A Vancouver police officer won’t face criminal charges for allegedly breaking numerous bones in a suspect’s face during a 2020 arrest.
The BC Prosecution Service said Friday (Feb. 10) they couldn’t determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer used excessive force.
The incident dates back to the early hours of Sept. 20, 2020, when officers were called to a residential Vancouver neighbourhood for a suspicious man report. Police said they found the man trying to steal a catalytic converter out from under a car around 2:30 a.m. The man reportedly got on his bike and fled when officers approached him.
A police dog chased the suspect down and bit him in the calf, allowing two officers to catch up. One of them punched the suspect in the ribs to stop him from attacking the police dog, while the second officer is believed to have delivered numerous blows to the suspect’s face.
As a result, the suspect suffered multiple broken ribs, as well as fractured jaw, cheek and orbital bones.
In a statement to investigators, he said he blacked out and that when he woke up he heard an officer say, “You messed up my dog’s paws. Now I have to take him to the vet. That’s why you got the flashlight.”
Audio from a witness video taken after the arrest revealed a similar statement, without the flashlight remark: “You should have stopped right away. Then my dog got his legs caught in your bike. Then you were hitting my dog when it bit you. So be a man. What’s your last name?”
The video did show the officer under investigation holding a 15-centimetre flashlight while he leaned over the suspect, but the prosecution service said they couldn’t be sure the officer actually used it to hit the man. The officer declined to provide a statement and his colleague said he couldn’t remember what happened.
The prosecution service said the injuries were certainly significant, but that Crown couldn’t prove exactly what caused them or whether the level of force the officer used was reasonable or not.
“Given the dynamic and confused nature of the situation, considerable latitude is likely to be given officers exercising judgment as to whether the force used was objectively excessive.”
The prosecution service determined there was not a substantial likelihood of the officer being convicted, so it couldn’t approve charges against him.