OPP 'aware' of audio posted online, says evidence to be put before the courts
Audio from the deadly police shooting of a father and toddler in Kawartha Lakes, Ont., is casting new light on the moments before police opened fire and what they might have known heading into the encounter.
The recording of police radio chatter shows officers were told there was a child in the truck they were pursuing through the mostly rural community on Nov. 26, 2020, and that, according to one officer, the driver had put a gun to his own head.
The pursuit sprang from a reported child abduction earlier that day and ended with the fatal shooting of both 18-month-old Jameson Shapiro and his 33-year-old father, and left an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer seriously injured.
Ontario's police watchdog said Wednesday three officers have been charged in the shooting — with one count each of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death — in the child's death.
The audio was recorded by Shawn Salo, a freelance journalist who runs the site Peterborough Scanner Feed, which posts the radio communications of emergency services in the community northeast of Toronto.
"I hope by releasing this recording it helps you understand the situation a little better," Salo wrote upon posting the 12-minute recording to YouTube.
CBC News is not running the video in its entirety as some may find it disturbing.
'There's a child in that vehicle,' dispatcher tells police before fatal shooting
Early on in a 12-minute police scanner recording, a dispatcher tells Ontario Provincial Police there is a child in the vehicle they are pursuing. The recording of the November 2020 incident was posted online a day after charges were laid against three officers in 18-month-old Jameson Shapiro's death.
'He's pretty desperate'
The recording begins with officers looking for the father and his rust-coloured Toyota Tundra.
Early on, a female voice, who appears to be the dispatcher, alerts officers that there is a child in the truck.
"Units be advised there's a child in that vehicle. There's a child in that vehicle," she says.
Moments later, an officer following the truck warns another who is awaiting it: "He's pretty desperate … he had a gun to his head."
"I've got a negotiator on standby," the female says.
Police note the man they are pursuing appears 'desperate' in scanner recording
As their pursuit continues, an officer is heard in the police scanner recording noting that the driver of the vehicle seems "desperate" and had pointed a gun to his head. The recording was posted online a day after three Ontario Provincial Police officers were charged in the 2020 fatal shooting of 18-month-old Jameson Shapiro.
About a minute later, police are heard requesting a canine unit and a helicopter.
The pursuit continues along Pigeon Lake Road — with the driver maintaining about 170 kilometres per hour, according to officers — when they are told to "back off" and give the suspect vehicle space. Police at this point seem to be guiding the vehicle toward a spike belt.
Seconds later, a loud crash is heard followed by moaning.
Another person is heard yelling, "Drop it!" before gunfire — approximately seven shots.
"Shots fired, shots fired! Officer down!" one officer is heard yelling.
That's followed by another set of loud bangs — it's unclear if they're gunfire — followed by silence for several moments. The next two minutes is mostly silence and garbled audio.
Around the 8:25 mark, someone is heard calling for paramedics.
"An ambulance is en route," the dispatcher advises.
Officers opened fire
CBC Toronto attempted to independently verify the recording, sharing it with OPP.
OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson confirmed the force is "aware that the dispatch audio is online."
"It would be inappropriate for me to provide any information regarding the injuries suffered by our member. All of the details will be part of the evidence presented in court," Dickson said in an email.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has previously said officers had been trying to intercept the father's truck when it crashed into an OPP cruiser and another car on Pigeon Lake Road. One officer who was standing outside the cruiser at the time was seriously hurt in the process, the SIU previously said, but provided no further detail.
Three officers then opened fire, striking the boy inside the truck and his father, according to the SIU.
The boy was pronounced dead at the scene. His father was taken to hospital and died of his injuries about a week later. He has yet to be officially named by the SIU.
Police have said they found four guns at the scene, three belonging to the officers and one found near the father's truck.
The SIU said last year it had interviewed 18 police officers and 14 civilians as part of its investigation.
It said Thursday it would not comment further on the case, given it is now before the courts.
The charged officers are set to appear in court in Lindsay, Ont., on Oct. 6.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shanifa Nasser is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News interested in religion, race, national security, the justice system and stories with a heartbeat. She holds an MA in the Study of Religion from the University of Toronto. Her reporting has led to two investigative documentaries by The Fifth Estate. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
With files from John Rieti
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