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Charges against police officer recommended in wake of 2020 incident that began in Kamloops and ended in Williams Lake

·4 min read

B.C.’s police watchdog has recommended charges stemming from a police chase between Kamloops and Williams Lake in October 2020 that was captured on video, sparking public scrutiny after being shared online thousands of times.

A silver pickup truck, which had been reportedly driving erratically on Highway 1 in Kamloops earlier that day, was eventually pulled over by Mounties on Highway 97 near White Road in Williams Lake, four hours away.

The male driver of the vehicle, however, ran from police and down a nearby embankment in an attempt to escape after a brief foot pursuit.

Video posted online of the incident showed the driver appear to surrender at the bottom of the embankment to one of two pursuing officers. Video shows one officer pull the man to the ground before a second officer runs in and kicks him. That officer then appears to level several punches on the suspect as he is on the ground, being arrested.

According to a release from Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIOBC) this week, the man sustained injuries that didn’t meet the threshold of serious harm as defined by the Police Act. However, given the significant public scrutiny generated by video of the arrest, the director of police services ordered an IIOBC investigation.

Chief civilian director Ronald J. MacDonald said that upon review of the evidence, it was determined that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that one of the involved officers may have committed an offence in relation to the use of force during the arrest.”

The IIOBC has now forwarded its recommendation to the BC Prosecution Service, which will determine if it will proceed with charges.

In order to approve any charges, the BC Prosecution Service must be satisfied there is a substantial likelihood of conviction based on the evidence gathered by the IIOBC and that prosecution be required in the public interest.

While the matter is with Crown, the IIOBC will not be making any additional comment about the facts of the case.

In October 2020, RCMP North District Chief Supt. Warren Brown said the video posted online did not tell the whole story.

“What is captured by the civilian video was the culmination of a high-risk, multi-jurisdictional incident that put the lives of the public and police in several communities in jeopardy,” Brown said.

Brown said just before 9 a.m. on Oct. 25, 2020, Kamloops RCMP received a report of an erratic driver on Highway 1. The caller reported the driver was crossing on double solid lines, unable to maintain his lane and travelling at variable speeds. Brown said Kamloops Mounties were not in a position to intercept the vehicle, so information was broadcast to neighbouring jurisdictions to be on the lookout for the silver pickup truck. Queries on the truck showed that at a stop in Kamloops, a person driving it had been found in possession of a loaded handgun.

An officer in Clinton found the vehicle, but the driver failed to stop and drove away from police at a high rate of speed after reportedly passing four vehicles on the wrong side of the road of a blind corner.

The driver then failed to stop for officers in 100 Mile House when they attempted to pull him over by using their lights and sirens. The drive then narrowly missed striking an officer who was attempting to stop the truck in 150 Mile House.

Just outside of 150 Mile House, an officer successfully deployed a spike belt. Despite two deflated tires, the driver continued on with bare rims until the truck was demobilized by another spike belt near White Road on Highway 97, coming into Williams Lake.

Brown said that’s when the driver left the vehicle and ran down the embankment — where he was then caught by the two RCMP officers.

Brown said the man refused to comply with one officer’s commands to show his hands and a struggle ensued, with the officer attempting to pull the man’s hands from underneath him in order to handcuff him.

The second responding officer, believing the man could be armed and was not complying with the initial officer’s commands, “utilized several strikes, including one with his foot to rapidly gain control of the suspect and resolve the situation,” Brown said.

The suspect was arrested and found not to be in possession of a firearm.

The IIOBC is the independent civilian oversight agency of police in British Columbia. It investigates all officer-related incidents that result in serious harm or death, whether or not there is any allegation of wrongdoing.

Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week

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