The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has ordered an investigation into Vancouver police’s arrest of a man Tuesday outside a tourist hotel in the Downtown Eastside.
Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Andrea Spindler said the agency decided to get involved after reviewing a widely circulated video on social media that captured part of the incident outside the Patricia Hotel in the 400-block of East Hastings Street.
“A member of the public was injured by the actions of police and required transportation to a hospital for care, and the commissioner has determined it’s in the public interest that an investigation be conducted into the matter,” Spindler told the Courier Wednesday.
The goal of the investigation is to determine whether police committed misconduct in the arrest, which involved officers firing a Taser and beanbag shotgun several times at the man.
The agency has yet to assign an external police department to conduct the investigation, which will be done under the Police Act.
Spindler said the agency was still determining Wednesday whether the investigation would focus on one officer or others involved in the arrest.
At one point during the incident, at least 12 officers can be seen on amateur video filmed by bystander Al Fowler, a member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, which is located across the street from the hotel.
Fowler’s video shows the man being hit at least three times by beanbag rounds fired from a shotgun. The video does not capture the man being hit several times with a Taser, which police confirmed occurred before filming began.
Spindler said the extent of the man’s injuries did not meet the threshold of serious harm, as defined under the Police Act. If they had, the Independent Investigations Office, which investigates police-involved incidents where serious harm or death occurs, would investigate.
Asked whether an investigation would have been ordered without the video, Spindler said the video is one piece of evidence and that a thorough investigation will be done before any conclusions are reached.
“We’re basing [the investigation]on the circumstances of the information that we’ve reviewed on what we see in the video and based on the information that we’ve received from the Vancouver Police Department,” she said.
Sgt. Jason Robillard, a VPD media relations officer, said officers used a Taser several times and fired several beanbag rounds from a shotgun at the man before arresting him on the sidewalk near the hotel’s entrance.
Police responded to the hotel after receiving a 911 call from staff concerned about their safety related to what they described as an aggressive male.
The video shows police telling the man several times to roll on to his stomach. The man eventually complies, only to roll further down the sidewalk and end up on his back.
As of Wednesday, the 35-year-old Surrey resident, who was believed to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident, was still in hospital.
His stay, Robillard said, was “not related to the beanbag or Taser deployment.”
“The biggest concern was the drugs that he had potentially ingested,” he said, noting charges haven’t been approved against the man.
Police are anticipating a charge of assaulting a police officer related to the man trying to punch an officer, which is not captured in the video.
Lindsay Thomas, the front desk manager of the Patricia Hotel, told the Courier the man was known to staff and was involved in a similar violent incident in February.
Once the investigation is completed, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner will review the decision. If the agency disagrees with the decision, it can appoint a retired judge to review the matter.
If it is determined that an officer or officers committed misconduct, a range of disciplinary actions can be imposed, ranging from a written reprimand to dismissal.