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Officer cleared in pursuit of stolen police cruiser that later crashed, burst into flames in Whitby

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has cleared an officer who led a chase of a stolen Durham Regional Police cruiser earlier this year.

The SIU said Durham police were originally called to a storage facility on Victoria Street in Whitby just after 7 p.m. on March 7 for reports of a male who tried to enter an office.

When police responded, one officer left his cruiser running and unattended to pursue the suspect on foot. After searching further, officers later found that the cruiser had been stolen and radioed it in, the SIU said.

The vehicle was equipped with a GPS and the subject officer later located it and began a pursuit.

Read more:
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The SIU said the stolen cruiser was eventually involved in a collision with another vehicle in the area of Garden Street and Dundas Street East, after the chase had reached high speeds and then was called off.

The cruiser burst into flames.

A 69-year-old woman and her 12-year-old grandson were injured, along with the 31-year-old male suspect, and were taken to hospital “where they were diagnosed with various fractures and other injuries,” the SIU said.

The watchdog agency investigated the case as the driver of the stolen cruiser was being pursued by officers prior to the crash.

Read more:
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The SIU is an independent agency that investigates incidents involving police that have resulted in death, serious injury, alleged sexual assault or a firearm discharge at a person.

In his decision released Monday, SIU director Joseph Martino found that the officer who led the chase of the stolen cruiser acted lawfully.

Martino said while the officer briefly pursued the stolen cruiser the wrong way down a one-way street and also at one point travelled 173 km/h in a 50 km/h zone, he noted that officers are exempt from speed limits when engaged in their duties.

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“While this does not mean that police officers may speed as they wish regardless of public safety considerations, it is a mitigating factor in the reasonableness analysis,” Martino wrote.

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“There was also some urgency in attempting to stop the cruiser as quickly as possible.”

Martino noted that a loaded rifle and ammunition were in the stolen cruiser.

Martino also noted that the high-speed chase lasted 1.7 kilometres and the officer’s “upper-end speeds occurred over the final fraction of that distance” before it was called off.

When the crash happened, the officer was about two kilometres from the intersection and the suspect “had every opportunity to slow down and resile from his reckless course had he been so inclined,” Martino added.

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“Though the [officer’s] speed was a cause for concern as he briefly pursued [the man], there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the officer comported himself other than lawfully in the course of this incident,” Martino said.

The full report can be found here.

— With files from Jessica Patton

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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