Nanaimo RCMP didn’t use excessive force when a police dog bit the head of a person in a mental health crisis last fall, an investigation has found.
According to an April 7 report from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C., police in Nanaimo were called to a scene last Sept. 23 after someone called 911 around 2 a.m., stating a suspect had “lost it” and was “totally destroying [a] place.” The caller also told operators the person had damaged a wall, and had said if police were called “everyone” would be “going down.”
An RCMP officer arriving on scene found the person inside a garage. The doors were locked, but officers could hear what sounded like items being thrown inside. An officer was able to see through a glass door into the garage and he saw the person “holding a box cutter and a knife with a curved blade.” The officer also observed the person making “threatening gestures with the knives,” stating if the officer entered, he would attack the officers, the report said.
The person continued to swear, utter threats and make threatening gestures, including stabbing at a wall. More police, including members of the emergency response team, arrived, and the person continued threatening officers, stating “I’m going to come out and kill you, going to cut your … throat, I’m going to slash your face off,” stated the report.
Although a crisis negotiator arrived on scene, they were not able to get the person to come out. Negotiations ended just after 4 a.m. and police kicked in the glass door and shot the person twice with rubber bullets, but did not injure the person, the report noted. Police tossed a gas canister into the garage, but the person inside threw it back, as well as “a knife or two at them too.”
The person tried to exit through the damaged door and a pepper gas round from a 40-millimetre launcher was fired, hitting the person in the abdomen.
Surveillance video captured shouting and numerous bang sounds, but based on lighting and distance it can’t be discerned if the person was armed. The person later told IIO investigators he was unarmed when was hit with an energy weapon and “did the dead sailor” as he fell. He also alleged that a police dog “ripped the top of [his] head off” as he hit the ground, and said he was also “zapped” one more time.
The person was taken to the hospital for an injury to his scalp which resulted in a skin graft, stated the report. He had a laceration on the right side of his chin, which was closed with five sutures, and his left shoulder was bruised.
Ronald MacDonald, IIO chief civilian director, said police acted appropriately given the situation.
“The attending officers were acting in lawful exercise of their duty in responding to a 911 call about [the person’s] behaviour. Upon arrival they were confronted with grounds to apprehend [him] under the Mental Health Act, and they were authorized to use force if necessary for that purpose. It is apparent from the evidence, including [his] own account, that police … attempted over an extended period of a few hours to de-escalate and to have [him] come out peacefully and surrender to them,” MacDonald stated in the report.
“It is also apparent that [he] rebuffed all those attempts with threats, violence and general intransigence.”
While police presence seemed to aggravate the person, MacDonald said, the person would have posed a threat to others and police are obligated to protect the public, meaning they couldn’t “simply leave.” MacDonald also said by exiting the garage he also became a risk to police, justifying the increased use of force.
“There is no evidence that any further force was used against [the person] in his apprehension, and he was provided rapid and appropriate care by the attending officers,” MacDonald said.