The province’s Special Investigations Unit has cleared Ontario Provincial Police officers of fault in the suicide death of an Alfred man who burned down his home last February.
On February 11, 2020, OPP were called to a Devista Boulevard home in the village to assist a sheriff who was there to enforce an eviction notice. When an officer spoke with the man inside the home, he told them he had several firearms inside the house and indicated he would rather die than leave his home. As a result, a decision was made to set up containment around the property.
At about 12:30 pm, the man was seen opening a front window and closing the blinds to the same window. Within minutes, flames were seen within the home and smoke was billowing from the window.
Firefighters arrived on the scene, but initially were forced to stay back due to the possibility of firearms and the man’s state of mind. By the time they were able to attack the fire the roof of the home was already starting to cave in. Once the fire was extinguished, police entered the property and discovered the 50-year-old man’s body in the basement, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
After examining all evidence, the Director of the Special Investigations Unit, Joseph Martino, determined there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any officer committed a criminal offence in connection with the man’s death.
“True to his word, the Complainant decided to take his life rather than vacate his home,” Martino wrote in his official report. “The only issue is whether there was any want of care on the part of the police which contributed to the Complainant’s death and was so egregious as to attract criminal sanction. In my view, there was not.”
Once they had arrived and observed the man’s behavior, the officers had cause to remain at the scene to deal with what had developed into a potential threat to public safety, including the complainant’s health and well-being, Martino wrote. He also found the officers conducted themselves professionally, as they attempted to keep the lines of communication open and subsequently withdrew from the scene once they lost sight of the man.
Evidence presented in the investigation established the officers acted reasonably in their attempts to dissuade the man from committing any harmful behavior. Consequently, there is no basis for proceeding with criminal charges in the case and the file is now closed.