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Civil suit against B.C. RCMP officer claims 16-year-old girl assaulted during arrest

A crew from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is seen in this file photo from the office's website. (iiobc.ca) A crew from the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is seen in this file photo from the office's website. (iiobc.ca)
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B.C.'s police watchdog is seeking witnesses to an arrest on Vancouver Island during which a teen girl was seriously injured more than six years ago.

The Independent Investigations Office issued the appeal Thursday, saying it was notified about the Jan. 3, 2018 arrest by a member of the Comox Valley RCMP after the "female youth" filed a civil lawsuit.

"The claim alleged the youth sustained serious injuries during her 2018 arrest, and the IIO therefore commenced an investigation," the statement says.

The arrest itself happened outside of the liquor store at the Comox Mall "as it was reportedly believed the youth would be at risk if not apprehended," according to the IIO.

The notice of civil claim was filed in November of 2022 and Mounties notified the IIO in February of 2023, the statement adds, asking anyone who has information or video to contact investigators.

"Initial investigative steps have examined the level of injury the youth sustained and the details of the arrest and subsequent detention."

A spokesperson for the IIO clarified, in an email to CTV News, that the teen's injuries were found to have met the threshold of serious harm – which it is mandated to investigate.

Lawsuit alleges assault, false imprisonment

Court documents shed more light on the allegations saying the 16-year-old suffered a compression fracture to her spine, nerve damage, injuries to her ribs and wrists, and "contusions and lacerations."

According to the notice of civil claim, the teen contacted the RCMP after she saw that she had been reported missing by her grandparents in Victoria, whose home she had left after "deciding to live independently" in December of 2017.

"The RCMP requested that the plaintiff meet an RCMP officer at the Comox Mall to confirm her wellbeing," the court documents say, adding that the teen agreed to this meeting.

At the meeting, the officer, referred to in the documents as John Doe, "requested that the plaintiff accompany him." The teen did not agree and was taken into custody, the claim says.

"The defendant, John Doe, without reasonable grounds and using excessive force, detained and arrested the plaintiff. The defendant, John Doe, tackled the plaintiff to the ground, kneeing her in the spine, and forced her into the police car, causing injury and damage to her ribs and spine," the documents say.

At the police station, the claim says the girl requested medical attention and was not taken to the hospital "and was forced to spend the night in a prison cell while visibly in extreme pain."

The lawsuit accuses the officer of assault, battery, false imprisonment, and the intentional infliction of mental distress and seeks an unspecified amount in damages, the documents say. It also alleges the officer's actions violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

RCMP response says officer 'justified in law'

A response to the civil claim, filed by B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety, denies all of the allegations but not that the arrest at the mall took place after the plaintiff contacted police in response to a missing person's report.

According to the response, an officer reviewed the file and spoke to the province's Ministry of Children and Family Services before meeting the teen.

"Based upon the information obtained by Officer 1, he had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the plaintiff was a child in imminent danger and should be apprehended pursuant to s. 27 of the Child, Family, and Community Service Act," the response says.

When the officer told the girl she was being taken into custody she "attempted to flee" and so he "took hold of her coat to prevent her doing so," the response says.

"The plaintiff actively resisted Officer 1's attempts to apprehend her, including by attempting to strike him, by resisting his attempts to handcuff her, and by threatening to kill him," it continues, adding that the Mountie "physically guided the plaintiff to the ground."

The response also says that the teen was arrested for obstruction and assaulting an officer, and was taken to the station and "lodged in cells overnight." It explicitly denies that the girl asked for medical attention at any point during which she was in custody.

The 16-year-old's arrest was lawful and justified, the response says, denying that any excessive force was used or that any actions of the officer caused the teen's injuries.

"The defendant denies that the RCMP members committed any action as alleged in the notice of civil claim, or otherwise, that was not justified in law, and the defendant specifically denies that the plaintiff suffered personal injury, loss, damage or expense as alleged in the notice of civil claim, or at all," it says.

Both the notice of civil claim and the response say that the teen was criminally charged in connection with the arrest. The response says she was charged with one count of assaulting a peace officer, one count of uttering threats, and one count of willfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer.

Those charges were stayed in July of 2018. 

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