Court drops charges against Ontario police officers involved in fatal shooting of 18-month-old boy in 2020

Criminal charges have been laid against the three Ontario Provincial Police officers involved in the death of a one-year-old child in Kawartha Lakes, Ont. In 2020 they have been retired.

During an appearance in Newmarket, Ontario. In court on Monday, Judge Paul L. Bellefontaine announced the dismissal of charges against OPP officers Nathan Vanderheyden, Kenneth Pengelly and Grayson Cappus. The three officers previously faced a charge of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and reckless discharge of a firearm in connection with the death of 18-month-old Jameson Shapiro.

The charges were dropped after prosecutors said they believed there would be no way to prove the officers’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury.

On November 26, 2020, Jameson was killed by police gunfire following a vehicle chase between officers and his 33-year-old father. That same day, police had been informed that Jameson’s father had kidnapped the boy, according to Ontario’s Special Investigation Unit, an independent agency that investigates police interactions that result in serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault.

Jameson died at the scene, while his father died from his injuries in hospital almost a week later. While the police watchdog said evidence suggested the officers’ shooting killed both Jameson and his father, charges were only brought against the officers in relation to the boy’s death.

Police officer seriously injured near Lindsay, Ontario

In January 2021, the SIU said the three officers who opened fire had not agreed to be interviewed and were under no legal obligation to do so. At the time, the SIU had interviewed 18 police officers and 14 civilians as part of its investigation. The officers were charged by the SIU almost two years later, in August 2022.

In a statement issued Monday morning, the Ontario Provincial Police Association said the withdrawal marked a “vindictive” outcome in a case that has been “tragic for everyone.”

“When an incident like this occurs, it affects families, the community and our entire police family.” President John Cerasuolo said in the statement. “It is our duty to serve and protect and we take that duty very seriously. Unfortunately, as police officers protect public safety in highly volatile and rapidly evolving dangerous situations, unexpected results can occur.”

Cerasuolo said the association had stated “from the beginning” that the officers involved acted professionally and “bravely,” and that it was confident the officers would not be found criminally responsible as the case progressed through the courts.

“It is important for the public to understand that if a police officer is charged with a crime, he or she has a presumption of innocence and, in this case, it has been determined that, based on the totality of the evidence, there was no reasonable prospect of conviction. “Our officers were doing their jobs in accordance with their training,” he continued.

The association encouraged those affected by the deaths to seek mental health resources available through the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Speaking to reporters after the arraignment, Pengally’s defense attorney, Joseph Markson, described a sense of relief.

“It’s the right and fair outcome,” Markson said. “We are very grateful that the system works and we always had confidence in Const. Pengally’s courage, bravery and professionalism on this tragic day.”

Attorney Joseph Markson

With files from The Canadian Press and Beth Macdonell of CTV News.

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