Mountie justified in letting dog bite suspect, investigations office says

An RCMP officer who instructed his dog to bite a suspect, and struck him in the face — fracturing the man’s eye socket and nose — in order to apprehend him, was justified in his use of force, the chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office has determined.

In his decision, Ronald MacDonald said the officer’s use of force was at “the upper end of the justifiable range,” but the difficult circumstances justified the actions.

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The officer apprehended the suspect after tracking him through deep snow up a mountain for two hours. Officers were told the man had broken into a rural cabin at the Deadwood Creek Campsite near Nanaimo and used bear spray on two men who confronted him on Feb. 16.

When the officer saw the suspect at a distance, the man turned to run. The officer sent his police dog to take the suspect to the ground, but the suspect struggled with the dog.

Unsure if the suspect was still armed and with no backup nearby, the officer hit the suspect twice in the face with a closed fist. A second officer who was slightly behind the arresting officer said he was not able to help.

MacDonald said it was reasonable for the officer to believe the suspect might have a weapon, and the suspect’s actions showed he was determined to escape farther into the wilderness, which could have put his and the two officers’ lives at risk.

The suspect said he was bitten and hit while surrendering.

But MacDonald decided the suspect’s account of events lacked credibility because it contradicted the evidence, including statements from both officers and a civilian witness.

The suspect was bitten on the back of his left leg, an injury MacDonald deemed consistent with running away. The suspect said witnesses at the cabin that was broken into assaulted him with a crowbar, but medical personnel found no injuries consistent with an attack.

MacDonald noted that the suspect claimed to have run in terror from the cabin, but was caught on a trail camera stealing the camera.

David Banford, 39, was charged with two counts of assault with a weapon and break-and-enter.

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