A First Nations elder described how a police officer knocked her over and stood on her ankle outside a clothing store in Smithers as a civil trial on possible excessive force began this week.
Irene Joseph of the Wet’suwet’en told a B.C. Supreme Court judge that she’d gone to Mark’s Work Wearhouse in Smithers on Dec. 4, 2014. She said ran into an acquaintance whose name she’d forgotten.
The acquaintance, a woman, had allegedly stolen items from the store.
Joseph bought a scarf and left. She said she was met outside by an RCMP officer she would later learn was Const. Darrin Meier, who asked her for the other woman’s name. Meier has denied all allegations.
Joseph said she told Meier she didn’t know her name, and that it was embarrassing being questioned right outside the store.
“I told him I wanted to go to the side of the store and he could talk to me there,” Joseph said. “But he was pushing me – asking me who she was and he just [wouldn’t] stop.”
Joseph, then 61 years old, said she tried to sit on her walker, which she uses because of an ankle injury, but Meier stopped her and began to rummage through her purse. He then tried to handcuff her, Joesph said, and she resisted.
“I wasn’t going to get cuffed for something I didn’t do.”
She said Meier’s feet knocked the front part of her leg and she fell to the ground head first. She said concealed her hands under her body to prevent from being handcuffed.
A struggle ensued, and the officer eventually stood on her ankle for what she estimated was 10 to 15 minutes but felt “like hours.” She said Meier felt like he weighed around 300 lbs. in full uniform.
After a period of time, another RCMP officer arrived. Meier released his hold, the two officers questioned her for a few more minutes, then left.
Joesph said the entire ordeal left her upset and confused. She is seeking general, aggravated, and punitive damages.
“I just walked back to my walker and sat down,” she said. “I just felt so dirty.”
Her lawyer, Ian Lawson, said the incident has caused her ongoing psychological stress, including fear of leaving the house she has lived in for 33 years.
The court was scheduled to hear Meier’s testimony on Friday.
In his response to Joseph’s initial claim in 2015, Meier argued he had reasonable grounds to believe she had shoplifted, after speaking to the store manager. However, his claim clearly stated she paid for her scarf.
He said she refused to speak to him multiple times, so he took her arm and told her she was under arrest for theft. When she resisted, he said he attempted a “foot sweep manoeuvre” and she dropped to the ground, and hid her hands.
“Const. Meier was required, justified and authorized to arrest and detain the plaintiff without warrant and to use as much force as necessary for that purpose,” his claim said.