Toronto Star

‘Good Samaritan’ brutally beaten by OPP officer

In a scathing ruling, judge throws out charges of obstructio­n against Orillia woman, lashes out at cop


Tonie Farrell was on her way to a convenienc­e store just after 2 a.m. when she 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 on that morning of April 2, 2013.

She said she found a woman being assaulted by three people, who fled as she approached.

Within minutes, Farrell would suffer a shattered knee, a missing tooth and bruises all over her body, but not at the hands of one of the assailants.

In a scathing ruling earlier this month, Ontario Court Judge George Beatty threw out charges of assaulting and obstructin­g a police officer that had been levelled against Farrell, whom he described as simply a “Good Samaritan.” Instead, he lashed out at OPP Sgt. Russell Watson, the officer Farrell was charged with assaulting at the scene.

“He suffered no injury and her injuries were catastroph­ic,” Beatty wrote.

“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.” TONIE FARRELL

Farrell said she now walks with a cane and takes daily pain medication. She has been off work since the incident, she said, 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 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 five foot eight 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 suspect.”

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 case.”

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 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 hearing.

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.”

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 ??  ?? Tonie Farrell walks with a cane now.
Tonie Farrell walks with a cane now.

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