Dog-bite victim ran from officer: Vancouver police
Bethany Lindsay, ctvbc.ca
Published Monday, January 30, 2012 4:29PM PST
Vancouver police are defending their dog handlers in response to a lawsuit from a man who says he needed almost 100 staples to close gashes left during an encounter with the K-9 unit.
Construction worker Christopher Evans filed suit against the department last week, claiming that he was on his skateboard and listening to headphones on June 12, 2011 when an unleashed police dog suddenly bit his right leg, causing him to fall to the ground. The takedown came after he shattered a bus window because he said he was repeatedly passed by at a transit stop.
The police department released details from the arrest report Monday, alleging that Evans ran from a cruiser that followed him into a dark alley with sirens blaring. Deputy Chief Const. Adam Palmer told reporters that the officer warned Evans to stop or he would release his dog.
"Mr. Evans continued to run, and [the constable] deployed his dog," Palmer said. "The dog made contact with Mr. Evans. Mr. Evans struggled and as a result the dog had to re-apply its bite three times."
Palmer said the officer had Evans in custody in less than a minute after four bites from the animal. Evans was taken to Vancouver General Hospital, operated on and held overnight.
While Palmer acknowledged that Evans might not have heard the cruiser's siren or the constable's demands, he pointed out that the police car's flashing emergency lights were on the whole time.
"In a dark lane on East Hastings Street, even if your ears are listening to an iPod, the flashing lights would still be very visible in the lane," he said.
The department also released video of Evans attacking the bus in the 1400-block of East Hastings Street at around 12:45 a.m.
The footage, taken from inside the bus, shows Evans apparently throwing his skateboard at the windshield of the bus, leading the driver to make a sudden stop.
As Evans walks over to the driver's window, she tells him that she's not letting him on the bus because he's too aggressive.
Evans then walks over to the opposite side of the bus and smashes the window on the door twice with his skateboard.
"Open the f---ing door," he yells.
When the driver refuses, Evans smashes the door several more times, breaking the window and repeating his demand to open the door.
The driver tells her dispatcher to call 911 because, "Somebody's trying to demolish the bus."
Evans was charged with mischief under $5,000, but Crown prosecutors stayed the count.
Crime doesn't justify police response: lawyer
Although the video doesn't show Evans in a flattering light, Pivot Legal Society lawyer Douglas King says the multiple dog bites were not warranted.
"What in that video suggests that a police dog was necessary to arrest Mr. Evans?" King told CTV News.
"This isn't a murder situation or sexual assault. This isn't what many people would qualify as a serious crime."
Pivot has filed a complaint with the Vancouver Police Board, calling for police dogs to be used only with "serious offenders," people who appear to be dangerous or armed suspects. The legal group also wants the VPD to introduce a training method known as "bark and hold" instead of its current "bite and hold" technique.
In the bark and hold method, dogs are trained to find suspects and bark to indicate where they are. Only when the suspect moves are the dogs allowed to attack.
King says the method has been proven to reduce the number of injuries to suspects.
But Vancouver police say their information shows there are actually fewer bites when officers use the bite and hold technique.
"When you have a bark and hold method ... the dog actually makes the decision at that point when to bite the suspect, whereas in the training we provide, the handler makes the decision when to bite," Palmer said.
Pivot says 46 per cent of all reported injuries caused by police in B.C. from March 2011 to January 2012 were dog bites, with similar numbers in 2010. The society is calling on the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to review the VPD's use of service dogs.
More criticism of B.C. K-9 units
A Surrey family is also raising questions about the use of police dogs in B.C. after their teenage son was mauled when he broke into a gas station and stole an energy drink early Saturday morning.
The 16-year-old boy had a broken nose and cuts and puncture wounds on his face.
"My kid's face was mutilated to the point where I could not recognize my child," dad James said.
The family wants the dog put down and has hired a lawyer to pursue a case of excessive use of force against the animal's handler.
The RCMP says the case will be reviewed, and the dog and officer are both still on duty. The teen, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been charged with break and enter and possession of stolen property.
With files from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger