As the lone officer approached, a distraught Shania Paige, 19, held out a pocket knife and locked eyes with her.
Just as Paige planned, Const. Erica Sinclair drew her gun, but instead of shooting, she kicked Paige in the legs, sending her to the ground where the two scuffled in a snowbank.
"It’s not easy to kill yourself," Paige later told police as she sat in a jail cell, arrested that January night for assaulting a police officer. She’s been in jail ever since.
"I’ve been wanting to get shot by police for a month now. Drug overdoses don’t work," she told police. "Even if you stab yourself in the stomach, you might screw up your life but you might not die."
The sad details of Paige’s case were revealed in a Barrie courtroom last week.
She suffers from bipolar disorder, cuts herself and has tried repeatedly to end her life.
She used to reach out to the suicide hotline almost daily — but not anymore after police charged her with public mischief last June for making "bogus" calls.
"She was punished because she didn’t actually kill herself," her outraged lawyer, Angela McLeod, told the judge. "She is not able to use that service any longer for fear she will be arrested."
So the next time Paige found herself in crisis, back in November, she went to the mental-health crisis service at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie. Now she’s banned from using that service as well.
In that case, Paige refused to let go of the bottle of hand sanitizer.
"She became agitated and refused to give back the bottle of hand sanitizer," Crown attorney Jenna Dafoe explained. "She became belligerent."
Two security officers came to "de-escalate" the situation, and a "reasonable use of force" was used to escort her out of the hospital, court heard. But somehow in the melee, her arm was broken in three places, requiring surgery. She was also charged with another assault.
"She was in the throes of a crisis, yet she was being kicked out of the hospital … because she was obsessed with a bottle of hand sanitizer," said McLeod, who noted Paige remains under a trespass order from the Barrie hospital.
"She had no where else to go."
Dafoe asked for a nine-month jail sentence for both assault charges.
"Ms. Paige’s behaviour is escalating," Dafoe said, noting there have been 101 mental-health cases involving police since February. "The previous programs and supports have not proven to be efficient … Ms. Paige is getting worse.
"When she snaps, she causes great and immediate danger … Our officers have to make snap decisions and then are scrutinized by the public."
In his ruling, Judge Nyron Dwyer praised the police officer for preventing a potentially disastrous outcome, but shot down the Crown’s request for a lengthy jail sentence.
"Unfortunately, our criminal justice system seems to be the repository for people with mental-health illnesses," the judge said.
He handed Paige a three-month jail sentence with three years’ probation.
Judge Nyron Dwyer:
"This young woman needs treatment. She has bipolar disorder. It is not of her choosing. She is just as much a member of the community as anyone else."
"The police are hamstrung. The mental-health services are hamstrung."
"Just because solutions may be difficult, we can’t allow ourselves to get to a point where general deterrence for these people means a lengthy jail sentence."
Defence lawyer Angela McLeod:
"Sadly, this is all too reminiscent of the Ashley Smith case and other young women like her who have taken their lives while in custody because of a lack of resources to deal with mental illness."
"How is it that despite the devastating outcomes of cases like Ashley Smith and Sammy Yatim, we are still having these problems? Have we learned nothing?"
"A bottle of hand sanitizer? Really?"
In a letter submitted to the court, Alanna Hargan, a Central North Correction Centre representative, asks the judge not to send Shania Paige to jail:
"We have seen the consequences of young girls with (mental illness) in the institutions and how a lack of support can lead to devastating effects."