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IIO clears Saanich police after man with Asperger’s injured, but called actions ‘close to the line’

Man shot twice with non-lethal ARWEN rounds, bitten by police dog
B.C.’s police watchdog has found no offence was committed by Saanich police during a May 2022 encounter that left a man with Asperger’s Syndrome seriously injured. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) has found no offence was committed by Saanich police during a May 2022 incident in which a man with Asperger’s Syndrome was seriously injured after officers used two intermediate level force options to apprehend him.

In his report released Thursday (March 16), Ronald MacDonald, IIO chief civilian director, concluded that while the officers’ use of force was ultimately not criminal, it was almost outside the reach of legal justification.

The man, identified as AP in the report, was bitten in the arm by a police dog after being shot with an Anti Riot Weapon, Enfield (ARWEN) impact weapon which was ineffective in gaining his compliance, one officer told IIO investigators.

The incident took place on the evening of May 31, 2022 as AP accompanied his mother as she attempted to serve an eviction notice on the upstairs tenant in their Saanich home. At around 6 p.m. that evening, police received a report of a residential break-and-enter in progress, in which a man was striking the front door of the home with what was believed to be a hammer.

Police attended the scene and a lengthy encounter ensued, with AP refusing to come down the house’s front steps to be taken into custody. When he eventually came down the steps, AP refused to lie down on the ground as officers had directed him to do.

One officer shot two non-lethal ARWEN rounds into AP’s thigh before another officer released his dog, which bit AP in the arm and seriously injured him, according to the IIO report. Paramedics tended to his injuries before transporting him to hospital.

According to the report, at least one attending officer was made aware that AP had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. That same officer was also informed that AP had allegedly assaulted a police officer on an earlier occasion.

“The haste with which the ARWEN and, particularly, the PSD (Police Service Dog) were deployed against AP was unfortunate and ‘close to the line’ in terms of justification,” wrote MacDonald in his decision.

“Police officers are permitted a significant degree of latitude in their judgments about the need to use force, but this case represents the very upper limit of that licence … while I would not call that use of force commendable, neither can I call it criminal.”

The matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges.

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Austin Westphal

About the Author: Austin Westphal

Austin Westphal is the newest member to join the Saanich News team.
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