TORONTO -- An Ontario police officer who claimed he "murdered" two people in separate encounters was cleared of any wrongdoing on Monday, after the province's police watchdog found he had been in a state of medical distress when he made his frenzied claims.
The Special Investigations Unit said it had to reopen its files on two separate fatal police interactions after a Brantford Police Service officer walked into a station at 4:45 a.m. one day in December 2014 and insisted on discussing the deaths that had taken place years ago.
"The subject officer was in a state of medical distress when he attended the BPS headquarters," the SIU concluded in a lengthy statement released Monday. "His continuous discussions with the officers present was disjointed and characterized by religious and paranoid delusions."
SIU Director Tony Loparco said the officer repeatedly said he had "murdered" two men and claimed he had lied to the SIU during the oversight body's original investigations into their deaths.
"Given the enormity of these claims, the SIU immediately commenced an investigation when we were notified," Loparco said. "After a thorough review of all of the available evidence, I have concluded that there are insufficient grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed in relation to the deaths."
The SIU investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.
The two cases the officer made claims about were the drowning death of Benjamin Wood in 2009 and the shooting death of Evan Jones in 2010. The officer was involved in both incidents and was cleared by the SIU in its original investigations into each case.
Wood, 32, died after venturing out onto the ice surface of a river near the Brantford Casino. The original SIU investigation found the officer asked Wood to get off the ice and a struggle ensued between the pair before the man ran back out onto the ice, moving further into the centre of the ice-covered river until he fell through the ice.
In Jones's case, the officer was called to a domestic dispute and found the 18-year-old holding two large knives. The officer asked Jones repeatedly to drop the knives, the SIU said, and Jones held the blades to his own throat and demanded police kill him. The SIU said the officer deployed pepper spray, which had no effect, and said the man later began advancing on two officers with knives at his throat. The SIU said Jones threw one of the knives at the officers and then held a meat cleaver over his head. The SIU said the officer then shot at Jones, hitting him four times.
Despite not being charged in either incident, the officer's claims about both cases necessitated a thorough re-examination of both incidents, the SIU said.
In his claims in 2014, the officer said he had hit Woods in the head before the man ventured further out onto the ice. He also said he was unsure if Jones was armed but claimed he was counselled to lie about the position of the man's knife, the SIU said.
"He was paranoid, delusional, obsessive, dishevelled, unstable and frenzied. He made persistent references to Biblical passages, God and insisted on discussing the deaths of Mr. Wood and Mr. Jones," Loparco said. "The subject officer's state of mind at the time of his December 2014 statements is a critical variable in assessing the content of his statements."
The officer was admitted to a health-care facility on the day he made his claims, the SIU said. While at the facility, he made further comments of a similar nature to other officers who visited him, it said.
The officer didn't participate in the new SIU investigation, but the watchdog interviewed 10 police officers, some who spoke to the officer at the station and others who spoke to him at the health-care facility in addition to re-investigating the original incidents plus police communications, medical records and consultations with a forensic psychiatrist.
The SIU said the officer's statements were inconsistent and disjointed. The claims were also problematic because the other police force members he spoke to did not record their conversations, the SIU said.