Tag Archives: Ottawa

Two Die Following Police Pursuit Near Ottawa (July 7, 2019)

Two people, a 36-year-old man and a 62-year-old woman have been killed in a six-car crash following a police pursuit on July 7, 2019 on Highway 417 near Ottawa. Officers of the Ottawa Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) had initiated pursuit of a vehicle driven by the 36-year-old victim.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU, the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario) reports that the crash incident was initiated with a call from a man reporting that his daughter had been abused by a family friend at a Kanata hotel. This means the identity of the alleged suspect was known and under Ontario rules a police pursuit should not have been undertaken (where a suspect’s identity is known).

The SIU has designated one Ottawa police officer as the subject of its investigation, and also identified three other “witness officers,” two of whom are OPP officers. The agency assigned three investigators, two forensic specialists, and a collision reconstruction expert to its investigation team.

According to Ottawa defence lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, the main job for the SIU is to determine why the pursuit was launched given the identity of the suspect was known to police. While rules govern when a suspect should be pursued, Greenspon notes that too often those regulations are not followed. He outlines the too regular script followed by police:

“Every time there’s a crash like this it’s the same story: ‘We started the pursuit and it was stopped before the fatal collision took place.’ The big question here that needs to be answered is: Why were they chasing him in the first place? If they knew his identity, why start chasing him?” (quoted in Duffy, Yogaretnam, Gillis, and Miller 2019).

In Ottawa, the police service’s policy “requires that officers only engage in a pursuit if they believe a crime has been committed and if there’s no alternative for apprehending a suspect who poses a threat to public safety” (Duffy, Yogaretnam, Gillis, and Miller 2019).

 

Further Reading

Duffy, Andrew, Shaamini Yogaretnam, Megan Gillis, and Jacquie Miller. 2019. “Updated — Highway 417 Crash: Vehicle Pursuit Stemmed from Sexual Assault Investigation.” Ottawa Citizen July 9. https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/multi-vehicle-crash-closes-westbound-highway-417-at-panmure-road


Killer Ottawa Cops Identified as Thanh Tran and Daniel Vincelette: Shot Greg Ritchie of Saugeen First Nation

Greg Ritchie, a 30-year-old Ojibwe man from Saugeen First Nation near Owen Sound, Ontario, has been identified as the man shot and killed by Ottawa police on January 31. Family members have spoken publicly to say he was experiencing mental health crises and was heading to a pharmacy to pick up medication when he was shot and killed by police. The responding officers have been identified as Ottawa constables Thanh Tran and Daniel Vincelette. Witnesses have reported hearing more than two shots. Tran is a repeat offender. He and another officer had been charged, in September 2011, with assault causing bodily harm following the arrest of an intoxicated 50-year-old homeless man.

Family members say Ritchie, who had been taken from his mother and placed in foster care, had struggled with mental health issues from a young age. He had moved to Ottawa to live with his brother and his partner. Ritchie’s sister-in-law reports that he was in good spirits the morning he was killed, having received his Ontario Disability Support Program payment and going out for a coffee. He then set out to get his medication, suffering a headache and recovering from a concussion. He had been a customer at the pharmacy at Elmvale Acres Mall since arriving in Ottawa.

Police allegedly received a call about a “suspicious incident.” This is a painfully poignant description given that Ritchie’s family says he had an ongoing fear that people viewed him suspiciously because of the way he looked and because of his Indigenous identity.

In the words of his sister-in-law, Chantel Ritchie:

“And the thing is, that’s not the kind of guy he is. He gets scared…and that’s the saddest part. We know that he was in complete and utter terror in a moment like that. He’s scared of just going into a grocery store…of just being in a crowd, because he’s afraid that people want to do something to him or don’t like him because of the way he looks.

“And honestly, we’ve seen it. People just take one look and that’s it. He’s First Nations, he’s been homeless before, and he is afraid. People just take all of that in one look and then make assumptions and then act on it. And it just really hurts that we weren’t there to be able to calm him down because there’s no way that any of this would have happened if we were there. There’s no way.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

Chantal Ritchie says Greg Ritchie felt better around family and was very involved in learning about his culture. She worries that cultural materials he carried with him might have been misinterpreted as weapons by the police who killed him. In her words:

“I could tell right away he suffered from mental illness, but when he was around family he was very happy. He was very into his culture and learning about his ancestors. He did sometimes exhibit that he feels the pain of what happened to his people…but he was just happy to be around family and to be at powwows and helping at those events.

“He was sometimes hired to keep sacred fires going at ceremonies, and spent time in woods and rivers looking for arrowheads. It also comforted him to recreate arrowheads and other artifacts.

“Those things he keeps on his person because it makes him feel safe. We always tell him, don’t bring it with you anywhere, because we were afraid of this very thing happening.” (quoted in CBC News 2019)

One witness, Shireen Moodley, reports hearing multiple rapid-fire gunshots

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2019. “Greg Ritchie ID’d as Man Shot and KIlled by Police at Mall.” CBC News. February 1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-fatal-police-shooting-family-1.5000285


Ottawa Police Shoot and Kill 30-Year-Old-Man at Elmvale Mall (Jan. 31, 2019)

Ottawa police shot and killed a 30-year-old man early in the morning of January 31, 2019. According to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the unit that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, police were called to the area of the Elmvale Mall on St. Laurent Blvd at around 7:53 AM. The reason for the call was allegedly a report of “a suspicious person.” At the time of this initial report, no details have been released publicly on what made the person suspicious. At around 8:00 AM shots were fired, and the victim was killed. The SIU has confirmed that a police officer shot the victim.


Ottawa Constable Aaron Reichert Identified as Killer Cop Who Shot Raymond Alliman in June 2017

The Ottawa police tactical officer who shot and killed Raymond Alliman (31) in the morning of June 3, 2017 has been identified as Constable Aaron Reichert. Reichert fired nine shots at Alliman, hitting the man in the head and killing him, in a parking garage after pursuing Alliman from the city’s Byward Market. Alliman was suspected of shooting two men and killing one.

In May, 2018, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, cleared Reichert of any wrongdoing in the killing of Raymond Alliman. The SIU reported that only 76 seconds passed from Reichert’s first radio dispatch saying he thought he had heard a gunshot (with no suspect identified) to the constable telling dispatch about a second shooting. The SIU report suggests that Alliman had opportunities to fire at Reichert but did not. Alliman was pronounced dead at the scene.


Man Shot and Killed by Ottawa Police (Feb. 25, 2018)

A man was shot and killed by officers of the Ottawa Police Service late Sunday evening, February 25, 2018. According to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, the man was fatally shot near a grocery store west of the city’s downtown. At least five Ottawa Police Service vehicles were reported seen in the parking lot of the Metro grocery store at the intersection of Wellington Street West and Carleton Avenue. The SIU confirmed near 10 PM that someone had been killed in an interaction with police. People in the area reported hearing three gunshots. It has also been reported that there was a stabbing, or stabbings, as the grocery store. No further details have yet been provided.


Provincial Police Kill Babak Saidi Inside Morrisburg Detachment, Release Few Details (Dec. 23, 2017)

Many disturbing questions remain after Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) shot and killed 43-year-old Babak Saidi inside the detachment in Morrisburg, Ontario on Saturday, December 23, 2017. Saidi, who experienced schizophrenia, was under conditions to check in weekly at the detachment following a 2014 conviction for assault and battery. He had been making those weekly check-ins regularly before something went deeply wrong during the December 23 check-in. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that investigates police harm to civilians in Ontario, is investigating. They have assigned seven investigators to the scene. Morrisburg is 80 milometers south of the nation’s capital, Ottawa.

Babak Saidi headed to the Saturday morning check-in with a tin full of freshly baked muffins, a Christmas gift for his father and a family friend who were providing his ride to the detachment. For family, the muffins were a sign that Babak Saidi was in a good mood. Hi sister, Elly Saidi remembers him fondly: “My brother, he was the kindest, sweetest, most loving person. He had a mental disability, and we need to know how to deal with a person with mental disability” (quoted in Pritchard 2017).

Few details have been released publicly regarding what happened at the detachment, but his sister has provided her father’s view of events as he experienced and witnessed them. Elly Saidi reports that, according to her father, the three were told to wait about 15 minutes when they arrived at the police station. They decided to go do some grocery shopping, and when they returned, Babak Saidi left the car to go inside. In very short order the father would see his son the ground, with two officers on top of him. Babak Saidi was taken into the detachment by officers and, according to the father, two shots were heard within two minutes. The SIU has confirmed that Babak Saidi was the person struck by the officer fired shots and that he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Oddly,  a police officer then told Saidi’s father and his friend to go to a nearby Tim Hortons and wait until someone arrived to explain what happened. After a few hours, police finally arrived to deliver an awful message in an apparently cold manner. According to Elly Saidi: “They waited for a few hours, and then the police came. My dad asked the police, ‘Where is my son?’ And the police officer told my dad that, sorry, your son is gone” (quoted in Pritchard 2017).

This was all the family was told about what happened, a full ten hours after the shooting. The family says this delay and the ongoing lack of information are “unacceptable.” They are, sadly, too common in cases of police killings of civilians in Canada.

In Elly Said’s words: “I have to be strong for my parents. It’s very hard to see my mom and my dad crying and being heartbroken. My mom was sitting in a corner of the room, hugging my brother’s picture. And all she’s saying is, ‘I don’t know what happened. I don’t know where his body is’” (quoted in Pritchard 2017). A worker with homeless youth in Ottawa, she says she needs to speak out because of the numerous cases of police violence, including lethal violence, inflicted on people with mental health issues in Canadian contexts. Reflecting on police in Canada, she says:

“They have absolutely no tools and no awareness to deal with people with mental disability. Too many people with mental disabilities have died at the hands of the police. They need to have education and awareness [of] how to deal with people with mental disability. And not [assume] they’re all bad and a menace to society.” (quoted in Pritchard 2017)

The SIU has reported that they will be interviewing the subject officer as well as 10 officers who were witnesses. One can only imagine how police witnesses to police killings will report events. There have been issues with timelines for interviewing police officers following police involved killings, with no assurances that officers will not compare and fix their stories.

 

Further Reading

Pritchard, Trevor. 2017. “Family Demands Answers After Fatal Shooting in Morrisburg, Ont. OPP Detachment.” CBC News. December 23. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/family-demands-answers-after-fatal-shooting-at-morrisburg-ont-opp-detachment-1.4463915

 


Killer Cop Daniel Montsion’s Lawyer Claims Vicious Beating Did Not Kill Abdirahman Abdi

There used to be an old saying, “Help the police, beat yourself up.” Now Michael Edelson, the lawyer for killer Ottawa cop Daniel Montsion, wants a court and the public to believe that the vicious beating his client inflicted on 37-year-old Abdirahman Abdi had nothing to do with killing him. Instead, he suggests Abdi died of a heart attack. And he apparently wants people to believe that, even if he did have a heart attack, a severe beating with baton by police did not play a part in it. So, according to copagandist Edelson, Abdi is responsible for his own death: not the brutal assault he was subjected to. Maybe he beat himself to death.

Edelson made these absurd and offensive claims in an attempt to move up the court date for officer Montsion. According to audio court transcripts from the October 20 hearing, Edelson suggested: “This is not a beating that caused the death of Mr. Abdi. Mr. Abdi died of a heart attack. That’s what killed him.” Montsion has been charged with manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault with a weapon in the killing of Abdi in July 2016.

The lawyer’s request to move the trial date was denied. The 12-week trial remains scheduled to start in February 2019, which is almost three years after Abdi’s killing.


Letter From SIU Head to Ottawa Police Chief Raises Questions About Transparency and “Old Boy” Favors in Investigations

Two officers of the Ottawa Police Service were involved in a car chase that ended with the death of 24-year-old Alex Cross and an unnamed 39-year-old on April 12, 2016. Cross was killed when a Pontiac G6 plowed into his car on the city’s Vanier Parkway, throwing him and a 21-year-old woman from the vehicle. The woman was  seriously injured. The driver of the G6 died in hospital eight months after the crash. The two officers had chased the G6. They have never been named publicly.

Now the Ottawa Citizen has gained access to a letter sent to Ottawa’s police chief, Charles Bordeleau, by the head of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines police harm to civilians, offering a stern rebuke of the two officers and raises significant questions about the training that police officers receive and the transparency of investigations into police.

 

The “Old Boys” Letter

The letter from SIU head Tony Loparco to Chief Bordeleau, states that the police chase “clearly” broke Ottawa Police Service policy and “likely also ran afoul” of the provincial regulations that govern police chases, specifically of Ontario Regulation 266/10 under the Police Services Act (Shaw 2017). Additionally, the letter points out that the two officers were “long overdue” for their driver training (Shaw 2017).

Notably the letter was dated April 21, 2017, which was about a month before the two officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Special Investigations Unit, the very unit that is raising these issues and reporting them, not publicly but only to the chief of the officers’ force. This raises deep concerns and questions about the transparency of the SIU, its insiders practices and friendly relationships with the forces it is supposed to be independently investigating, favoritism toward killer cops, and the lack of public accountability for police and for the SIU.

This letter was only obtained through the efforts of the Citizen and its filing of a freedom of information request. Loparco’s concerns about the force were not communicated publicly, only to police, and did not seem to inform the SIU assessment of the officers’ actions or the SIU’s decision to let them off, odd given the issues raised by the SIU’s own director in his letter.

 

The “Investigation”: Chasing Training

Four SIU investigators and two forensics investigators were assigned to the case. They interviewed nine civilian witnesses and five witness police officers. On May 17, 2017, thirteen months after the crash, the SIU absolved the two officers of even any suggestion of wrongdoing. Said the SIU news releases at the time: “There is no basis whatsoever to hold either of the two subject officers responsible for the terrible outcomes of the motor vehicle collision” (Shaw 2017).

Yet, this finding is in complete contradiction with Loparco’s own review and assessment of the officer’s actions in this case as communicated to Chief Bordeleau. Loparco’s letter states that, if not for a senior officer calling off the chase, the two officers could have been in criminal jeopardy and this was a “pursuit that never should have occurred” (Shaw 2017).

According to the Ottawa Police Service, its Suspect Apprehension Pursuit policy was developed in conjunction with provincial guidelines that all Ontario police services must follow (Laucius 2017). All officers involved in pursuits are required to have successfully completed a course in pursuit driver training which is approved by the Ontario Police College and they must complete refresher training every two years (Lauicius 2017). Yet the two officers in this case did not follow the policies. Said Loparco, in his letter: “It is my hope that as Chief of the Ottawa Police Service, you will revisit the training that these two subject officers have received” (quoted in Shaw 2017). Yet, really, what does it matter if police disregard policies leading to the deaths and injuries of multiple civilians if they face no negative consequences for their actions?

 

Questions

It is still not known why one officer made the decision to try to stop the Pontiac G6 around 1:15 AM that morning. All that has been said publicly is that it was for “licensing and regulatory” reasons (Shaw 2017). There was no criminal offence suspected. Yet Ottawa police policy only allows for chases in criminal cases, and a handful of other restrictive conditions (Shaw 2017). The officer who initiated the pursuit was not conducting a criminal investigation and already had the license plate number for the G6. Loparco noted that the Ottawa police list of requirements for engaging in a pursuit includes:  “an identified criminal offence; no other alternative for apprehension; a threat to public safety; the vehicles involved in the pursuit are marked and the police officers involved have successfully completed police college driver training and refresher every two years” (Lauicius 2017). The first officer even radioed for assistance leading another officer to join the chase. A road sergeant had to make two calls for the officers to end their pursuit.

In Loparco’s words, the road sergeant insulted the officers from charges but he does not say why since the officers did initiate and pursue a chase improperly. Said Loparco:

 

“I commend him for his commitment to public safety. I am also hopeful that the officers under his command appreciate that his directions insulated them from criminal jeopardy in these circumstances. Their imprudent actions could well have grounded dangerous driving or criminal negligence charges if they had persisted in a pursuit that should never have happened in the first place.” (quoted in Laucius 2017)

 

Here is the thing. The fact that the chase was initiated in “the absence of a criminal investigation,” as Loparco notes in his letter, means, by definition, that the two officers in pursuit broke both their own force’s rules, as well as possibly violating provincial police chase regulations as established in the Police Services Act.

Why did SIU head Loparco raise these serious issues privately with the chief of the force involved, but never publicly? Why did Loparco identify these serious violations yet absolve the officers in spite of his knowledge, beforehand, of these violations?

While the SIU director often sends a background letter to the chief of police in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred, outlining any concerns the director has about the case, after a case ends, this letter was sent beforehand.

 

Conclusion

Where there are questions about a police officer’s actions under terms of the Ontario Police Act, a police chief or a victim’s family member can request an investigation by the Office Of Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). This office is responsible for receiving, managing, and overseeing public complaints about police in Ontario (Laucius 2017).

At present, there is no legislative mechanism for the SIU to notify OIPRD about concerns it has regarding  misconduct or neglect of duty involving police (Laucius 2017). In consultations with Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch, who led a recent review of police oversight in Ontario, it has been recommended that the SIU be made a “direct complainant” to OIPRD or the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (Laucius 2017).

This case offers some important insights into the nature of police “oversight” in the Canadian state context. It shows the secrecy of investigations into police and the lack of accountability in even obvious or basic situations of police violations of their own limited regulations. It also shows the friendly “old boys” networking that exists between investigative bodies and the police they are supposed to investigate. The state protects the state and informs its members instead of the public.

 

Further Reading

Dawson, Tyler. 2017. “Private Letter to Bordeleau Reveals Officers Lacked Training in Night of Horrific Crash.” Ottawa Citizen. October 19. http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/dawson-training-needed-on-police-pursuit-policies

Laucius, Joanne. 2017. “SIU Director Sent Scathing Letter to Ottawa Chief Over Downtown Chase.” Ottawa Sun. October 18. http://www.ottawasun.com/2017/10/18/siu-director-sent-scathing-letter-to-ottawa-chief-over-downtown-police-chase


High Speed OPP Police Chase Results in Death of Sheila Walsh (Sept. 25, 2017, Arnprior)

A high speed police chase by members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) ended in the death of Sheila Walsh (65), who was not the target of the chase. The driver of the pursued vehicle, a pickup truck, crashed into the vehicle being driven by Walsh with the truck bursting into flames. Walsh was declared dead at the scene. After the crash police told neighbors to evacuate their homes because of gasoline spilling out at the scene.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which examines harm to civilians by police in Ontario, is investigating the high-speed pursuit and how OPP officers responded to the situation. According to the SIU, police claim that at about 3:20 PM on September 25, 2017, the OPP responded to a call about a reportedly stolen vehicle in Eganville, around 130 kilometers west of Ottawa. The 20-year-old driver of the vehicle in question headed toward Arnprior on Highway 60, then to Highway 17, where the OPP began their pursuit. The truck collided with Welsh’s car a bit after 4 PM as she was pulling from her driveway on Daniel Street.

The SIU has assigned five investigators, two forensic investigators, and one collision reconstructionist to investigate the crash and the circumstances leading to it. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed. It is known that the risky and careless police decision to pursue enforcement of property rights has led to the death of a civilian.

One witness put it in clearly sensible term, In the words of Eric Bayley, a Bell Canada worker who observed the chase and crash while working:

 

“The chase should never have happened. If the guy robbed a bank they would have got him sooner or later. It was a stolen vehicle. Big freakin’ deal. Now a poor grandmother, mother, sister is dead. There’s no … way in hell those cops should have been chasing them down that … road.” (quoted in Crawford and Gillis 2017)

 

Continued Bayley:

“There had to have been eight cop cars and three Suburbans wide open going down Daniel Street. It could have been a lot worse. I was talking to my buddy on the phone and I was like, ‘Holy s—t. This is not going to go well.’ He said, ‘What’s going on?’ and I said, ‘There’s a high-speed chase. There’s cruiser after cruiser after cruiser.’” (quoted in Crawford and Gillis 2017)

 

Indeed, a  flag worker on construction site the chase plowed through had to leap to safety.

Ontario’s Police Services Act sets out the rules governing police pursuits. According to the Act, police can pursue or continue pursuit “if the police officer has reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed or is about to be committed; or for the purposes of motor vehicle identification or the identification of an individual in the vehicle.” The Act also further states police must continually weigh whether “the immediate need to apprehend an individual in the fleeing motor vehicle or the need to identify the fleeing motor vehicle or an individual in the fleeing motor vehicle outweighs the risk to public safety that may result from the pursuit.” Dispatch must be notified of the pursuit and the (Crawford and Gillis 2017).

 

Further Reading

Crawford, Blair and Megan Gillis. 2017. “Eganville Man Faces  Charges After Woman Killed in Crash During Police Chase.” Ottawa Citizen September 27.  http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/witness-describes-devastating-and-deadly-arnprior-crash


Ottawa Police Kill 31-Year-Old Man in Byward Market (June 3, 2017)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating after an Ottawa police officer was involved in an exchange in which two people were killed and one left injured. The details of the killings have not been released publicly but it has been reported by the SIU that a 31-year-old man was killed during an exchange of gunfire with police and another man, 43 years old, was killed during the police pursuit. None of these reports have been independently confirmed. The incident is said to have taken place around 2 AM on the morning of Saturday, June 3 in Ottawa’s popular downtown Byward Market area, a tourist destination not far from the Parliament buildings. The 31-year-old victim was chased by the police officer into a parking garage before he was killed. The injured man was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Incredibly, Mathieu Fleury, the city councillor for the market area, wasted no time in playing up the drugs and gangs panics that are often trotted out to justify police violence. In a written statement provided to CBC News, Fleury said the incident “is reflective of the drug and gang activity across our city” (quoted in 2017). This is nothing more than crass fear politics and there is so far nothing to suggest it has any relation to the present case. Neither the SIU nor the Ottawa police have claimed that the Saturday shootings are in any way drug or gang related. The claim is not new though and has been used by the Calgary police chief to justify multiple police killings of civilians in that city (even where they have nothing to do with drugs or gangs).

The SIU has assigned 10 officers to the investigation: three investigators and seven forensics investigators. In addition to the subject officer, two witness officers from the Ottawa police have been identified.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “2 Dead, 1 Injured after Shootout in Byward Market.” CBC News. June 3. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/2-dead-byward-market-shooting-1.4144867