‘I was going to die there’: Nanaimo woman injured during RCMP wellness check

WatchA Nanaimo woman says she was punched in the face, dropped down stairs, and nearly suffocated after RCMP came to perform a wellness check. April Lawrence reports.

Warning: This story has details that may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised. 

A doorbell camera shows three Nanaimo RCMP officers escorting a woman, with a spit hood covering her face, out of her home and into a police cruiser. The police had been responding to a wellness check request on the afternoon of May 26.

The woman is now sharing her story with CHEK News, alleging she was assaulted by the RCMP members. She has retained a lawyer and intends to file civil action while B.C.’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of BC, looks into whether excessive force was used.

READ MORE: Police watchdog investigating wellness check incident in Nanaimo

Shanna Blanchard is a former firefighter and personal trainer who lives with her fiance and four children. She’s been struggling with depression, and after an argument with her 21-year-old son, she says she locked herself in her bathroom crying uncontrollably.

Unsure what to do, she says her son called 911 and told them Blanchard had access to scissors. Several officers showed up.

“They said someone’s called because they’re worried about you and I said you’ve been called incorrectly cause there’s no threat of suicide so you can leave now,” said Blanchard.

But they didn’t leave and what happened next is now under investigation by the IIO. Blanchard says it started when an officer told her they were apprehending her under the Mental Health Act.

“And I stood up immediately and said no you’re not, and he punched me so hard,” she said.

She says she was knocked unconscious and woke up in a pool of blood with a broken tooth. After hitting her head again on the banister as they made their way outside, she can be heard on the doorbell camera telling officers she can’t breathe.

Blanchard says with the blood pouring from her face, she felt like she was drowning.

“So I curled up in a little ball in the back of the car and I was going to die there, that was it, I couldn’t breathe, I was out of oxygen, because of the blood,” she said.

She says thanks to extensive yoga training she managed to maneuver and pull the mask down herself to take a breath.

Earlier this week video showing an RCMP officer dragging a Kelowna nursing student and stepping on her head after performing a wellness check strengthened calls for changes to how police respond to mental health calls. The head of the RCMP admits its time to look at the system as a whole.

“It’s not about defunding, it’s about funding everything that goes along and I think we can work better with our mental health practitioners,” said RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

That’s exactly what Shanna Blanchard is hoping for. She says by sharing her story she hopes, until there is change, people will be urged to call the crisis line rather than police to get the mental help they need.

Nanaimo RCMP say they can’t comment on the case due to the IIO investigation.

The IIO says last year about a third of all of their investigations were related to mental health calls involving the potential for self-harm.

They say the police are required to take action if they believe someone’s life may be in danger and do have the ability to take them into custody against their will.

“If they are going to use force they have to do it within a reasonable range and we are there to ensure that that’s what’s occurred or not depending on what we find,” said IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald.

Macdonald says the Nanaimo investigation will likely take a few months.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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