SIU clears Toronto officer who punched teen in face six times
Blows broke his jaw during arrest for attempted break-in
ABHIRAJ LAMBA STAFF REPORTER
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit has found no “reasonable grounds” to conclude a Toronto police officer committed a crime when he repeatedly punched a teenager in the face during an arrest, breaking the 15-year old’s jaw.
In a report posted on the provincial police watchdog’s website, SIU director Joseph Martino said he “was unable to conclude with any confidence that the officer comported himself other than within the limits of the criminal law throughout” the July 2023 arrest.
According to the SIU, police were called after the teen attempted to break into a unit in an apartment building near Jane Street and Finch Avenue West, slashing at the door with a knife.
Four officers, with weapons drawn, ordered the teen to drop his knife. He initially refused and instead demanded the officers drop their weapons. After “several seconds” of back and forth, the teen dropped the knife by his feet and stepped back when directed to do so, but refused to move to the wall across the hall at the officers’ request, the report states.
The teen was then taken to the ground by two officers, one of whom punched him three times on the side of the head. Around the same time, another officer, while straddling the teen’s exposed left side, delivered several punches to his torso. “Two to three seconds” later, according to the report, the first officer punched the teen’s head three more times.
The officers then handcuffed the teen, who was taken to hospital where he was treated for a fractured jaw.
Martino stated that the first three punches to the head fell “within the range of what was reasonable in the circumstances,” adding that the teen had “proven defiant” and “the officer would have had cause to be concerned that the (teen) might still be armed.”
Martino’s report raised questions about the second volley of punches.
“Strictly speaking, I do not think it was objectively necessary to strike those additional blows,” he wrote.
The officer refused to be interviewed by the SIU, which is his legal right. He did provide his notes from the arrest, in which he said he believed the suspect had pinned his arm against his chest, resisting the officers’ efforts to put him in handcuffs, necessitating the three additional punches.
In fact, the SIU concluded, the teen’s arm was folded by his chest at the time.
“Given the tension of the moment, and the speed with which events unfolded, this piece of evidence leads me to conclude that the (officer’s) mistake was reasonable in the circumstances,” Martino wrote.
“In all of this, I am also mindful that an officer caught up in volatile situations is not expected to measure their responsive force with precision.”
Martino added that the other officer’s punches were legally justified for “essentially the same reasons.”
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited