The province’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, says it finds no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against any Peterborough Police Service officer in relation to the injuries sustained by 26-year-old John Lai.
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Lai was shot after police were called to the Middlefield Road home of Cindy Torbar, 52, on March 18, 2016, shortly before midnight. Torbar’s body was found, with 127 stab wounds from a 10-inch butcher’s knife. Officers say they encountered a suspect, Lai, then 25, holding a blood-covered knife.
In the course of the interaction, police shot Lai. He underwent emergency surgery at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and spent time in the intensive care unit there. Lai was arrested a month later, following his recovery.
Lai — who was a student tenant in Torbar’s home — has since been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and, at the time, believed he was exorcising demons from Torbar. In the weeks leading up to the incident. Lai’s behaviour had changed, and his family describes him spending more time alone and sometimes talking to himself.
Lai was found not criminally responsible for the killing in May 2017.
The SIU states that the officer who fired the shot that hit Lai was doing so in defence of Torbar and himself.
“I have no doubt on all of the evidence that the SO believed that shooting Mr. Lai was absolutely necessary, given the large kitchen knife in Mr. Lai’s hand and hearing Mr. Lai say, ‘She’s a demon, she’s a demon,’ for the preservation of the life of the woman that Mr. Lai was attempting to stab again … It is my view that there was no other option available to the SO than to discharge his firearm, considering all of the circumstances and the possibility that Ms. Torbar may still have been very much alive, at that moment.”
The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.