British Columbia’s police watchdog has cleared officers of any misconduct after a man sustained serious injuries while being apprehended by a member of the Integrated Canine Service in Saanich last year.
Last October, members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team (GVERT) apprehended a Saanich man who was experiencing a mental health crisis and had barricaded himself inside the home he shared with his parents, in a standoff that lasted for over eight hours. During the apprehension, an officer deployed a police service dog which bit the man multiple times and caused extensive injury requiring surgery.
In a ruling released Tuesday (Nov. 8), the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of B.C. found that while the man’s injuries were severe, law enforcement didn’t do anything to warrant charges being recommended to Crown.
Just before 10 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2021, the Vancouver Island crisis line received a call from someone saying her son, identified as AP in the IIO report, needed to go to hospital because he was having a mental health issue.
Officers dispatched to the residence were told that AP was “in psychosis,” and that he was walking around the house with a “fake gun” and a six-inch blade in his waistband. Officers were also informed of AP’s criminal record, including previously assaulting a police officer, and were told that he wouldn’t react well to police presence.
“Police records showed that AP had a lengthy criminal record going back several years, including significant violence. It was also learned that, in addition to the replica gun reported to be in AP’s possession that evening, he was said to have been in possession of a real firearm the previous month,” the report states.
When the first group of police officers arrived on scene, they came up with a “surrender plan” that would involve ordering AP out of the house empty-handed, with his hands up, and ordering him to get down on the ground.
At 10:54 p.m., AP exited the house and was ordered by officers to “get down.” He refused and re-entered the house. Two crisis negotiators in addition to the GVERT were then called in to handle the escalating situation.
Over a period of several hours, members of GVERT made multiple attempts to apprehend AP, which included setting off a noise flash diversionary device, deploying tear gas and pepper spray, and discharging an ARWEN (anti-riot weapon ENfield) several times.
At 7:50 a.m., police decided to go in and apprehend AP when they could hear him sobbing on a phone they had dropped him earlier. Officers entered the home and went to AP’s bedroom, where he was found lying on his back. According to the report, an officer shouted multiple times that AP could be bitten by a police dog if he did not comply with commands.
Shortly after, the police service dog was released before biting AP in the area of his left armpit and pulling him towards police officers. He was then handcuffed and transported to hospital where he was treated for severe injuries to his left bicep and armpit area.
In the ruling, IIO chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald wrote that officers had acted in lawful execution of their duty under B.C.’s Mental Health Act and were left with little choice but to forcibly enter the home after all other tactics failed.
“There was ample evidence that he was a person suffering from a mental disorder who was acting in a manner likely to endanger his own safety or the safety of others,” MacDonald wrote. “Furthermore, deployment of the ERT was was justified, given valid concerns based on AP’s history of violence and mental instability, and his current threatening behaviour and possession of weapons; the situation had escalated beyond one for which the general duty officers who initially acted to contain the residence were equipped.”
MacDonald added that while the severity of AP’s injuries is unfortunate, there’s no evidence to suggest that officers committed any offence.
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