Bystander lost 'most of his left ear' during police dog takedown: report
There was a frantic scene in New Westminster as police arrested three suspects in connection with a kidnapping and murder investigation. Sept. 19, 2016. (CTV/Chopper 9)
Published Friday, May 24, 2019 9:56AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, May 24, 2019 10:05AM PDT
Almost three years after an innocent bystander was mistakenly mauled by a Vancouver police dog, a watchdog report is shedding new light on how the terrifying situation played out.
The Independent Investigations Office decided there was no reason to charge officers in the Sept. 21, 2016 dog attack on Vick Supramaniam, but withheld its full findings because "other matters related to the investigation were still before the courts."
With those matters resolved, the IIO released its report on Thursday, detailing witness accounts and the wounds Supramaniam suffered during the takedown.
"(He) suffered injuries from multiple dog bites, including lacerations of the shoulder and both thighs. The most serious injury was the loss of most of his left ear," it reads. "He was reported to require follow up with a plastic surgeon, and a possible prosthesis."
Supramaniam was found to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when Vancouver police were chasing three suspects through New Westminster.
The individuals were wanted in connection with a double homicide and kidnapping that had taken place days earlier in East Vancouver, and were considered potentially dangerous.
The suspects' white Acura crashed into Supramaniam's Mazda 3 on East 8th Avenue twice, according to the IIO, first when the driver hit Supramaniam's door and again after police rammed into the Acura and "caused it to strike (the victim's) car a second time."
The bystander told investigators he saw smoke and decided to jump out of the passenger door in case a fire had broken out – at which point he was mistaken for a suspect.
"The next minute I knew after that … the dog was attacking me, on my body and everything," he told the watchdog.
Supramaniam said he cried out that he was innocent and "not one of the guys you're looking for." The biting stopped once he was placed in handcuffs, at which point police started to realize he was not one of the suspects they had been pursuing.
But the IIO said officers and witnesses reported seeing Supramaniam running away from the scene. One officer recalled someone yelling "police, get on the ground," but that the bystander kept fleeing.
"The evidence as a whole demonstrates that (Supramaniam) was running from the scene when he was taken to the ground by some combinations of the actions of police officers and the PSD," the report reads.
"Given that, and the proximity of the Acura and (Supramaniam's) vehicle, it is not surprising that in circumstances of stress, confusion and smoke, police officers thought (he) was a suspect running from the crashed target vehicle."
The actions of police were "therefore reasonable," the IIO found.
When making its decision, the IIO said it weighed officers' decisions against the situation they found themselves in. Two people had already been killed, and police had reason to believe the suspects were armed and holding a hostage with them in the Acura.
Police did ultimately find a handgun in the car, according to the watchdog.
The 2016 incident prompted calls for police dog handlers to wear body-mounted cameras, and for departments to move away from the "bite and hold" training to a less aggressive method that results in far fewer injuries.