The chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. says he will not be referring charges to Crown after a man was injured in a mistaken-identity arrest in Guildford in February.
Officers were responding to an armed robbery around 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 8 at a business in the 10300-block of 152 Street. The suspect had been seen leaving the scene on a bicycle.
In the report from Ronald MacDonald, he said the officer being investigated received a dispatch that stated: “male took money, pointed firearm at the complainant, suspect’s going to be a white male, 30, fat build, wearing a hat, black face mask, black sweater, white t-shirt, dark coloured pants. Left on bicycle last seen south on 152.”
The officer said he found some who he “believed” matched the description of the suspect. The report says the man was wearing an “oversized black jacket, black hoodie and camouflage pants.”
The man said he was riding his bike when the officer “pulled over beside him in his vehicle with his police lights on.” The officer then got out of his vehicle and “yelled something” at the man, who slowed down “but continued biking away from the officer.”
Phil Evans previously told the Now-Leader that police stopped his son’s friend, 27-year-old Alex Fisher, while he was riding a bicycle and the police allegedly “pulled him off his bike and slammed his face into the ground.”
The man told the IIO that he was “hit several times, but was not sure if his injuries occurred when the officer hit him, or whether he was struck by a pole when being removed from his bike.” He added he didn’t remember all of the “details of the use of force clearly because he believed that he had blacked out for a second.”
He was then placed in handcuffs, with the help of another officer who was arriving during the arrest.
Shortly after, the report notes, the officers received a photo of the suspect and “discovered (the man) was not who police were looking for.”
He was then checked out by paramedics. The man initially declined to go to the hospital, but later decided to after his injuries “worsened.” He was diagnosed with orbital and acute nasal fractures.
MacDonald said the officers were acting “lawfully” in the arrest and from the man’s own admission and from a witness officer, he “did not stop his bicycle when told to do so by a fully uniformed officer.”
He said the officer was “justified in running after” the man “to knock him off his bicycle and take him to the ground” as he was “left with no option.”
MacDonald notes it’s “quite possible” that the man’s face was injured in the “tumble” from his bike. He added there is “no evidence” the injury was a “result of the unlawful application of force during the arrest.
“It is extremely unfortunate that (he) ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in him being injured in this incident,” noted MacDonald. “However, the officers’ actions were reasonable considering the information that was known to them, and the danger that an armed suspect posed.”
Shortly after the incident, BC RCMP said it “regrets the mistake made in identifying the man and now offers a complete apology to him.”
– With files from Tom Zytaruk