The Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia has cleared members of law enforcement of any wrongdoing after a Saanich man experiencing a mental health crisis was injured while he was being apprehended last year.
On Halloween morning in 2021, members of the Emergency Response Team apprehended a Saanich man who was experiencing a mental health crisis and had barricaded himself inside a home he shared with his parents for more than eight hours. During the apprehension, an officer deployed a Police Service Dog, which bit an area left of the man’s armpit, causing serious injuries that ultimately required surgery.
In a ruling issued Tuesday, the IIO found that although the injuries were significant, officers did not do anything that would warrant charges being recommended to Crown.
Shortly before 10 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2021, the Vancouver Island crisis line received a call from someone saying that her son, referred to as AP in the report, needed to go to the hospital because he was having a mental health issue, walking around the house with a “fake gun” and a six-inch blade in his waistband.
According to the IIO report, AP was described as “delusional, aggressive, making threats,” that his parents were afraid for their lives and “quite terrified,” and that he had previously assaulted an officer and wouldn’t react well if the police showed up. It also notes AP had a lengthy criminal record that spanned several years and had a history of violence.
“Police records showed that AP had a lengthy criminal record going back several years, including significant violence. It was also learned that, in addition to the replica gun reported to be in AP’s possession that evening, he was said to have been in possession of a real firearm the previous month,” the report states.
Sometime between 10:28 p.m. and 10:50 p.m., the first group of officers arrived on the scene and came up with a “surrender plan” that would see AP ordered out of the home “empty-handed with his hands up, and told to get down on the ground.”
At 10:54 p.m. AP left the house and was ordered by officers to “get down” but refused to do so, the report notes, and went back inside the home.
It was at this point that members of the Emergency Response Team were called in and two crisis negotiators were also brought in to deal with the situation.
Between 11:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. Oct. 31, 2021, members of the Emergency Response Team made multiple attempts to detain AP that included deploying CS gas, using noise Flash Diversionary Device, discharging an Anti-Riot Weapon Enfield (ARWEN) multiple times, and firing pepperballs.
Then, at 7:50 a.m., AP could be “heard sobbing on the phone police had earlier dropped to him, raising concerns about his condition.” It was at this point, the report notes, that law enforcement made the decision to enter the home and apprehend AP, who they could see in his bedroom via a “pole camera” and a remote-controlled robot.
Officers, including one referred to in the report as Subject Officer, who had a Police Service Dog, then entered the home and found a knife matching the description of the one AP was said to have been carrying.
Afterwards, officers then went straight to AP’s bedroom, where, according to the report, he was found lying on his back.
“AP turned away to his right with his hands out of sight and moving towards his waistband. [Witness Officer 7] said he heard [Subject Officer] shout multiple times that AP could be bitten by a police dog if he did not comply with police commands,” the report states.
Moments later the Police Service Dog was released and bit AP in the area of his left armpit and pull him towards the officers. Eventually, AP was handcuffed and then transported to hospital for serious injuries to his left bicep and armpit area. Those injuries, the report notes, required “significant surgical intervention.”
THE IIO’S RULING
In a ruling released Nov. 8, the IIO’s chief civilian director, Ronald J. MacDonald, wrote that when the team reached the bedroom, they had every reason to be concerned about AP being in possession of a weapon or weapons, including a replica or real firearm.
“In such a situation, with a subject failing or refusing to surrender and possibly armed and violent, it is within reasonable bounds for a PSD to be used to gain control,” he wrote.
In his ruling, MacDonald said officers had every right to apprehend AP.
“There is no doubt that responding officers were acting in lawful execution of their duty in going to AP’s home to apprehend him under B.C.’s Mental Health Act. There was ample evidence that he was a person suffering from a mental disorder who was acting in a manner likely to endanger his own safety or the safety of others,” wrote MacDonald.
The Emergency Response Team also had every right to be there given AP’s history of violence, according to MacDonald’s ruling.
“Deployment of the ERT was justified, given valid concerns based on AP’s history of violence and mental instability, and his current threatening behaviour and possession of weapons; the situation had escalated beyond one for which the general duty officers who initially acted to contain the residence were equipped,” wrote MacDonald.
While MacDonald said it was unfortunate that AP was hurt during the incident, he said officers did not behave in a manner unbecoming and did not commit any offence.