Saanich police investigating security guards’ actions at Uptown

Saanich police are investigating after security guards used force to restrain a man at the Uptown shopping centre on Thursday.

A witness who documented the incident in a video said the “aggressive” arrest, which left the man bleeding, was uncalled for.

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In response, Uptown and the security company said the man, who has been legally banned from the shopping centre, assaulted a guard.

Kristy Westendorp, a mother of two, said her children were playing in the fountain in the mall’s courtyard about 5 p.m. when she saw a man and a GuardTeck security guard tugging back and forth on a bag of cans. The man went to walk away and the security guard grabbed him by the back of the shirt in a way that choked the man, Westendorp said.

Then, two security guards took the man to the ground.

In Westendorp’s video, which has been viewed more than 110,000 times, two security guards can be seen kneeling on the man, one sitting on the man’s head while the other kneels on his legs.

The man struggles and becomes increasingly agitated, screaming profanities as the security guards try to bring his arms behind his back.

At one point, the security guard accuses the man of spitting in his face.

“I did not spit in your face, you moron,” the man yells back.

A third man comes in to help restrain the man’s legs.

Blood can be seen on the ground.

“Let’s go, I don’t want to hurt you,” one of the security guards says.

Westendorp can be heard saying: “You’ve already hurt him, over some cans.”

The security guard asks a witness to call 911.

“Make it clear that they assaulted this man over some cans when you call,” Westendorp says.

As the man tells the guards to get off him, he starts to cry.

Westendorp said that when Saanich police arrived, they lifted the man off the ground.

She gave a statement to officers and went over to the man to ask if he was OK.

Westendorp said the level of force was excessive.

“I don’t think there was any force required on behalf of the security guards,” she said.

Westendorp received a Facebook message from the man late Tuesday night thanking her for documenting the arrest.

Saanich police spokesman Sgt. Jereme Leslie confirmed that officers were called to Uptown at 5:15 p.m. to deal with the incident.

“We’re also in possession of the video,” Leslie said.

“The matter is under investigation and, as part of the investigation, we’re attempting to determine exactly what occurred prior to this video starting.”

Seth Fruson, president and CEO of GuardTeck Security Corp., said the company “is committed to creating safe and secure environments. We apologize to those who were upset by the video of an unfortunate incident on Thursday evening at Uptown and we are doing a thorough investigation into what happened.”

Fruson said there was much more to the situation than what is shown in the video.

“The person detained has a history of violent action in the mall, including assault, theft, damage to property and mischief. He has been legally banned from the premises,” Fruson said.

“When he was approached by our staff, he immediately became agitated and assaulted one of our officers. The ongoing safety of customers and our staff is always a top priority — so he was detained until police arrived. Although things escalated, incidents like this are very rare and we work extremely hard to avoid these unfortunate circumstances.”

Fruson said the company will review the incident and take any action necessary to improve systems and training.

Uptown general manager Kristy Lowes said in a statement: “We apologize to those guests who witnessed an unfortunate incident on Thursday evening at Uptown. An individual who is legally banned from our site was asked to leave by security and subsequently assaulted the security officer and was detained until police arrived. Our No. 1 priority is creating a safe and friendly environment for all our guests. We will conduct a thorough interval review into this incident and appreciate the level of concern shown by our community.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

Warning: Video contains profanity

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