OPP officer charged in fatal July 2021 shooting in Chatham-Kent following SIU investigation

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has charged an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer in connection with the shooting death of a 24-year-old man in southwestern Ontario in the summer of 2021.

The police watchdog said officers with Chatham-Kent OPP were initially called around 4:30 a.m. on July 7, 2021 for a theft at a local gasoline station.

Officers later spotted the vehicle involved in the theft travelling west on Highway 401 and pursued it, the SIU said.

At some point, the vehicle crashed into a ditch dividing the highway and one officer approached it.

The SIU said an interaction occurred, resulting in the officer shooting the driver.

He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In the news release issued Friday, the SIU said that following the investigation into the incident, Director Joseph Martino found reasonable grounds to believe that the officer committed criminal offences.

The SIU announced Friday that Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Const. Sean O’Rourke is facing one count of manslaughter and one count of criminal negligence causing death in the fatal shooting in Chatham-Kent.

The constable was arrested Friday and was released on an undertaking with conditions, the SIU said.

“As the matter is before the courts, and in consideration of the fair trial interests of the accused, the SIU will not provide further comment on the investigation.”

O’Rourke is scheduled to appear in a Chatham court next month.

The SIU is called in to investigate whenever police are involved in a death, serious injury, sexual assault allegations or the discharge of a firearm at a person.

The union representing OPP officers released a statement in support of O’Rourke, saying he and his fellow officers who responded to the incident “acted in the good faith performance of their duties.”

“Our members have cooperated as mandated by law with the investigation led by the Special Investigations Unit. It was an absolutely tragic event. Our lawyers will vigorously defend the actions of our officer in a court of law,” OPP Association President Rob Stinson said in the statement.

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