B.C. IIO investigation into Vernon arrest finds charges not warranted

An investigation into a North Okanagan domestic incident last year, where a man was reportedly injured after being arrested, has found that charges against police aren’t warranted.

On Thursday, the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. released a four-page report on the May 16, 2020, arrest.

The IIO’s chief civilian director, Ronald J. MacDonald, said it couldn’t be determined whether a struggle during the arrest takedown was intentional or accidental.

But he said prior to the takedown, police had acted appropriately.

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Originally, police were called to a residence along the 3000 block of 37th Ave., in Vernon that morning, with a woman reportedly calling 911 and stating death threats were involved.

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The report said the woman called 911 around 10:30 a.m. “to report that her boyfriend was threatening to kill her and (the boyfriend) could be heard in the background making such threats,” said the report.

The primary officer in the incident along with two other police officers arrived and were let into the home by the woman. A fourth officer arrived soon afterward.

The report said a neighbour told IIO investigators that she heard the woman and her boyfriend screaming at each other, “with (the woman) screaming for (the boyfriend) to ‘get his hands off her.’”

“(The second witness) said that she heard the couple arguing before, but this incident seemed more threatening than usual,” the report stated.

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Notably, the report said the woman gave a statement to police shortly after the incident stating the boyfriend made death threats against her, her family and her dog.

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However, in speaking with IIO investigators, the woman said “she had called the police just to get (the boyfriend) out of the apartment and had made up the threats allegations: ‘I did the stupidest thing to call the cops and get him out of the house, which blew this whole thing out of proportion.’”

The second and third officer also spoke with the IIO.

The second officer said she found the woman “hysterical and crying” and took her out of the apartment to get a statement from her in a police vehicle.

The third officer said he took up a position in the apartment while the primary officer and second officer entered.

“(The third officer) said the primary officer spoke with the boyfriend, handcuffed him and sat him on a stool in the living room. The woman, meanwhile, came out of the apartment and fell to her knees, apparently distraught,” said the report.

“(The fourth officer) arrived as back-up and the second officer came and dealt with the woman, taking her out to a police vehicle.”

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The report then discussed how the boyfriend was injured while handcuffed.

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According to the report, when the primary officer tried escorting the boyfriend, the suspect became resistant and pulled away violently.

“The two subject officers attempted to control the boyfriend, but the trio fell to the floor, with the primary officer on the boyfriend’s left and the fourth officer on his right,” said the report.

“(The second officer) said he moved in and took control of the boyfriend’s legs. The boyfriend was picked up and taken out of the building, and the second officer said he was not aware that the boyfriend had been injured until later.”

It also said, “the fourth officer says that as he was escorting the boyfriend out to his police vehicle, the boyfriend complained that police had broken his shoulder.”

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In summing up the arrest, the report said, “the available police evidence is that the boyfriend provoked the physical altercation by standing up, refusing to sit back down and then becoming actively resistant.”

It also noted the boyfriend did not provide an account to the IIO, and the woman’s contradictory statements to police and the IIO.

MacDonald said the statements “impact her credibility and/or reliability as a witness. As a result, in determining what caused the interaction to become violent, I have to give greater weight to the evidence (by police).”

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The report said the woman also said her boyfriend was standing calmly while handcuffed when police decided to slam him to the ground.

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MacDonald said though the boyfriend was handcuffed, he was still mobile and the risk of violence from him still existed.

“It was necessary for the officers to maintain physical control over him, and a use of force to put him on the floor where he could most easily be held was not excessive,” he said.

The full report is available on the IIO’s website.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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