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An Ontario judge has dismissed the trial of a woman who died after security guards restrained her for not wearing a mask during the COVID pandemic.
Security footage that will no longer be seen by a jury shows Danielle Stephanie Warriner wearing a medical gown sitting alone at the Toronto General Hospital in May 2020.
Moments later, she’s wheeled away by guards in a wheelchair with her legs dangling from the edge — what happened in between isn’t captured on video.
The guards, Amanda Rojas-Silva, 42, and Shane Hutley, 35, had been charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence in Warriner’s death, charges they denied, claiming they used the necessary amount of force to hold her.
The judge struck the case from the docket in Nov. 2022, claiming there wasn’t enough evidence to bring it to trial.
But details of surrounding the case have many people raising eyebrows at the judge’s ruling.
“That’s despite the available video footage, two security staff who testified the accused placed weight on her upper body while she was held chest down, a forensic pathologist who testified Warriner would still be alive had she not been restrained that day — and revelations one of the guards admitted he falsely claimed Warriner threw the first punch,” CBC News reported Thursday.
Warriner, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, arrived at the hospital on May 10 with a cough and shortness of breath. She initially tested positive for COVID, but later tested negative.
The day after, according to the coroner’s report, she left the COVID floor to get food and was spotted by hospital staff with her mask around her neck.
Surveillance video captured part of what happened next.
Around 6:38 a.m., Warriner is seen sitting in a chair near a pillar in the hospital lobby. A couple of metres in front of her, Rojas-Silva dons personal protective equipment with help from another guard, all the while appearing to speak to Warriner.
Court heard that Rojas-Silva knew Warriner had left the hospital against medical advice before, and repeatedly told her to put on her mask from a distance before approaching her. The defence argued Warriner refused, swore at Rojas-Silva and threatened to have her fired.
With her PPE gown on, Rojas-Silva walks toward Warriner and continues speaking to her, gesturing inches from her face.
As that happens, a second guard, Hutley, walks into view from the right and also begins putting on a gown. One more guard walks into view from the right and also dons PPE.
By this time, Warriner is seen on her feet and appears to briefly raise her right arm before Rojas-Silva takes her to a nearby wall, with Hutley approaching from behind.
The camera then pans away — meaning what happens next isn’t captured on video.
At a preliminary hearing, the guard who turned the camera testified he did so because he “panicked” and “got really anxious.”
By about 6:41 a.m., the guards are seen wheeling Warriner down the hall, her body slumped and legs splayed, not moving. They turn left into an elevator bay and disappear from view.
Court heard it was there that Rojas-Silva noticed something was wrong and started checking for a pulse. The guards removed Warriner’s handcuffs as Rojas-Silva called a “Code Blue” and began doing chest compressions.
Warriner died 16 days after the incident captured on video.
The coroner concluded Warriner died from a brain injury resulting from lack of oxygen “due to restraint asphyxia following struggle and exertion,” adding her underlying lung disease could have been a factor.
“But for her interaction with the Applicants, Ms. Warriner would likely be alive today,” the forensic pathologist reportedly testified at the preliminary hearing.
Warriner’s family members said they were blindsided by the judge’s ruling.
“My first reaction was shock, horror,” Warriner’s sister, Denise, told CBC News. “There’s been no accountability and there’s a gaping hole in my heart.”
“She was a very tiny woman who was clearly unwell, sitting, dealing with respiratory distress and they wrangled her to her death. There was no lawful reason for them to have ever put hands on her,” she said. “This ought to have been put to a trial.”
“It appears anyone who is anointed with any use of powers, use of authority…has a license to kill,” she added. “Her life was extinguished…It haunts me.”
Toronto criminal lawyer Frank Addario said the judge’s dismissal of this case was an unusual move.
“It’s not common for a judge to screen out a case before it’s set for trial,” Addario said. “The system is set up so after a preliminary inquiry, the cases are generally set on to trial because the bar to get a case sent on to trial is very low.”
“In the rare case where the bar is not exceeded with the evidence, the judge’s obligation is to screen it out.”
A woman wasn’t wearing her mask. Now she’s dead. And nobody will be held to account for it.
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