Complaints Commission Releases Report into RCMP Shooting Death of Mr. John Simon, Wagmatcook, Nova Scotia, December 2, 2008
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The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Commission) has released its independent investigation report into the December 2, 2008, shooting death of Mr. John Simon in Wagmatcook, Nova Scotia.
The RCMP was alerted to reports that Mr. Simon was intoxicated, suicidal, and had access to firearms. One of the responding members entered Mr. Simon's residence and, when Mr. Simon continued to raise his rifle towards the member, fatally shot him.
The Commission's report examined all RCMP member conduct associated with the tragic incident itself and subsequent investigations.
Our report reveals that the intentions of the RCMP members who responded to the Wagmatcook 911 call that day were clearly aimed at peacefully defusing the situation. However, errors in judgment and poor decision-making played a significant role in how the incident ultimately cost Mr. Simon his life.
One area of profound public concern related to this case was the application of the RCMP disciplinary process, or lack thereof. The Interim Commission Chair, Ian McPhail, Q.C., considered it in the public interest to also examine the conduct of RCMP managers in the discharge of their duties in relation to the RCMP Code of Conduct.
Our investigation revealed a number of troubling details surrounding the often confusing and uncoordinated way RCMP managers approached examining the conduct of the members involved. The Commission was unable to fairly assess the reasonableness of the RCMP decision to not launch disciplinary proceedings. The RCMP did not provide any records which demonstrated the matter was properly considered within the one-year limitation period.
The Commission recommended a red flag system to avoid a repeat of this situation. The RCMP has already issued a directive to all Commanding Officers on this issue.
The RCMP has accepted 10 of the Commission's 12 findings and agreed with all 11 recommendations.
- Constable Bernard placed himself at unnecessary risk by failing to wait for the backup that had been called out prior to attending the Simon residence.
- The RCMP disagrees and feels it was not unreasonable for the member to have approached the residence to assess the situation. The CPC stands by its finding.
- The senior on-scene RCMP member (Staff Sergeant Thompson) failed to ensure that an adequate operational plan was put in place to respond to the disturbance at the Simon residence, nor was it understood by members.
- Staff Sergeant Thompson permitted RCMP members to place Mr. Simon and themselves in unnecessary jeopardy.
- Staff Sergeant Thompson failed to order Constable Frenette to pull back from the Simon residence (when he knew or ought to have known that Constable Frenette was contemplating an entry into the house to apprehend Mr. Simon).
- The RCMP disagrees with this finding but acknowledges that Staff Sergeant Thompson ought to have made clear that Constable Frenette and others were not to take such action without his express instructions. The CPC stands by its finding.
- Constable Frenette acted in an inappropriate manner by deciding to enter the Simon residence with no clear instructions, notice to other members, backup, means of escape or operational plan.
Shooting death of Mr. Simon
- Upon entering the Simon residence, Constable Frenette had sufficient grounds to believe his life was in jeopardy when confronted by Mr. Simon. The use of lethal force was justified in response to a raised rifle aimed at Constable Frenette by Mr. Simon.
- Physical evidence from the scene is consistent with a weapon being aimed at Constable Frenette when he fired his service pistol at Mr. Simon.
- One of Constable Frenette's bullets struck the stock of Mr. Simon's rifle — revealing the angle at which it was being held at the time.
- Mr. Simon's weapon was found to be unloaded — though a live shell was found on the floor near the weapon.
- There is no evidence of bias or subjectivity in the conduct of the RCMP Major Crime Unit investigation.
- The RCMP members involved in the investigation of this incident acted appropriately, professionally, without bias and in accordance with section 37 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.
- No training deficiencies contributing to this incident were identified.
- The RCMP failed to hold a post-critical incident meeting to identify lessons learned.
Communication with Media and the Public
- The contents of the prepared media responses to questions about the Simon case were not sufficiently fulsome and could have misled the public into believing the Integrated Critical Incident Team investigation was carried out solely by the Halifax Regional Police.
The Commission provided the RCMP with 11 recommendations aimed at avoiding similar incidents in the future. The recommendations range from remedial individual training to a review of Force-wide training related to handling incidents of this nature.
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