Port Hardy officers cleared of using excessive force in arrest where man had broken ribs

Port Hardy RCMP did not use excessive force when they arrested an intoxicated and aggressive man outside a home three months ago, the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has ruled.

The man was injured during the arrest.

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When he was taken to hospital later that night, doctors found he had six broken ribs and a punctured lung.

In a decision released Friday, Ronald MacDonald, the IIO’s chief civilian director, found the officers were clearly acting within their lawful authority to remove the man from the home and arrest him for causing a disturbance.

“It is clear from the evidence that he resisted them, so it was necessary for them to use force to restrain him and defend themselves. The man chose to fight with the police when they attempted to lawfully arrest him. When he did, they used force which ended as soon as he was no longer a threat,” said MacDonald. “In the circumstances, it cannot be said that the degree of force used was excessive.”

The incident took place about 4 p.m. on March 22, 2019. Two RCMP officers were called to a domestic dispute by a frightened woman, who said she’d been assaulted in her home.

Her assailant, who appeared intoxicated, was under court-ordered conditions to leave the house if requested. When the woman told him she had called police, he packed some personal items into a basket and went outside to wait for them in the driveway.

When police arrived, the woman was at an upstairs window. The man was pacing back and forth, yelling with clenched fists. The officers waited for the situation to calm down, but it didn’t.

The first officer told the man he was under arrest for causing a disturbance.

The man told IIO investigators that he didn’t remember being told he was under arrest and said he was taken to the ground face-down, punched in the side of his face and kneed in the ribs on his left side.

The officer said the man started throwing punches at him, so he wrapped an arm around the man’s head and kneed him in the chest. A second officer pulled the man’s legs out from under him and he fell to the ground with the first officer on top of him.

When the man stopped throwing punches, the officers rolled him onto his front and handcuffed him.

Video shot by the complainant shows the man in handcuffs, shouting angrily, as he is placed in the police car. He is resisting violently and kicking as the officers try to get him into the back seat.

“You took me down,” he complained to the police officer.

“Because you started fighting me,” said officer responded.

The second officer told investigators he delivered three knee strikes to the man’s left side to take the wind out of him.

The first officer had a fat lip and skinned knuckles. The second officer had road rash from the struggle on the gravel driveway.

Later, at the detachment, the man complained that his ribs were sore. He was taken to the hospital at 10:20 p.m. and found to have six broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

“It does not appear that any significant force was used by either officer once the man was under control and handcuffed,” MacDonald concluded.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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