Saskatoon police officer placed on leave after video of arrest surfaces
SASKATOON -- Two local advocacy groups, the Indigenous Joint Action Coalition and Black Lives Matter Saskatoon, are calling for several police officers to be fired after the release of a video showing a man being arrested in a backyard.
The video shared on YouTube and the organizations' Facebook pages, shows an officer striking a man multiple times during an arrest before being joined by several police officers who take additional measures.
“What we saw is about eight officers beating up a First Nations man and using pepper spray, as well as a Taser to restrain him. It looks like he is pleading for them to stop,” said Erica Violet Lee, a spokesperson for Indigenous Joint Action Coalition.
What happens in the arrest video?
The video, which runs over six minutes, starts with a single officer on top of man, holding him on the ground while trying to arrest him.
“Hey, stop resisting,” the officer is heard saying while the man yells.. A short time later the man attempts to get the officer off of him and the officer then hits the man six times, shouting “stop resisting.”
The man is heard replying “I’m not even doing anything.” The officer then says, “Well stop ******* around. Stop grabbing my leg, stop grabbing my arm, put your arms behind your back,” and hits the man one more time. The man then tells the officer, “Don’t do that” and continues yelling.
An exchange is then heard:
“Stop resisting buddy.”
“I’m right here.”
“Let go of my leg.”
The man then yells at someone in the house, “Right here, help me please woman. Come on, right there.” He then asks the officer "Why do you want to shoot me?”
“I don’t want to shoot you,” the officer replies.
“Help me please.”
The officer then tries to explain to the man why he is being arrested. “Just comply; you broke the law, now you’re fighting me.”
The officer hits the man another two times and yells “stop” before the man grabs his radio on his belt. “Let go of my radio” the officer says, and the officer hits the man another four times.
At 2:28 in the video, another officer jumps over the fence and hits the man four times and the initial arresting officer shouts “Stop resisting! Stop resisting! He keeps grabbing my ******* leg!”
Another officer then says, “Taser, Taser, Taser, Taser” and a Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) is used. Six officers are then seen trying to arrest the man.
“Put your arm behind you,” one officer says as another officer hits the man.
“Help me please,” the man says. “Pull your arm out!” “It’s broken,” the man replies while crying.
Police report of incident
On Saturday, July 4 at around 2 p.m. Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) says an officer responded to a complaint of a suspicious man in the 500 block of 11 St. E.
According to police, the man caused damage to a property and the officer attempted to take the man into custody but he resisted and attempted to disarm the officer. The officer deployed pepper spray but it was ineffective.
A CEW was also deployed but that too was ineffective, police say. Officers were eventually able to take the man into custody.
A 27 year-old man is now facing several charges, including assaulting a police officer, disarming a police officer, mischief and possession of a controlled substance.
Residents say police were not necessary
Frank Collins, a nearby neighbor and the one who shot the video, says he heard yelling and got out his cell phone and began recording.
“I did express to the officer that what he was doing was unnecessary and that it wasn’t needed. I then went around to the front and watched as they threw him into the police car and he wasn’t checked on for 10 minutes. It was tough to watch,” Collins said.
Collins said he spoke with the other residents in the neighboring apartment building and he heard the man was trying to cool off from the heat and was using the apartment’s water hose.
The resident who lives in the house where the incident happened did not want to be named, but said she saw the man in between the apartment and her home.
She talked to him and asked if he was okay and let him sit in the shade in her backyard. She said the man spoke softly and she could not hear what he was saying, and he had a number of pop cans in his arms and was struggling to carry everything. Both Collins and the home's resident said it was an apartment resident who called the police.
“I don’t think police were necessary to be honest. He wasn’t harming anybody. The woman in the house was quite fine with him being there. We’re used to this in our neighborhood,” Collins explained. “We have people in our neighborhood all the time that might be considered a problem but if you interact with them they’re quite fine and harmless and that was the case here."
Indigenous Joint Action Coalition and Black Lives Matter Saskatoon have identified the man being arrested in the video as Evan Penner of Manitoba. They believe he could be living on the streets of Saskatoon. The groups say the video shows violent police brutality instead of what should have been a mental health and wellness check.
“No one deserves to be brutalized by the police in the way Evan Penner was,” said Violet Lee. “He is known around the city, he is a member of our community. This video shows how the Saskatoon Police Service is not equipped to deal with cases of mental health, well-being checks like that and there was no one to take care of potential substance issues. The SPS should fire the officers involved.”
Use of force is based on spectrum
In a statement to CTV News Saskatoon, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Police Commission said the Saskatchewan Police College instructs its students to use "verbal de-escalation techniques" during potential use of force situations.
“The college instructs students on the perceptions and tactical considerations they have to take into account when using force to respond to an individual’s behaviour. The decision to use force is based on a spectrum that ranges from behaviour that is cooperative to behaviour that has the potential to cause grievous bodily harm or death.”
They added when force is used, they are reviewed by the relevant police service to ensure they fall within acceptable guidelines and all use-of-force incidents are reported to the Saskatchewan Police Commission.
Saskatoon Police Service investigating
The Saskatoon Police Service says the video does not show all of the interaction between the officer and the man, and only the use of force is dipicted.
“During the arrest and following a several minute struggle with the first responding officer, the arrested subject sustained non-life threatening injury to his face. He was assessed by paramedics at the scene of his arrest and was observed while in custody by the on-duty paramedic in detention,” the police said in a statement. “Given our commitment to be transparent, the SPS is treating this as a critical and serious incident.”
Chief Troy Cooper has confirmed that the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission will be responsible for an independent investigation, and has spoken to the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Corrections and Policing about ensuring there is appropriate oversight. The officer involved has been placed on leave until an initial review of his response and use-of-force can be completed.
SPS says the man showed the effects of addictions and related mental health issues during the incident, and his condition will form part of the investigation.
“I recognize this incident was a traumatic event for our community, for those involved and for those who witnessed it,” said Saskatoon Police Chief Troy Cooper. “Whenever force is used we are accountable and I want to assure the public that this is being taken seriously and we will do our utmost to be open and transparent as the investigation unfolds.”
The Saskatoon Police Association said it could not comment Monday as it was still reviewing the video.
A previous version of this story indicated The Lighthouse, was familiar with Penner. This is not the case.