The Attorney General of Canada (AGC) has denied excessive force was used in a May arrest in Kelowna during which a local Mountie was caught on camera punching a man several times in the face.
Tyler Russell filed a lawsuit against Const. Siggy Pietrzak, the B.C. Minister of Justice and the AGC after video of the offence went public in June 2020.
In a response to that claim filed earlier this month, the AGC denies Russell’s allegations that Pietrzak assaulted him, contending instead that Pietrzak’s strikes allowed officers to gain control over Russell.
“The AGC denies that the RCMP Members used excessive force in apprehending the plaintiff, or otherwise, and say that any force they used against the plaintiff was reasonable and justified in law,” reads the AGC’s response to the civil claim.
According to the AGC’s response, on May 30, 2020, an RCMP officer located Russell in a vehicle that, upon investigation, he was found to be driving without permission of the owner.
Upon request, Russell got out of the vehicle and officers noted a strong smell of alcohol, prompting them to seek a breath sample. At that point, the response claims, Russell became agitated.
Based on Russell’s “yelling and aggressive behaviour,” the officer sensed the situation escalating and requested back-up.
Another officer arrived and unsuccessfully attempted to assist the first officer in restraining Russell.
It was then Const. Pietrzak arrived on scene.
“(He) applied multiple closed hand strikes to the plaintiff’s head in order to gain control over the plaintiff. The constables were then able to bring the plaintiff to the ground, place handcuffs on him, and move him to the back of Const. Donahue’s police vehicle,” stated the AGC.
In the vehicle, the filing alleges, officers found half a bottle of hard alcohol behind the passenger seat; a glass pipe with unburned white powder, believed to be either cocaine or methamphetamine; and a flap of white powder, believed to be either cocaine or methamphetamine, in a wallet that contained Russell’s identification.
While being held at the RCMP detachment, Russell asked for medical attention. The suit claims upon the arrival of EHS personnel, Russell was “yelling and acting aggressively” towards them.
Russell was placed in a restraint chair to allow healthcare workers to examine him and was subsequently transported to the hospital without charge.
According to Russel’s claim filed back in June, he suffered damage to his nose, facial bruising, swelling and excessive bleeding, as well as damage to his face.
The claim also alleges Russell was unlawfully treated while at the detachment, that officers forced him to leave the hospital without receiving the care he needed and that when Russell was detained at the detachment RCMP was negligent. It also alleges his Charter rights were breached claiming he was detained without being provided with a reason and not informed of his right to retain counsel immediately.
As a result of the incident, Russell claims he has now suffered embarrassment and suicidal ideation. He alleges he now suffers from PTSD, repeated and ongoing nightmares, anxiety, nervous shock, tenderness to his face and ribs and constant and severe migraines, among other issues.
S/Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, the B.C. RCMP’s senior media relations officer said Pietrzak remains assigned to administrative duties and his duty status is subject to continuous review and assessment.
An internal investigation of Pietrzak’s actions remains on-going. The findings of that investigation will be forwarded to the BC Prosecution Service for charge consideration.
None of the claims made by the AGC nor Russell have been tested in court.
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