Wednesday, 15 August 2018

ASIRT investigation finds no use of force in Lethbridge incident

ASIRT - The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has concluded its investigation into injuries sustained by a man while fleeing police in Lethbridge last year.

On Aug.ust 15, 2017, ASIRT was directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding serious injuries to a 41-year-old man during contact with a Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) member responding to a break and enter.

At approximately 12:04 a.m., a security alarm went off at the Centre Village Liquor Store in the 200 block of 12 Street North. LPS officers responded shortly thereafter and found what appeared to be a break and enter with no suspect —based, in part, by broken glass and blood they observed at the scene. Officers reviewed store surveillance video and were able to obtain a physical description of the person responsible and the clothes that the person had been wearing. Police dispatch broadcasted this description to patrol members.

At about 12:30 a.m., a patrol officer on Stafford Drive encountered a pedestrian who appeared to match the clothing and general appearance of the person involved in the liquor store break and enter. The man also had blood on his hands and shirt.

Stafford Drive runs over the Canadian Pacific train tracks below. The officer approached the man and asked him where the blood had come from. The man said he had been at a safe injection site, but that explanation didn’t seem plausible to the officer. Without warning, the man ran away and jumped over a railing on the southwest side of the bridge, falling approximately 15 to 17 feet to a steep concrete embankment below. The man stood up and continued to try to run but made it only a short distance before he collapsed.

The officer immediately radioed that he had a suspect, but that the man just jumped over the bridge. The officer could be heard, within seconds, stating that that he had the man in custody and requesting an ambulance. On the radio recordings, the officer sounded professional, calm and composed.

Emergency Medical Services attended and provided emergency treatment before taking the man to Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge. Doctors diagnosed the man with a serious fracture involving his left foot, consistent with the jump, and a compression fracture of the vertebra. Ultimately, he needed surgery to repair the foot injury.

The man voluntarily spoke with ASIRT investigators following the incident and advised that the officer never touched him, did not cause his injuries, and that the injuries were sustained when he jumped from the bridge.

Public confidence in the police is enhanced when independent investigations can determine how a person was injured during encounters with police and whether the contact was lawful. ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson, QC, reviewed the investigation. The man’s evidence, supported by all the other evidence gathered in the investigation, allowed for a clear picture of the events that led to his injury. In this case, the officer did not cause the injuries. As such, there are no reasonable grounds, or even suspicion, that the officer committed an offence. The officer was lawfully placed, acting in the lawful execution of his duties, and did nothing improper.

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, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.

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