It was just after 2 a.m. on April 2, 2013, when Tonie Farrell,
on her way to a convenience store, heard a woman’s screams.
“I knew somebody was in trouble. That’s my instinct,” the
48-year-old Orillia woman told the Star, explaining why she
decided to run into the darkness to help.
She said she found a woman being assaulted by three people, who
fled as she approached. Within minutes, Farrell would suffer a
shattered knee, bruises all over her body and a missing tooth,
but not at the hands of one of the assailants.
In a scathing ruling earlier this month, Ontario Court Justice
George Beatty threw out charges of assaulting and obstructing a
police officer that had been leveled against Farrell, whom he
described as simply a “Good Samaritan.” Instead, he lashed out
at the officer Farrell was charged with assaulting at the scene,
OPP Sgt. Russell Watson.
“He suffered no injury and her injuries were catastrophic,” he
Farrell said she now walks with a cane and takes daily pain
medication. She said she’s been off work since the incident, and
is living with her elderly parents.
Watson remains employed with the OPP and is not facing
disciplinary proceedings. “A statement made by a judge or a
justice during a trial of an accused is not a finding against an
officer,” OPP spokesman Sgt. Peter Leon wrote in an email.
He said Watson did not wish to comment.
Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit,
originally concluded there were no reasonable grounds to charge
Watson. Farrell and her lawyer, Angela McLeod, are pushing for
the investigation to be reopened given Beatty’s ruling. McLeod
said that if the SIU refuses, she wants the watchdog to “provide
the public with an answer as to why.”
Farrell, who had wrapped up her shift at Tim Hortons earlier
that evening, testified that she recognized the assault victim
as a former colleague, and moved her into the light. She
testified she had been at a bar before the incident, where she
had had two beers with a friend, and was on her way to get
cigarettes and snacks.
“I was shocked, and she was hysterical. I wanted to find out
what had happened,” Farrell told the Star. “She was crying and
carrying on. I couldn’t get any straight story out of her.”
According to Beatty’s ruling, Watson was the first officer on
scene. Farrell testified that he was aggressive and told her to
“shut the f--- up” as she tried to describe the assailants. She
said she asked for his name and badge number, and said that as
she stepped away, “Sgt. Watson kicked her to the side, a karate
kick that snapped her leg.”
Watson is a “large and powerfully built man,” Beatty wrote.
Farrell is 5-foot-8 and weighed about 140 pounds in 2013.
“She hit the ground head first, then turned and told Sgt.
Watson, ‘You broke my leg,’” Beatty wrote of Farrell’s
testimony. “Sgt. Watson then jumped on her and punched her on
the left side of her face. She turned face-down with both fists
under her and Sgt. Watson kept kneeing her in the back and
pulling on her left arm. She said, ‘You are going to break my
arm,’ and he responded ‘Stop resisting, you are under arrest.’”
The assault victim, Pauline Sherwood, screamed, “She had nothing
to do with this,” according to Farrell’s testimony.
Watson testified that Farrell had been drinking, but “he was
uncertain how much.” He said he found Farrell distracting and
“very animated” and took her to the ground to arrest her when
she wouldn’t comply with his orders.
“Sgt. Watson provided no explanation as to how Ms. Farrell’s
tibia was broken, or indeed, the reasons for the bruises on her
legs and arms and the loss of a tooth,” wrote Beatty. “His notes
did not record the ‘hammer strike’ to her left eye, which was
basically a sucker punch. Only P.C. Catterall saw the blow. Sgt.
Watson testified that she grabbed his right lapel, although his
notes indicated his left lapel. His recollection of events is
Beatty did not find Farrell tried to grab Watson’s lapel, and he
said the allegation that she tried to kick his legs was “not
supported by the evidence.”
He wrote that “Ms. Farrell testified that she fell on her face
after being kicked and tried to protect herself by putting her
fists under herself. The fall would explain the crushing injury
to her knee and banging her head.”
Beatty concluded that “Ms. Farrell showed no intent to obstruct
Sgt. Watson in his investigation. Her excitement and zeal may
have been distracting for Sgt. Watson, who was trying to deal
with a hysterical and uncooperative Pauline Sherwood, but she
intended to assist the investigation.
“Police officers are trained and experienced in handling people
who may be intoxicated, drug addicted, mentally ill, armed or
violent. They apply their psychological skills and the minimum
force in maintaining the peace. That did not happen in this
The SIU conducted a month-long investigation in 2013 and
interviewed Watson, but he did not provide his notes, as is his
legal right, said spokeswoman Brar. She said that aside from
Watson, the SIU interviewed four witness officers and five
civilian witnesses, but that then-director Ian Scott found no
reasonable grounds to lay charges against Watson.
Frequently, the SIU informs the public that it is investigating
a police officer by issuing a news release, as well as a release
containing a summary of findings once the investigation is
complete. That did not happen in this case.
Brar said that “in order to manage information needs and
available resources,” the SIU typically only issues news
releases in cases involving death, serious vehicle injuries, a
firearm “or where there is significant public interest.”
“This was an incident involving a custody injury that did not
garner much public interest at the time of occurrence, therefore
no initial press release was issued. Accordingly, there was no
news release once the investigation was completed.”
Brar said last week that director Tony Loparco was awaiting
Beatty’s decision and transcripts from the trial “to determine
whether the case merits a reopening.” Because the case is being
reviewed, she said she could not provide the Star with a summary
of the SIU’s findings from its original investigation.
Leon, the OPP spokesman, said the police force conducted
investigations “specific to the complaint that was received”
from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director. He
did not provide further details, and the OIPRD said it couldn’t
comment unless a complaint leads to a public disciplinary
Farrell, a mother to four and stepmother to two, said all she
wants right now is peace. She was satisfied with Beatty’s
ruling, saying she always knew she would win “because I was
telling the truth.” She expressed support for the SIU
investigators, saying she found them helpful, but said the
investigation should never have been closed.
She told the Star her injuries have taken a toll on her entire
family. On her initial release from hospital, she said, she was
in a wheelchair and had to be carried into her parents’ home by
relatives. She has undergone two surgeries, but says it remains
unclear if her knee will ever be right. Her body is always sore,
she says, the migraines severe.
“I was 46, healthy and active,” she said. “I don’t get out and
about like I used to. I do have family members supporting me,
but it’s not the same. I just try to deal with it … They think I
should be happy (because of the ruling). But I’m not happy. I
live with this 24 hours a day. I don’t have my life back, while
he (Watson) carries on.
The worst is that I have his horrifying face in my nightmares.”