Charges were not approved against a Port Moody Police officer for his actions during a 2021 arrest, in which a man jumped from a three-storey balcony, resulting in serious injuries.
The BC Prosecution Services (PCPS) announced on Tuesday, Aug. 22, that it didn’t believe there was enough evidence to result in a conviction.
The main issue in the case is where the initial attempted arrest of the man took place, as police did not have a warrant to enter the residence to make the arrest.
“Although the witness statements raise the clear possibility that the arrest may have occurred inside the residence, significant ambiguities in the statements regarding the location of the initial contact are unresolved,” PCPS said. Therefore, there is no substantial likelihood of proving the arrest was unlawful.”
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the province’s police watchdog overseeing municipal forces, began an investigation into the incident due to the serious nature of the injuries.
The man was wanted by police for breaching the terms of his parole. He sustained a fractured hip socket, fractured hip joint and a fractured foot during the arrest and had to be transported to Royal Columbian Hospital.
The IIO investigation resulted in Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. MacDonald finding there were: “reasonable grounds to believe the officer may have committed offences.”
Potential charges against the officer included assault, assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, and unlawfully causing bodily harm, according to the IIO report.
The arrest occurred on Sept. 15, 2021, following surveillance of the Port Moody residence where the wanted man was believed to be staying.
The three-person surveillance team spent several days observing the residence and did not see the man, but observed a car parked outside which was associated with him.
Because police did not have the requisite grounds to obtain a search warrant, their plan was to arrest the man leaving or entering the residence.
Police believed he would try to avoid arrest due to his multiple convictions for multiple offenses, which included assaulting a peace officer and resisting arrest. He was also considered to be potentially armed.
While on patrol duty, one member of the surveillance team saw that the car was gone, so they took up positions to apprehend him on his return.
The officer under investigation took up an observation position in front of the residence, while two uniformed officers took back-up positions on side streets with no direct line of sight.
Radio transmissions from the officer show he observed a male with distinctive tattoos outside the residence whom he suspected was their target. The man then entered the residence.
In following transmissions the officer said the door was open, he heard yelling from inside and he was going to approach.
“I’m at the front door now,” the officer said over the radio, followed by a code requiring immediate assistance.
The uniformed officers arrived to find the front door open, two civilian males sitting in the living room and voices coming from upstairs.
Another radio transmission came from the officer that the man was “running out the back.”
The man jumped from the third-storey balcony, landed on an awning off the second floor and then onto the ground.
He tried to get up and run but was quickly apprehended by the other officers.
Only one of the two civilian witnesses provided a recorded statement.
The witness said the officer came to the open patio back door, and he called out to his friend who then came downstairs, but was “hesitant to walk any closer” to the officer.
According to the BCPS, this statement appears to indicate the officer was still outside the residence at this point.
The witness said the officer then entered the residence and a struggle ensued in the living room, and the arrestee “slithered out of . . . the grasp” of the officer.
The other witness only briefly spoke with investigators over the phone, stating he saw the officer show his badge to the wanted man, and then chase him up the stairs.
The BCPS service said it’s unclear from the statements where the interaction began or where the parties were located.
The arrested man’s statement to the IIO said that he did not know the officer at the door was a police officer at first.
He described being upstairs, being called by his friend saying someone was looking for him to find “some dude standing there.”
The officer lifted up his shift to show a gun and badge, commanding him to “come outside right now,” according to the statement, adding he was not told he was under arrest.
When he stated he wanted to get his ID and moved backwards, the officer entered the house towards him pointing his gun and trying to grab him, according to the statement.
He said he tried to flee, but did not resist arrest after becoming injured.
Neither of the uniformed officers were present during the initial contact, but one officer stated he could hear the officer giving the wanted man commands to stop and that he was under arrest.
During his hospital stay, the arrested man allegedly told the physician he was unsure why he ran from police, but that alcohol and crystal meth consumption had likely impaired his judgment.
Where the arrest was initially attempted was the focus of the investigation and charges referred to Crown Counsel.
Police did not have a warrant to arrest the man inside – absent someone requiring immediate attention or aid – without obtaining a specific warrant.
If the officer attempted the arrest from inside the residence, it would be unlawful and the wanted man would be entitled to resist; the officer’s continued apprehension would constitute assault, according to the BCPS.
However, if the attempted arrest started outside, or on the threshold of the residence, the officer would be entitled to follow the suspect inside as he would be in “hot pursuit” and justified to use a reasonable amount of force.
Although the BCPS said some of the witness statements raise the possibility that the arrest may have started inside, the evidence was insufficient to make a “strong and solid case of substance to support the conclusion.”
Even if the Crown could prove the arrest occurred inside, the officer could only be held responsible for injuries sustained by the man if they were reasonably foreseeable, according to the BCPS.
“Accordingly, there is no substantial likelihood of conviction, and no charges are approved.”
Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch