Nanaimo Mountie cleared in brain-injury case

A Nanaimo RCMP officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing in an arrest last year that left an intoxicated man with a traumatic brain injury.

The Independent Investigations Office, which investigates police-involved deaths and major injuries, concluded that the RCMP officer’s actions were reasonable, appropriate and necessary.

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The decision of Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald also noted that the officer demonstrated concern and compassion for the injured man.

The incident began on the afternoon of Aug. 3, 2017, when B.C. Transit notified police that an unruly, intoxicated passenger was assaulting passengers on a city bus. The man got off the bus 12 minutes later and walked toward a neighbourhood pub, said the IIO decision released Thursday.

The officer responding to the call drove toward the pub and saw a man sitting on the grass nearby. He believed it was the man he was looking for, but returned to his car for a more complete description of the suspect.

While he was doing this, the man got up and walked away. The officer decided to arrest the man for being intoxicated in a public place and to sort out the alleged assaults on the bus later.

By the time he reached the man, the man was sitting with his back to a wall. The RCMP officer stood him up, because he considered it more humiliating to handcuff somebody sitting down, the decision said.

The intoxicated man became angry and pulled away from the officer.

The officer didn’t think he could handcuff the man in a standing position without assistance. But because he was using both his hands to control him, he couldn’t call for assistance.

The Mountie thought about taking the man to the ground, but was concerned that one of them would get hurt, said the decision.

He managed to get one handcuff on the man, but still didn’t have control of him. At this point, he used a technique called the steel arm bar to bring the man to the ground.

“He went down and I heard a smack sound when he hit the ground,” the officer told investigators.

He quickly realized the man was unconscious and unresponsive. He called for an ambulance.

The IIO concluded that the intoxicated man presented a physical threat to the officer. If the man freed his handcuffed arm, he could use the handcuffs as a weapon.

The IIO found the injuries — a broken nose, two orbital fractures (fractures to the bone of the eye socket) and a traumatic brain injury — were accidental and the man’s level of intoxication likely played a role in the fact he went down awkwardly.

The steel-arm-bar technique is a common method to gain control of an unruly person and rarely results in significant injury, said the report.

The injured man had no recollection of any interaction with police or emergency health services and does not remember being near the pub. A blood sample taken at the hospital showed he was extremely intoxicated.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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