A Toronto police officer has been charged with second-degree murder — the first time a member of the force has faced a murder charge for actions taken while on duty.Crown prosecutors laid the charge against Const. David Cavanagh in a Toronto courtroom Thursday, after an investigation involving Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit.
Cavanagh had originally been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of 26-year-old Eric Osawe in late 2010.
Osawe was shot in the early hours of Sept. 29, 2010, during a police search at an Etobicoke apartment near Dundas Street West and Kipling Avenue that led to the arrest of Osawe's younger brother, Ebony, on firearms-related offences.
The SIU alleges Cavanagh fatally shot Eric Osawe during that search, which was carried out by officers from the Emergency Task Force as well as the guns and gangs squad. Osawe was taken to St. Michael's Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The SIU, an independent civilian agency, investigates whenever a citizen is seriously injured or killed during incidents with police.
Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General brought in Ottawa lawyer Robert Morrison to prosecute this case. He has been working closely with the SIU.
The murder charge implies that the Crown believes there is evidence the accused intended to kill the victim. A homicide committed without intent to kill is considered manslaughter.
Cavanagh has been out on bail since being charged in December 2010. He has been suspended with pay.
The SIU said in a news release that a preliminary inquiry will start on Oct. 1.
At the original bail hearing on the manslaughter charge, Osawe's family gave an emotional statement saying they had "lost all trust and faith in the criminal justice and law enforcement systems in Ontario."
Osawe left behind two children.
Cavanagh was also in the public spotlight in 2005 for the armed takedown of two suspects who fled from Yonge Street following the Boxing Day killing of teenager Jane Creba.
The arrest by Cavanagh and three other officers helped secure arrests and the conviction of one of the accused in the Creba case.