A man from Victoria and two men from West Vancouver have all been charged after a Vancouver police officer was assaulted during a routine traffic stop in downtown Vancouver.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) said the assault happened at around 10 p.m. Tuesday after two plain-clothes patrol officers stopped a Dodge Durango on Robson Street. The officers had seen the vehicle go through an area of Granville Street with restricted public access.

“They did pull this vehicle over with their emergency lights on their vehicle. They did identify themselves as police officers and there’s no doubt in my mind that the three occupants in the vehicle knew they were police officers, just from comments made and some evidence I’ve read,” VPD spokesman Sgt. Jason Robillard said.

According to VPD, the three men in the Dodge Durango, all in their early 20s, were confrontational and verbally abusive.

“The officers became concerned for their safety as the occupants refused to follow police direction and began reaching under the seat,” Robillard said.

VPD said when one officer opened the passenger door, the front passenger pulled him into the vehicle and two of the men began punching him in the head and face repeatedly. When the other officer rushed over to help, all three men left the vehicle and allegedly continued to assault the officers.

“At one point during the stop, I can add that one of the passengers lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into the face of one of the officers,” Robillard said.

The two officers called for emergency back-up but before more officers arrived, one of the men fled from the scene. He was pursued by the uninjured officer and was struck by a vehicle when he ran through a red light at Robson and Seymour streets.

The man kept running until he was arrested by the pursuing officer on Richards Street, between Robson and Smithe streets. Police said he was uninjured but was assessed at the hospital and released.

The other two men were also arrested. West Vancouver residents Brendan John Robinson, 21, and Troy Michael Robinson, 22, have each been charged with assault police officer causing bodily harm and willfully obstructing a police officer.

Brian Benjamin Allen, a 24-year-old Victoria resident, is charged with possession of stolen property under $5,000 for allegedly taking the injured officer’s cell phone.

The three men are still in cusotdy. Robillard said all three are well-known to police. However, officers did not know this before pulling over the vehicle.

The injured police officer is now recovering at home from his injuries.

“I can say the injuries are to the head and face of the officer and we would consider them to be substantial injuries,” Robillard said.

“These officers were defending themselves during a routine traffic stop and this stop turned very violent very quick. This wasn’t our officers perpetuating this. This was a routine traffic stop for a very minor traffic infraction.”

A passerby did post part of the incident on YouTube. Robillard said during a press conference on Wednesday that he would not comment on a video that he hasn’t seen.

In the video, the witness questions the arresting officer’s use of force.

“That dude kicked him in the stomach pretty hard for no reason,” the man said in the video while pointing at an officer.

“He severely assaulted my partner and he is combative,” responded the officer.

Robillard said anytime force is used by police officers to defend themselves or arrest someone, it is subjective and there are avenues to assess whether the force was legitimate.

VPD has confirmed the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. was not called to investigate the incident as the man who fled from police was not injured. Anyone with information about the assault is asked to call VPD at 604-717-2541 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Investigators are particularly interested in any cell phone video.

Alexa Huffman