News / Canada

Sault Ste. Marie cop who fractured suspect's ribs did not use excessive force: SIU

SAULT STE MARIE, Ont. — Ontario's police watchdog says it will not lay charges against a Sault Ste. Marie police officer who punched a suspect during an arrest, causing a chain of injuries that required a medically induced coma.

The Special Investigations Unit says officers were called to a home to investigate a domestic situation in the evening of March 26.

The SIU says the officers saw broken glass and blood on the floor, several crushed beer cans and a 54-year-old man who appeared to be intoxicated.

The agency says the officers found the man was in breach of recognizance that barred him from drinking, and told him he was under arrest.

It says the man ignored instructions to stand up, turn around and put his hands behind his back, and struggled as one of the officers pushed him against the couch and tried to handcuff him.

The SIU says the officer warned the man not to struggle and then delivered a single punch to the man's left side when the warning went unheeded.

It says officers managed to handcuff the man, who then complained of pain in his ribs.

Tests later found he had several fractures and one of his fractured ribs perforated his left lung, causing swelling in his chest, neck and face — a condition called subcutaneous emphysema.

That, in turn, triggered the rupture of a pre-existing gastrointestinal ulcer, the SIU says.

The rupture and internal bleeding caused sepsis, requiring that the man be placed in a medically induced coma. 

SIU director Tony Loparco says the rib fracture was "the catalyst that set into motion a series of medical complications of increasing severity," but stressed the officer was conducting a lawful arrest and did not use excessive force.

"He cautioned the man that he would be struck if he continued to resist, yet the man persisted in his actions. Once the single strike was delivered, no other force was employed," he said in a statement.

"The strike was delivered so that the officers could gain control of the man and handcuff him, and that end was achieved. My conclusion is that the force was both necessary and reasonable in the circumstances."