Terrace RCMP officer sentenced for assault

Incident dates back to 2014 and was recorded on cellphone

SCREEN shot of video taken of arrest by Terrace RCMP officer in 2014.

Terrace RCMP Const. Bruce Lofroth now has a criminal record after being handed a suspended sentence with one year of probation by judge Ed de Walle for an assault on a youth in 2014.

He will also have to complete 100 hours of community work service and pay a victim fine surcharge of $100, de Walle ruled in passing sentence here Dec. 21.

The assault charge stemmed from a video, taken just before 10 p.m. May 28, 2014, that showed an officer physically restraining a male person who was on the ground in front of a business on Lazelle Ave. The person was on his stomach on the ground and appeared to be showing no resistance.

The video showed several blows being administered to the back of the head of the person, one after the person was handcuffed with his arms behind his back.

Commanding officer of the Terrace RCMP detachment at the time, Inspector Dana Hart, since retired, ordered a Code of Conduct investigation and asked that the Independent Investigations Office of BC step in with its own investigation after becoming aware of the video on Oct. 7, 2014.

At that time, Hart said the video, approximately two minutes in length, did not capture the specific chain of events leading to the arrest, but he did say officers were responding to a 911 call.

Lofroth was charged Feb. 25 after the Independent Investigations Office looked at the evidence and determined an assault may have happened and forwarded its report to Crown prosecutors to make the decision of whether to lay charges.

After Lofroth pleaded guilty this past August, defence lawyer Brad Smith said that since Lofroth has spent 16 years here as a police officer, it would be better to have an out-of-town judge to oversee his sentencing. Judge Ed de Walle, who was judge here in the 1990s up to 2008 when he moved to Salmon Arm, was chosen to be sentencing judge.

On Oct. 21, a sentencing hearing was held in which the Crown prosecutor Michael van Klaveren told Judge Ed de Walle that the defence’s sentencing submission of a conditional discharge wasn’t appropriate because it would not follow the two main factors of sentencing: denunciation of what happened and deterrence of others from doing something similar in future.

Defence lawyer Smith said a conditional discharge was appropriate because Lofroth had been provoked to hit the victim because the victim had punched him earlier, resulting in a split lip for Lofroth.

In giving his sentencing reasons, de Walle agreed that Lofroth had been provoked when, while trying to put the second handcuff on the youth he was trying to arrest, he looked away and the youth punched him in the face.

Lofroth got the youth from laying on his back on the ground to turn over on his front and got both wrists handcuffed and then punched the youth in the head which cannot be said to be done in self-defence or in reflex of the youth hitting him, said de Walle.

De Walle said he was mindful of the difficulty of the arrest but the assault was serious as punches in the head put the youth in significant risk of injury and Lofroth was not in any danger.

The youth was later charged with assaulting Lofroth but the charge was eventually dropped.

De Walle had been asked to consider a conditional discharge but he said that was not appropriate given Lofroth did receive a conditional discharge, also for assault, in 2001.

In all, Lofroth has been a police officer for 30 years, serving with the Victoria police force prior to joining the RCMP.

In information provided in court in October, it was heard that the people who made the 911 call to police which resulted in Lofroth going to the Lazelle Ave. location said that a domestic assault was happening and a man was holding a woman against the wall and trying to strangle her.

Lofroth arrived first and while trying to arrest the man, managed to get him on the ground when the woman jumped on Lofroth, court heard.

One person believed she was trying to choke him, court heard.

The court also heard that Lofroth had already incurred several consequences in this matter: he was disciplined by the RCMP, had his pay docked to what amounts to about $3,000, lost days of leave that he had accrued, and worst of all, been removed from the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team permanently and been on desk duty ever since the video surfaced.

For an officer like Lofroth, who has sought out front-line work for more than two decades on the job rather than get promotions and move up through the ranks, these are two punishments that are the most significant to him, said his lawyer in those earlier submissions.

Lofroth’s earlier 2001 conditional sentence for assault came after he struck a man while that man was in custody.

Lofroth was found guilty in a trial and it was noted that at that time, he had suffered emotional stress from the recent death of his brother.

His conditional discharge included probation, 200 hours of community work service and a letter of apology to the victim.