Justin Soroka says his life as forever changed after he was seriously bitten by a police dog during an arrest in 2019.
On Thursday, Saskatoon police announced that two veteran officers of the canine unit had been charged with aggravated assault in two separate arrests — in 2019 and 2020. The charges followed an investigation by the Provincial Complaints Commission, which handles complaints issued by the public about police.
Const. Cole Miklautsch, a 13-year member of the force has been charged in connection to Soroka's arrest.
Police said they were trying to arrest Soroka for outstanding warrants. Officers tried to pull his vehicle over but he refused to stop.
Eventually, Soroka got out of his vehicle and ran away, and was tracked by the Air Support Unit.
In an interview, he said he was in the process of giving up when he was clotheslined by one officer.
He said four officers were on top of him when the police dog was released after he was told to stop resisting. However, Soroka said he was not trying to escape.
"I was just trying to not feel like I was being suffocated," he said.
"I'm not superhuman. I can't lift that amount of person and still be resisting."
Soroka was bitten badly on the calf and was taken to hospital. He said there is still considerable scar tissue from the injury.
"It looks like a smaller shark had bitten my leg," he said.
"There's no other way to describe it. It's gruesome. To this day, there's still extensive, extensive damage. Scar tissue left and right."
Soroka was eventually charged with theft, evading police, possessing false identification documents and mischief.
After his release from jail, he said his life went into a downward spiral.
"I started doing a lot of drugs," he said.
"I was on permanent disability. I felt like, 'I'm a monster now.' People are staring at me almost straight away if I'm wearing shorts or something."
Eventually, Soroka decided to lodge an official complaint against police. While he was told by many people that the complaint wouldn't go anywhere, he said he's glad he did.
He wants to make sure changes are made to canine unit policy and ensure this doesn't happen to anyone else.
With the help of family members, Soroka said he has now turned his life around.
"I hurt a lot of people in my time, and I deserved to be arrested," he said.
"But I didn't deserve to feel like I'm forever going to be paying for this crime."
None of the allegations have been proven in court
Soroka said he is also in the early days of filing a civil lawsuit against Saskatoon police.
The Saskatoon Police Service said it was informed that the two officers would be charged on Apr. 21.
A court date for Const. Cole Miklautsch, as well as Const. Dennis Baron is scheduled for next week.
Baron is charged in connection to a 2020 arrest where police were responding to a break-in at a fenced compound.
Police said when the suspect refused to stop, the canine officer used a dog to take the suspect into custody.
The man was arrested and taken to hospital to treat his wounds. The man was later charged with the break-in, along with possessing methamphetamine and mushrooms.
This is the first time in the Saskatoon police canine program's 54-year history that the actions of police dogs have led to criminal charges against officers, although there have been complaints lodged in the past.