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SIU: 'No reasonable grounds' for charges against GSPS officer after man suffers broken jaw

Even though officer punched complainant, he could have suffered injury from earlier fall off bicycle
SIU vehicle

The SIU has determined there are “no reasonable grounds” to lay criminal charges against a Greater Sudbury Police officer after a 34-year-old man complained of a broken jaw after his arrest on Nov. 23, 2017.

According to a report compiled by SIU director of investigations Tony Loparco, the complainant was riding his bicycle at the intersection of Evergreen Street and MacKenzie Street at around 8 p.m. when he slipped on ice and fell off his bicycle.

He would tell nearby witnesses that he was struck by a car, but no cars were seen at the time. Witnesses reported that the complainant had a head injury over his right eye that was bleeding.

The complainant was initially unconscious, but when he awoke, he became agitated, belligerent, and aggressive toward witnesses who tried to help him. The complainant fled the area as EMS arrived. 

About eight to 10 minutes later, another witness saw the complainant lying in the middle of Beech Street, with an injury to his head, and the police were contacted. 

Two police officers, including the Subject Officer (SO), arrived and found the complainant unconscious and in medical distress. 

Once revived, the complainant became confrontational, combative, and resistant to assistance. The complainant was then arrested for being intoxicated in a public place and handcuffed. 

The complainant, still handcuffed, was then secured to the stretcher by its three lower straps and placed in the back of the ambulance. The complainant’s behaviour became more agitated and angry as he continued to resist any assistance. The complainant continued his behaviour and, on two occasions, was taken to the hospital where he refused medical treatment. 

On both occasions, without being medically assessed, the complainant was released back into police custody. In the morning, after being transported to the courts, the Complainant was again taken to hospital because he complained of a sore jaw. 

The complainant was diagnosed at that time with a fractured jaw on his right side and with non-displaced nasal bone fractures. 

The complainant alleged that he was punched in the face by a police officer while secured to the hospital bed during his first visit to the hospital, after he spit in a police officer’s face at the hospital. 

In actual fact, while in the back of the ambulance and handcuffed, the complainant freed his legs from the restraints. Due to the complainant’s assaultive behaviour, and because he was damaging equipment, the SO then delivered one or two quick short jabs or punches to the face of the complainant, which allowed police officers and paramedics to secure the complainant to the gurney. 

The complainant was diagnosed with a fractured right jaw (mandibular fracture) and nasal bone. A plastic surgeon performed surgery because the complainant’s teeth were not fitting, or lining up together, properly. 

Braces were put on the complainant’s upper and lower teeth and his entire jaw was wired shut. The complainant’s prognosis was described as good and his jaw was expected to heal properly. 

Loparco said that based on all of the evidence, it appears that the complainant most likely received his injury when he fell, either when he fell off of his bicycle onto the icy ground, at which time he also injured the upper right side of his face, as was observed by all of the civilian witnesses prior to the arrival of either police or ambulance, or when (if) he was struck by a car, or when he threw himself at a car, or when he threw himself into the ditch landing on his head and stomach, or any of the many times that he fell, both when observed by the civilian witnesses, or on any prior occasion when no one was present. 

“On this record, I find that the evidence does not satisfy me that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the complainant received his injury when he was punched on the opposite side of the face by the SO, in the ambulance,” Loparco said.

“If, however, that was the cause of his fracture, I take the expert opinion of the surgeon to be that the amount of force used by the SO was far less, because of the distance between the fracture site and where the blow was delivered, than what would have been required to fracture the jaw with a direct blow. As such, if the SO did cause the fracture, I accept that he did not use an excessive amount of force to do so.”

Read Loparco's full report here.