Victoria police officer cleared after teen's ankle broken during arrest

B.C.’s police watchdog has cleared a Victoria police officer of any wrongdoing in a February arrest that left a suspect with a broken ankle.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. said the officer was justified in using force to subdue the suspect, who by his own account was trying to get away from police, and chief civilian director Ronald MacDonald decided there was no evidence to suggest the officer deliberately injured the suspect’s ankle.

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The investigation stems from a Feb. 16, 2020, when two officers were called to the Inner Harbour for a report of an assault.

The officers saw two teenagers matching the description of the assailants given by a witness. The teenagers fled when the officers approached, according to the IIO report, which is based on statements from the two officers, the witness and the injured person, as well as surveillance video and medical records.

The officer under investigation and the injured teenager offered differing accounts of what happened. The officer said the teenager tried to run past him when he identified himself as a police officer and said he was under arrest for assault. The injured teen said the officer told him to freeze and that he was walking away.

According to the report, the second officer was dealing with the other suspect and looked over to see his colleague struggling with the teenager. He told the IIO that he saw the teenager punching and kicking the officer and said he went to help.

The first officer gained control of the teenager “by picking him up and slamming him into the wooden pier,” the report said, and the two officers handcuffed him.

When the teenager was helped to his feet, he immediately said his left foot hurt and he was unable to put weight on it. He was taken to hospital from the police station and found to have a broken ankle.

The IIO investigation sought to determine whether the officer used excessive force that led to the broken ankle.

The teenager described himself as “wiggling around” and “resisting a little bit” during the arrest and suggested an officer could have tripped and stepped on his ankle in the struggle or intentionally stomped on his ankle.

The witness who reported the initial assault told the IIO they did not see the interaction between the officer and the suspect until the teenager was in handcuffs. They noted that one officer had a knee on the suspect’s back and the teen had an abrasion on his face.

The second officer told the IIO he did not see anything that led him to believe his colleague injured the suspect.

The IIO report said the suspect resisted throughout his interactions with officers.

MacDonald said in his report the officers had grounds to arrest the suspect based on the information they had. The officer was acting within legal authority and did not use excessive force in trying to arrest the suspect, because the teenager was resisting, he said.

MacDonald said while the teenager alleged the officer could have deliberately stomped on his ankle, there is no evidence to suggest this happened and the teenager’s retelling of the interaction was incorrect in other aspects. “It is not clear exactly when [the suspect’s] injury to his ankle occurred, but there is no evidence that the injury [he] suffered was a result of the unlawful application of force during the arrest,” he wrote.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.co

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