No one knew John Doe.
Not his real name, not his birthday, not where he came from. More than a year after Doe ambushed Toronto police officers with a kitchen knife in a dusty rail corridor in North York, leading one of them to fatally shoot him, all investigators can say is that he was a sex offender with a violent past.
The province’s police watchdog released the results of its investigation into Doe’s death Wednesday. Special Investigations Unit director Tony Loparco decided not to charge anyone in the shooting, saying the officer’s fear was reasonable.
“The officer was faced with a dangerous and dynamic situation that unfolded quickly over mere seconds,” Loparco wrote in the report.
This wasn’t the SIU’s first brush with John Doe, who also went by the aliases of Roy Norman, Chung Nu and Jonathan Grant. His true identity has remained a mystery to law enforcement for as long as they’ve known him.
“For at least the last decade, the complainant in this case has been known to police as John Doe with a specified date of birth,” SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon wrote in an email to the Star.
“During our most recent investigation, we learned that the complainant’s date of birth had actually been assigned to him by police.”
Hudon didn’t say how police knew Doe was the same man without a name or birthday to identify him.
The SIU investigated another encounter between Doe and Toronto police five years ago, when Doe approached officers with a “large butcher’s knife” and ignored their requests to drop it.
Doe had been rummaging around in a dumpster behind a plaza in Weston at about 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, 2012. He refused to answer questions, silently pointing the knife and walking towards the officers instead.
“As additional officers began to arrive, Mr. Doe walked west toward Weston Rd. with the knife in his right hand, partially covered with a sock,” read the SIU’s report on the incident.
When Doe came within two metres of one officer, he shot Doe four times, the report said. The officer wasn’t charged.
The bullets hit Doe’s hand, thigh, chest and abdomen, but he survived.
The shooting that killed John Doe happened on a stretch of Canadian Pacific Railway land near Weston Rd. and Hwy. 400 on June 17, 2016.
Though Toronto police were there to serve Doe with notice that he’d failed to register as a sex offender as required, railway police also wanted to arrest him for trespassing and building “makeshift shelters” along the tracks.
Railway police also arrested him in March, 2015. At the time, Doe threatened them with a baseball bat and carried a knife in a sheath near the small of his back, the SIU report said.
Now, however, he was back.
Before arresting him in June 2016, Toronto police had been worried about the state of Doe’s mental health, the SIU report said, consulting with a psychiatrist to figure out the best approach.
However, as police tried to approach him the day he was shot, Doe jumped out of bushes next to the train tracks and charged toward the officers with a large knife in hand.
As Doe raised the knife over his head just metres away from the officers, one of them shot Doe four times.
One bullet travelled through his jawbone. Another fatally wounded his heart, while two more pierced his left and right lungs.
Though paramedics tried to revive him, Doe was killed. Investigators later found Doe’s knife still lying under his left hand.