The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of British Columbia has ruled that police officers acted appropriately during the arrest of a man in Saanich nearly a year ago.
On May 20, 2021, a man was arrested by Saanich and Victoria police officers on the wooden trestle Lochside Trail between Saanich Road and Quadra Street after he allegedly threatened two people with a knife. During the arrest, the man had tried to jump off a bridge and was bitten and seriously injured by a Police Service Dog — an event that triggered the IIO’s investigation.
According to the IIO report released Wednesday, the victims were cycling along Lochside Trail at around 11:00 p.m. on the night of the incident when the suspect allegedly threw a drink at them, spat at them and then pulled out a knife and threatened them.
The victims reported the incident to law enforcement and several officers responded to the area, which was wooded and “visibility was very poor.”
Eventually, two other officers located the suspect “huddled in a blanket” and either sitting or kneeling on the wooden trestle of the Lochside Trail, between Saanich Road and Quadra Street.
When the officers “shouted a challenge,” the suspect, according to the report, stood up and dropped what appeared to be a folding knife and then “hoisted himself ” over the trestle railing. The two officers ran forward and were somehow able to grab the suspect’s blanket as he was “about to fall into the darkness below.”
Another officer arrived on the scene and was able to help the other two officers bring the suspect back onto the other side of the trestle railing. Another two officers arrived on the scene and tried to assist the three other officers in restraining the suspect. During the course of events, an officer dropped a Conductive Energy Weapon that had its safety off on the trestle and believed that the suspect was laying “face down” on it, the report notes.
Moments later, a VicPD officer, who was a member of the integrated police dog service team, then arrived on the scene with a service dog.
According to the report, before the dog bit the suspect, one officer was trying to control the left arm of the suspect, who was being told to show his hands or that he would be bitten by the dog but instead continued “screaming and trying to roll away.”
The Police Service Dog then bit the suspect’s neck causing two puncture wounds. Eventually, the suspect was restrained and arrested.
In his ruling, the IIO’s chief civilian director, Ronald J. MacDonald, wrote that the officer’s actions were not unjustified or excessive.
“I do not consider that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an office under any enactment and therefore the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges,” he wrote.
MacDonald notes that based on witness evidence provided to the IIO, officers repeatedly told the suspect he would be bitten prior to the incident and that the dog did not intend to bite the suspect’s neck but did so because the suspect had moved immediately before being bitten.
“It does not appear that the [suspect’s] neck was the intended target,” he wrote.
The evidence, MacDonald also wrote, also showed that the dog was only in contact with the suspect for a brief moment.
“The evidence demonstrates that the dog was in contact with [the suspect] only briefly, did not tear at his flesh and did not inflect multiple wounds. The injury attributable to the dog, while serious, amounted to no more than a pair of puncture wounds.”
MacDonald also noted that the VicPD officer “had good reason” to believe the suspect was laying on a Conductive Energy Weapon with his hands still free. He also pointed out that the location was dark and the only illumination provided was from one officer’s flashlight.
“In these (quite unusual) circumstances, there was a logical basis to perceive a real non-speculative risk of harm to the arresting officers, and justification for a limited of the PSD to bring [the suspect] quickly under control,” he wrote.
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