Man who fled country after disappearing from CAMH was ‘threat to public safety’: review board
Published Wednesday, July 17, 2019 12:30PM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, July 17, 2019 8:55PM EDT
A man who fled the country after disappearing from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) earlier this month posed “a significant threat to the safety of the public,” according to the Ontario Review Board.
Zhebin Cong, 47, disappeared from the facility, located in downtown Toronto’s west end near Queen Street West and Ossington Avenue, on July 3 and boarded an international flight that same day.
Cong was charged in connection with a fatal stabbing that took place in 2014 but was later found not criminally responsible. A decision by the Ontario Review Board (ORB) dated May 9 said that Cong had been detained at CAMH “with privileges extending to living in the community in approved 24-hour supervised accommodation.”
In the board’s decision, it was determined that Cong continued to “pose a significant threat to the safety of the public.”
“Without the oversight of the hospital under the Board's jurisdiction, we find that it is more probable than not that Mr. Cong will again stop taking prescribed medication and stop essential mental health care and risk management follow-up, will suffer a relapse of his illness with acute psychotic symptoms, and will engage in seriously harmful criminal conduct,” the document read.
The documents also said that Cong expressed a desire to return to China.
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Toronto police said they were told that Cong was a “low risk to public safety.”
“The Service was informed that the missing individual, under care as a patient of CAMH, Zhebin Cong, was a “low risk” to public safety, to himself and was allowed on regular, unaccompanied public passes, as permitted by the terms of his Ontario Review Board (ORB) disposition,” the statement said.
Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said that investigators usually “offer caution” when there is a risk to public safety.
“You’ve seen it on our press releases. We will say somebody is violent, armed, dangerous, not to approach them, call police. In this situation, there’s no fear or public safety risk because he had not been flagged as a public safety risk.”
“We have to go with the information we receive,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he has “many questions” surrounding the “troubling” case.
“I believe everyone involved in this case should be as transparent as possible with the public about this situation as they get answers,” he wrote. “I’m confident that CAMH and all authorities involved are working to determine exactly what happened, will let us know as much as they can when they find out, and will make any changes necessary to make sure this situation is never repeated.”
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, CAMH said it is taking this incident “very seriously.”
“CAMH notified the Toronto Police Service as per protocol on July 3 at 6:50 p.m., the day that the patient did not return,” the statement said. “The individual was on an unaccompanied pass to the community, as permitted by the terms of his Ontario Review Board disposition.”
“CAMH has launched an internal review in relation to this specific and rare incident. The highest level of attention and review of our policies and procedures related to this incident is underway.”
Police have described Cong as a five-foot-nine man, weighing about 200 pounds with a heavy build and short black hair. He has trouble speaking English, officers added.
Anyone with further information is asked to contact police at 416-808-1400 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).