was able to demonstrate to the officers that the children were living in reasonable accommodations with food at their disposal, the report states.

When questioned by the woman’s partner as to whether he and the woman were being detained, one of the officers told them they were free to go, but that he would first have to check on the condition of the child seats inside their vehicle. 

The woman became even more agitated with the arrival of a worker from Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services, who had been assigned to look into the children’s welfare.

Another officer was called to the scene to speak with the woman, but was unable to de-escalate the situation, and the woman continued to speak loudly and protest, prompting a warning from officers that she would be arrested unless she stopped causing a disturbance.

Further interactions between the woman, police and the worker from Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services ensued, and the woman was arrested around 5 p.m. that day. 

During the arrest, the SIU report reads, one of the officers tripped the woman, who landed face first onto the ground. She resisted as the officers attempted to handcuff her, refusing to release her arms. At one point, she bit or attempted to bite one of the officers, SIU states. 

In due course, the officers were able to handcuff the woman and she was placed in the backseat of a cruiser.

Following her arrest, one of the officers called for an ambulance. He was aware the woman was pregnant and was concerned following her arrest when he noticed wet spots on her clothing around her groin area.

She was taken from the scene in an ambulance to Health Sciences North, where she was examined, cleared medically and then released from police custody on a Promise to Appear.

Five days later, she gave birth to her baby, but the baby died.

The woman alleged it was because of her arrest that the baby was born premature and died as a result. However, the postmortem examination attributed the baby’s death to “prematurity of undetermined cause,” the report states.

In arriving at that conclusion, the pathologist noted that it was unclear whether allegations of an “assault” by police officers during the woman’s arrest on June 25, 2019 played any role in the baby’s prematurity. 

“In any event, as I am not satisfied on reasonable grounds that the officers who dealt with (the woman) on the day of her arrest committed a criminal offence, there are no grounds for proceeding with charges in this case and the file is closed,” said Martino.