Cab driver describes alleged assault by off-duty officers
Published Thursday, January 22, 2009 7:57PM PST
A cab driver has described the moment he dropped two police officers off at a downtown Vancouver location early Wednesday, only to watch them join a third officer in an alleged attack on a newspaper deliveryman.
The cabbie Yash -- he did not want to give his full name -- said he picked up the officers from a club on Granville Street and drove them to a location near the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Burrard Street.
The pair got out of the cab to joined their friend and allegedly began to attack and rob the man, who was named Thursday as 47-year-old Phil Khan of Surrey.
"One guy already was beating the other guy. They gone and they helped him to beat the same person. And three of them, they're beating the one brown guy there," said Yash.
"He was crying for help so loudly. He was saying 'they're going to kill me! Can anybody help me! Please help me!' Then I tried to stop the fight. I ask the guy 'don't do this.' Then the one guy, he come over here, he start swearing to me and yelling."
Yash said he was frightened for his own safety.
"They were beating very badly that guy... They're kicking, punching. He had blood coming out from the lips. I saw it."
Yash said he dialed 911 to call for help. And when the Vancouver police department officers arrived, they initially arrested the victim of the attack.
"They were still beating when the police show up. Police that came and then they break the fight," he said.
"They handcuffed the victim. And I told the police officer 'he's a victim. And those people are beating [him] so you don't need to arrest this guy.' Then the police officer's asking me 'who you are?' And I say 'I called the police and I'm the witness and they say you just stand over there.' And [I] ask the police officer 'can you open his hand?' [take off his handcuffs] Then he did."
On Thursday, Khan's wife told CTV News that her husband visited the doctor and was still experiencing severe headaches.
One of the three off-duty police officers alleged to have been involved has been suspended.
New Westminster Police has placed the 38-year-old officer on suspension with pay while a Crown prosecutor contemplates potential criminal charges.
Another officer involved in the incident who is attached to the West Vancouver Police department has been assigned to desk duties.
The fate of the third, from the Delta Police department, hasn't yet been determined.
Vancouver police Const. Jana McGuinness says witnesses are still being interviewed.
The trio were arrested around 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday and released last night around 9 p.m.
Witnesses say Khan was stopped and asked for directions and a scuffle ensued.
He was delivering newspapers at the time to outside pay boxes and local hotels in the 600-block of Burrard Street.
The victim's employer says he will take the next few days off.
The officers are relatively new to their jobs, with the most senior of the men having just four years experience.
Delta Police say its officer under review is a 28-year-old patrol officer with three years' experience. A spokesperson says the officer is still on active patrol but could be suspended or reassigned.
Speaking for the West Vancouver Police Department, Cpl. Fred Harding says its officer in question is a junior constable with the force with one year's experience.
Quick to react
Four police departments were quick to put out a flurry of statements after criticism last year that information regarding charges against police officers in the Vancouver region was sometimes slow to trickle out to the public.
Five officers from Vancouver and New Westminster were charged with impaired driving last year.
New Westminster Const. Tomi Hamner pleaded guilty last month after driving her unmarked police vehicle into a sign while off duty in October. She was fined $1,000 and lost her driver's license for a year.
The other impaired-driving cases, including one against a Richmond RCMP officer involved in the notorious Taser incident that ended in the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, are still pending.
McGuinness said the officers involved in Wednesday's incident got no special consideration.
"There's no exceptions made for the fact that they are police officers," she said. "When we receive information like this, we want to get that out. There's no reason to withhold it."
Statistics released by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner in November showed that 106 municipal police officers were guilty of misconduct between Oct. 1, 2006, and Oct. 1, 2008.
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With a report from CTV British Columbia's Stephen Smart, Renu Bakshi and files from The Canadian Press.