WATERLOO REGION, ONT.—A Waterloo Regional Police sergeant has been charged with attempted murder by the Special Investigations Unit after a man was shot in Cambridge, Ont., in March.
It’s rare for the police watchdog to criminally charge an officer in a shooting — and this is the first time in its 28-year history the SIU has laid a charge of attempted murder, spokesperson Monica Hudon said Wednesday.
Sgt. Richard Dorling, 44, a former homicide detective, is also charged with aggravated assault, discharging a firearm with intent and discharging a firearm-reckless endangerment, the SIU said in a news release.
SIU director Tony Loparco “has reasonable grounds to believe” Dorling committed criminal offences in the shooting, the SIU said.
The man who was shot “sustained injuries sufficient for the SIU to invoke their mandate,” Waterloo police said in a news release.
Dorling was arrested on Tuesday by members of the SIU, who then released him. The SIU ordered him to not communicate with the man who was shot and not possess a firearm.
Dorling has not appeared in court. He is suspended with pay.
On March 31, Hamilton police were investigating a break-in at a Flamborough property. A minivan was stolen. Hamilton police tracked it to Cambridge and notified Waterloo police, who responded.
“One of the officers located the man and there was an interaction,” the SIU said. “The officer discharged his firearm at the man several times. The man was struck one time and transported to hospital for treatment.”
The shooting happened in the late afternoon beside Hwy. 401 near Dickie Settlement Rd. in Cambridge. The man who was shot is 30 years old. He was not identified by the SIU.
“Show me your hands!” an officer shouts. “Don’t move! Put your hands in the air now!”
Seconds later, an officer shoots a suspect after chasing him through the brush beside Hwy. 401.
“Shots fired! He’s down! Show me your f–king hands! Now!” an officer shouts.
The officer continues: “Shots fired. Male’s down … Get me an ambulance please. He’s been shot in the leg.”
Before the shooting, the minivan went off the road into a field. A man ran from the minivan into the bush, carrying a bag.
Police checked the empty van and found two rifles inside. They also found open ammunition boxes with one round missing.
Officers who ran after the suspect caught up to him four minutes later. They confronted him and he was shot.
Police learned the man’s name from a bank card found on his person. A Hamilton man by the same name and age was arrested twice by Niagara police in 2015, charged with fleeing police, theft, mischief, break-and-enter, possession of stolen property and drug offences.
Waterloo police said on Wednesday that its professional standards branch “will also be conducting a review of the circumstances following the completion of the court proceedings.”
The local police service directed media enquiries to the SIU, which said that “in consideration of the fair trial interests of the accused, the SIU will make no further comment pertaining to this investigation.”
For years, Dorling was a rising star with the Waterloo police’s homicide branch, leading the effort to form a new unit dedicated to solving long-term missing person cases. In late 2008, he reopened a handful of suspicious cases, work that led him to bring more than 20 cold cases of missing persons under the authority of the homicide branch.
Dorling began re-investigating old leads and started a public awareness campaign, hoping the publicity could bring some answers to the unsolved cases. He was later taken off the cold case unit and put back on active patrol duty.
He was quoted in the Record last year on a lower-profile case — rescuing ducklings from an area freeway.
In one of few other cases in which the SIU has charged an officer for an on-duty shooting, Toronto police officer Const. James Forcillo’s was convicted of attempted murder in the 2013 death of Sammy Yatim. The 18-year-old’s death on a Toronto streetcar sparked heated protest about police use of force, in part because the shooting was captured on bystander video, then uploaded to YouTube.
In the weeks after Yatim’s death, the SIU charged Forcillo with second-degree murder. Then, before the start of the trial, prosecutors — not the SIU — laid a second, vexing charge of attempted murder in the death. The charge was specifically associated with a second volley of shots Forcillo fired, as Yatim lay on the ground, already fatally struck by the first round.
The attempted murder charge was the only one that stuck, after a jury acquitted Forcillo of second-degree murder for the first three shots. The 2016 conviction was upheld by Ontario’s Court of Appeal earlier this year; his lawyers are now attempting to try the case at the Supreme Court of Canada.
Toronto police Const. David Cavanagh was previously charged with manslaughter by the SIU, in the 2010 shooting death of Eric Osawe during a midnight search warrant. In 2012, Ontario’s Attorney General and the SIU opted to upgrade the manslaughter charge to second-degree murder, but a judge later ruled the shooting had been accidental, a decision later upheld by Ontario’s Court of Appeal.
In 2009, Winnipeg police officer Darrel Keith Selley was charged with attempted murder, stemming from a 2007 shooting that left a man with minor injuries. He was acquitted by a jury in 2013.
In May 1990, three months before the creation of the SIU, Toronto police Const. Brian Rapson was charged with attempted murder for shooting at 16-year-old Marlon Neal as he drove through a speed trap. Rapson was acquitted in 1991.
Dorling is set to appear in Kitchener court on Dec. 19.
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Gordon Paul is a reporter with the Waterloo Region Record. Email: email@example.com
With files from Wendy Gillis, Jeff Outhit, Greg Mercer, Liz Monteiro and the Star library