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3 Canadian constables charged with manslaughter in a toddler's fatal shooting

Officers were responding to a report that the boy's father, who was also fatally shot, had abducted the 18-month-old.

Three Canadian police officers were charged Wednesday with manslaughter in the death of an 18-month-old boy two years ago, authorities said.

The constables — Nathan Vanderheyden, Kenneth Pengelly and Grayson Cappus — were also each charged with criminal negligence in the death of Jameson Shapiro on the morning of Nov. 26, 2020, Ontario’s police oversight agency said in a statement.

The Ontario Provincial Police constables are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 6, the agency said.

A special constable with the Kawartha Lakes Police Services stands at a road block in Kawartha Lakes, Ont., on Nov. 27, 2020.
A special constable with the Kawartha Lakes Police Services stands at a road block in Kawartha Lakes, Ont., on Nov. 27, 2020.Doug Ives / The Canadian Press via AP

In an account that the oversight agency released after the incident, it said the shooting occurred when officers were alerted to a father who had abducted his son.

They were pursuing a truck identified as a vehicle of interest in the city of Kawartha Lakes, roughly 86 miles northeast of Toronto, when the truck crashed into two vehicles, including a police cruiser, according to the oversight agency.

An officer laying down a spike belt near the cruiser was seriously injured, according to the account. During an encounter with the truck's 33-year-old driver, the three officers opened fire, striking the man, the agency said.

The toddler, Jameson, was also struck by gunfire and pronounced dead at the scene, the agency said. His father, who has not been identified, died Dec. 2 after being airlifted to a hospital in grave condition.

Earlier this year, a forensic review concluded that officers fatally shot the child, the agency said. The FBI assisted the watchdog in its investigation of ballistics evidence in the case, though the agency did not say what the bureau found.

Watchdog investigators interviewed 18 officers who witnessed the shooting, though the three accused of killing the boy were not among them, the agency said earlier this year, noting that they were under no obligation to do so.

In a statement, Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Thomas Carrique called the shooting a "tragedy" and extended sympathies to the boy's family.

"It is devastating when an innocent life is lost during an incident," he said, adding that the matter was now before the courts and he declined further comment.

Efforts to reach two of the officers were unsuccessful. A third did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

In a statement Wednesday, the president of the local police union, Rob Stinson, said the incident was a "tragic circumstance for all involved."

"Every single day, police officers make split-second decisions that most will never have to make and wouldn’t want to make," he said. "This case is now before the courts. Everyone is entitled to due process. Our members have cooperated with the investigation in accordance with the law.”