RCMP did not commit offense in arrest which seriously injured Lake Country man, finds IIO. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)

Vernon police didn’t use excessive force in domestic takedown: Watchdog

‘One stepped on him and one had his knee in his neck,’ woman told IIO

Police watchdogs have cleared two Vernon officers of any excessive force in a reported takedown of an accused person in a domestic violence situation last May.

The Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO) looked into the incident after a man was injured during an arrest on the morning of May 16, 2020.

At 10:13 a.m., a woman called 911 and said her boyfriend was threatening to kill her, her dog and her family.

She told officers he had threatened her with a kitchen knife but later when interviewed by the IIO she said she made up the allegations. But a neighbour and witness had told police they could hear her screaming at the accused to “get his hands off her.”

“I did this stupid thing to call the cops and get him out of the house, which blew this whole thing out of proportion,” she told the IIO.

She also said she saw two officers assaulting her boyfriend for “no apparent reason,” the May 6 IIO report reads.

She told investigators her boyfriend was handcuffed and told to sit down. She said he was told he was resisting arrest despite following instructions to stand up.

“Then they slammed him on the ground,” she told the IIO. “One stepped on him and one had his knee in his neck.”

But, according to police reports and witness officers, that’s not how the event unfolded.

When police arrived, the woman who called was found “hysterical and crying,” a witness officer said. She was taken outside to give a statement.

Meanwhile, an officer inside the residence was heard telling the man he was under arrest.

The second officer, who arrived as backup, said as he entered the residence, the man was being read his legal rights and was sitting handcuffed on the chair, but became agitated and stood up and refused to sit back down.

The officer who cuffed him tried to gain control of the accused and the second officer assisted by grabbing the man’s left leg. Both officers took the man to the floor.

A witness officer said while being escorted out of the building, the man became resistant, pulling away violently.

While he was escorted to the police vehicle, the man complained the officers broke his shoulder.

“All attending officers were clearly acting in lawful execution of their duty when they entered the residence to effect a warrantless arrest of (the accused),” IIO chief civilian director Ronald J. MacDonald writes.

MacDonald said the woman’s version of the violent takedown strays from the previously described demeanour of the officers.

“It is unclear whether the struggle went to the floor simply by accident,” the report reads. “Obviously, if the fall was unintentional, then neither officer can be held responsible.”

But, if the takedown was intentional, the report reads, the manoeuvre used was not an “unreasonable use of force.”

The woman’s credibility and reliability as a witness was compromised, the report says, as her stories to the RCMP and IIO drastically changed.

The contradictions in her story are believed to be linked to her concerns that the legal fallout from the incident was more severe than expected, according to the report.

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@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

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