Tŝilhqot’in National Government condemns RCMP brutality; RCMP issues its version of events

THE Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) on Monday condemned RCMP violence in the Williams Lake area captured on Sunday morning on video by an eyewitness.

According to the TNG, in the video, a man fleeing from the RCMP drops to his knees and surrenders without resistance. As one RCMP officer subdues him face down and prone on the ground, another RCMP officer rushes in and delivers a forceful kick to his back, followed by further strikes to the back. There are unconfirmed reports that the man detained by the RCMP is Indigenous.

TNG said it condemned this act of police brutality and called for “the immediate suspension of the RCMP officers involved in this incident and a thorough, transparent and independent investigation.” It demanded an immediate meeting with the RCMP and the Ministry of Public Safety to ensure that appropriate action is being taken to address this situation.

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, TNG, said: “We are shocked and outraged by the police violence captured in this video. We are particularly concerned by indications that the man attacked by RCMP in this video is Indigenous. Unfortunately, the threat of unwarranted, unnecessary violence from the RCMP is a reality that Indigenous peoples live with every day. We demand a full, independent investigation into this incident and the immediate suspension of the officers that were involved and we will not rest until there is accountability for this incident and an end to police brutality against Indigenous peoples.”

Chief Jimmy Lulua, Interim Vice Chair, TNG, said: “We demand accountability for the violence by RCMP officers caught on camera in this recording. We are seeking confirmation of whether the man attacked in this video is Indigenous, as reported. This occurrence is a deeply disturbing video and it demands an immediate, independent investigation so that we have all of the facts. We are demanding a meeting with the RCMP to address this incident and ensure that it is getting the urgency and attention that it merits. This is not acceptable. People across Canada and the United States are standing up and speaking out against police brutality and other forms of racialized violence experienced by black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour. We need to see change now.”  

RCMP Chief Superintendent Warren Brown (North District Commander) in response to the arrest in Williams Lake issued the following statement on Monday:

“Yesterday, I was alerted to an arrest in Williams Lake that was captured by a civilian witness and has since been circulated on social media. I want to assure you that immediately upon learning of the arrest we launched a review of the incident which includes speaking with the officers involved and witnesses, reviewing the in police car video, police radio transmissions, as well as the civilian video.

“Additionally, I have spoken with the Officer in Charge of the Williams Lake RCMP who has launched a code of conduct investigation. Discussions are continuing with respect to what role an external agency may have in reviewing the use of force, and determining whether it was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.  

“Following a preliminary review, we can say that the civilian video, while it captures part of the arrest, does not provide the full-scope of the arrest and provides no context with respect to what precipitated the arrest. What is captured by the civilian video was the culmination of a high-risk, multi-jurisdictional incident, that put the lives of the public and police in several communities, in jeopardy.

“Just before 9 a.m. on October 25, Kamloops RCMP received a report of an erratic driver on Highway 1. The caller reported the driver was allegedly crossing on double solid lines, unable to maintain it’s lane and traveling at variable speeds. Kamloops RCMP was not in a position to intercept the vehicle, so information was broadcast to neighbouring jurisdictions to be on the look out for the silver pick-up.  Queries on the truck showed that at recent stop in Kamloops, a person driving it had been found in possession of a loaded handgun.

“An officer in Clinton located the vehicle, however the driver failed to stop and fled from police at a high rate of speed, after reportedly passing four vehicles, on the wrong side of the road of a blind corner putting both himself and the public in an extremely dangerous and life threatening situation.

“Again, the driver failed to stop for officers in 100 Mile House when they attempted to pull him over by using their lights and sirens, and narrowly missed striking an officer, who was attempting to stop the truck in 150 Mile House. Just outside of 150 Mile House an officer successfully deployed a spike belt, despite two deflated tires the driver continued to drive on the bare rims, until the truck was demobilized by another spike belt near White Road on Highway 97, in Williams Lake.

“The driver then exited the vehicle and ran down an embankment, in an attempt to escape, and after a brief foot pursuit appeared to be surrendering. However, he refused to comply with the officer’s commands to show his hands and a struggle ensued, with the officer attempting to pull the man’s hands from underneath him, in order to gain control and handcuff him.

“A second responding officer, who was aware the man could be armed and was not complying with the initial officer’s commands, utilized several strikes including one with his foot to rapidly gain control of the suspect and resolve the situation.  The suspect was arrested without further incident and was found not to be in possession of a firearm.

“We are fortunate that no one, including the suspect, was physically injured in an incident that can only be described a reckless and dangerous, which put the public and police at risk.

“We encourage anyone who may have witnessed the incident or anyone with more information in regards to this incident to please contact Williams Lake RCMP at 250-392-6211.

“Fortunately, there is video footage that was captured by a passing motorist as well as dash cam video from the lead pursuing police vehicle that captures the arrest of the driver that provides context to the eventual arrest and articulation from the police officers involved.

“The driver has been arrested and remains in custody on seven outstanding warrants for offences including, dangerous driving, flight from police, prohibited driving, possession of stolen property and three counts of breach, he is scheduled to appear in court in Williams Lake today, on October 26th, 2020. 

“Williams Lake RCMP is leading the investigation into the newest allegations against the driver and will provide the fulsome findings, including the civilian video, to the BC Prosecution Service to make a determination of appropriate charges. 

“I would like to thank the public for bringing this matter forward.  I have full confidence that the review and internal investigation underway will allow for a full capture of the facts that will guide our actions and any other decisions moving forward.’