The same Downtown Eastside hotel whose owners complained to the Vancouver Police Board two weeks ago about the increase in street disorder outside their doors was the scene of a chaotic police arrest Tuesday.
Video circulating on Twitter showed a 35-year-old man lying on his back on the sidewalk outside the Patricia Hotel at 403 East Hastings St. before being hit at least three times with beanbag rounds from a shotgun.
Prior to the shots being fired, the man is seen with his hands in the air as police repeatedly yell at him to roll on his stomach. The man eventually complies, only to roll away from his position and end up on his back again.
Officers are heard again telling the man to roll onto his stomach or get hit with a beanbag round from a shotgun. At least 12 officers are seen in the one-minute-and-50-second video.
Three shots can be heard on the video, which was filmed by Al Fowler, a member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. Fowler’s footage was posted to Against Displacement’s Twitter account.
CONTENT WARNING: Brutal @vpd police assault on an unarmed man in the DTES — more a dozen cops ordered him to lie down, he did; then they tasered him & shot him 3 times with a beanbag gun from 10 feet away. @GlobalBC @CBCNews @CTVNews | video from Al Fowler from @VANDUpeople pic.twitter.com/VOQBrA8Pfh— Against Displacement (@stopdisplacemnt) July 30, 2019
Fowler told the Courier in a telephone interview that he thought the police’s use of beanbag rounds was “overkill.” He suggested officers could have arrested the man while he was on his back on the sidewalk.
“They should have just grabbed him, rolled him over and arrested him instead of escalating the situation,” Fowler said. “That’s how I see it. It was just way overkill.”
Added Fowler: “I’m not saying the guy shouldn’t have been arrested, or he should be this or that… I just took a video, it got out there [on social media]. I just don’t see why they had to do what they did to him.”
Sgt. Jason Robillard, a Vancouver police media liaison officer, said in an email to the Courier that officers were called to the hotel just before 11:30 a.m.
Robillard said police responded to a 911 call from staff at the hotel who were concerned for their safety after a man entered the building and began to act aggressively.
“The man was not a guest, but was known to staff from a previous violent incident,” Robillard said. “When officers arrived, they encountered a man who was acting aggressively and appeared to be under the influence of drugs.”
Robillard said the man lunged at one of the officers and attempted to punch him. The officer was not harmed and was able to fire his Taser, which had “little effect,” he said.
The officer called for backup because the man refused to comply with police demands. Robillard’s email corroborated much of what is seen in the video, saying the man “refused to listen to verbal direction from police.”
“The man was warned several times that a beanbag would be deployed if he remained non-compliant,” he said. “Officers struck the man’s leg with several beanbag rounds, which proved enough distraction to allow the officers to move in and arrest him.”
The man, a Surrey resident, was transported to hospital for “an assessment related to drug impairment and the deployment of the Taser and beanbags,” Robillard said.
Charges related to assaulting a police officer are anticipated.
As the Courier reported July 18, the general manager and front desk manager of the hotel complained to the Vancouver Police Board that the noticeable increase in street disorder was having an effect on their business.
Daryl Nelson and Lindsay Thomas said the hotel was seeing an escalation of negative tourist reviews because of drug activity, loitering, crime and violence.
“There has been an increase in thefts from vehicles in our parking lot, our property and interactions and altercations that staff have to deal with on a regular basis have escalated to levels of violence that we have not seen before,” Nelson told the board, which is chaired by Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
“This is also an issue that has unfortunately been observed and commented on regularly by the travellers that we accommodate throughout the year.”
Reached Tuesday, Thomas said the incident was obviously not good for business. She said some guests wanting to check in Tuesday had to be held back by police.
“Certainly for them it’s unnerving,” she said of the guests. “And not knowing anything about the neighbourhood, and seeing what it looks like [on the hotel’s website] and then seeing an obvious incident, is not a great thing for us.”