Alberta’s police watchdog has concluded an investigation into the violent arrest of a man on a rural road in central Alberta nearly two years ago and says there is no “clear evidence” the Mountie involved was guilty of any wrongdoing.
In January 2015, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) was called on to look into police officers’ actions in connection with the injury of a man arrested near Blackfalds on Dec. 31, 2014.
That evening, ASIRT said RCMP were called to respond to reports of a red Dodge pickup truck with a stolen licence plate on it. The agency said one officer was headed north on Range Road 28-4 and spotted an oncoming silver Dodge pickup truck. ASIRT said the officer pulled over and stopped and noticed the truck stopped before beginning to drive slowly with its high beams on. The watchdog said the officer found that odd and turned on his emergency lights to pull the truck over. However, ASIRT said the truck didn’t stop and hit the Mountie on the arm when it drove past.
At the same time, ASIRT said a second officer pulled up in another vehicle and turned on his emergency lights.
According to ASIRT, both police vehicles then began following the truck and the officers saw people in the truck throwing beer cans out the window. At that point, ASIRT said the officers saw the truck go straight through a T-intersection, drive through a road sign and go into a ditch before a man and two women got out of the truck while the driver stayed inside.
ASIRT said “it would later be determined that the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol.”
According to the police watchdog, what happened next was “the subject of some dispute.” ASIRT said an officer told the trio to get on the ground and police told them the two women complied by the man didn’t listen and approached the officers while cursing. ASIRT said one officer told them he pistol-whipped the man when he got too close but the man didn’t stay down as he was told. The same officer told ASIRT he then kicked the man in the torso two to three times “in an effort to gain control” and then the man stayed on the ground so police could handcuff him.
ASIRT said the two women who were in the truck provided them with slightly different versions of events while the driver could not provide evidence as he was in the truck at the time and didn’t see what happened. The man who was pistol-whipped and kicked said he was kicked twice in the head twice and then in the ribs three times before briely losing consciousness. ASIRT said his version of events was “inconsistent and irreconcilable with all other statements.”
According to the investigative agency, the man complained of being in pain immediately after the arrest before being charged, released and then getting medical treatment at the Lacombe Hospital after which he was released. Five days later, ASIRT said he went to the Three Hills Health Centre when his condition worsened, where he was told he had broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He was then admitted to Red Deer Regional Hospital for care.
On Wednesday, ASIRT said the evidence they got from the people involved “was conflicting and contained inconsistencies” and that while they believe the two women provided evidence to the “best of their abilities and with a desire to be honest,” their statements were problematic because “parts of their statements were demonstrably in error” and they had been drinking.
ASIRT acknowledged that “the most reasonable inference is that the injuries were sustained as a result of the force used,” but said it could not “unequivocally” rule out that the man’s injuries were sustained when the truck went through the sign and ended up in a ditch.
ASIRT said its review of the incident in which the 47-year-old man was injured found “there is no clear evidence that could provide reasonable grounds to believe the officer committed an offence.”
ASIRT is called on to investigate incidents involving Alberta law enforcement agencies that result in serious injury or death, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.