Edmonton, Alberta – On Mar. 4, 2018, pursuant to section 46.1 of the Police Act, ASIRT was directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding a use of force by a member of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) that caused a loss of consciousness and serious injury to a 65-year-old man.
ASIRT’s investigation was comprehensive and thorough, conducted using current investigative protocols and principles. In addition to evidence from civilian witnesses, EMS personnel, witness officers and the 65-year-old man, the most critical piece of evidence was available CCTV video that captured the incident. Additionally, although not required to do so, the involved officer was fully cooperative and provided a voluntary statement.
The investigation determined that on the evening of Mar. 3, 2018, a group of people staying in two separate rooms at the Argyll Plaza hotel began socializing and consuming alcohol. When the evening ended, one couple went back to their room, but the woman returned to the first room shortly thereafter to ask that someone call for an ambulance as her husband had been injured. EMS responded but the details provided regarding the situation were unclear so EMS requested police assistance.
When a 65-year-old man from the first room heard about the injury to the other man, he went to the man’s room and waited with him until EMS arrived. Upon their arrival, the man left and came back to the room twice becoming argumentative with the paramedics. It was apparent that the man seemed significantly impaired by alcohol. EMS barred the man’s entry into the room to allow them to properly assess and treat the patient’s injuries.
When an EPS officer arrived in response to the request for assistance, he attended the room with the injured man and found EMS on scene and the situation under control, so he advised by radio that there was no need for additional officers, indicating that EMS were on scene and everything was under control. While the officer was in the room with EMS and the patient, the 65-year-old man returned and knocked on the door. EMS advised the officer of the previous issues and that they felt the man was interfering with their care of the injured person and asked that the man not be let in. The officer opened the door and directed the man to return to his room.
When the man failed to comply with that direction, the officer exited the room and began pushing the man towards his own room, with the man attempting to pull away, swinging his arms. As the man stood facing the officer with his back to the cement hallway wall, the officer delivered a single forceful punch to the man’s head, causing the man’s head to strike the cement wall, rendering him unconscious as he fell face forward to the hallway floor.
The officer handcuffed the man, sought assistance from EMS, and reported the use of force to dispatch. The man remained unconscious for approximately three minutes and was described by EMS witnesses as disoriented when roused. He responded only to painful stimuli, and had blood coming from his mouth. The man was transported to hospital where it was determined that he had sustained a severely broken jaw that would require multiple surgeries to repair.
A police officer is justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do by law, and to use as much force as is reasonably necessary for that purpose. In this case, the officer was responding to a call for service from EMS and was potentially preventing a breach of peace by trying to stop the man’s continued interference and disruption while EMS treated a patient. As such, the officer was acting in the lawful execution of his duties.
The issue was whether the application of force, and in particular the level of force used, would meet the standard of reasonably necessary. The officer advised that he believed that the man was about to strike him. In law, an officer must not only subjectively believe the level of force was necessary, that belief must be objectively reasonable. The whole of the evidence, including the video, raised the issue of whether the degree of force used, a full force punch to the head, was objectively reasonable in the circumstances. As required by the Police Act when there is evidence that is capable of providing reasonable grounds to believe an offence may have been committed, ASIRT forwarded the matter to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) for an opinion. The opinion provided indicated that the evidence did not meet the standard for prosecution, finding there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction.
Following a review of the evidence gathered in the investigation and the ACPS opinion, the officer will not be charged with any criminal offence.
ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person.
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