'I will never feel safe again': 2nd woman to accuse Kelowna Mountie of assault speaks out
VANCOUVER -- The second woman to file a lawsuit accusing Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Lacy Browning of assault is speaking out, saying that the years after the alleged incident have been full of pain and fear.
In her lawsuit, Fiona Read says she approached Browning after a New Year’s Eve party four years ago looking for help getting home — and was instead taken to the ground, where her head was smashed repeatedly against the roadway.
“I was just in shock that this would happen so quickly,” Read told CTV News in an interview. “I was scared to death at that point.”
Neither Browning nor the Kelowna RCMP detachment have filed statements of defence in the case and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
Read said she felt she had to come forward to support Mona Wang, who is shown in a video in another lawsuit being dragged shirtless through her apartment after a wellness check in January. The video shows Cpl. Browning pushing Wang’s head to the ground and also putting her foot on her head.
That video has prompted calls for change from a top B.C. Mountie, who has proposed expanding a program that sends a team comprised of a nurse and a police officer to mental health calls.
Read said Browning’s alleged behaviour in the New Year’s Eve incident had nothing to do with a mental health stop. She also said the officer knew her name going into the interaction, something she still doesn't understand.
“She asked me if my name was Fiona. And I said yes with relief, thinking that this person was going to hear my story and protect me and I’d be safe,” Read said.
Instead, her lawsuit claims, “Browning grabbed the plaintiff, flipped her around, grabbed her by her hair and pounded her head into the ground multiple times causing damage to the plaintiff’s face. The plaintiff lost count how many times her face was slammed into the concrete."
The suit says Read was handcuffed and, in extreme pain, was unable to stand on her right knee. She had bruising and swelling on the left side of her face, and tenderness where the suit alleges Browning had pulled out chunks of her hair.
Read was detained for six hours and charged with resisting arrest and assault, according to the document.
“Browning charged the plaintiff in order to cover up her assault on the plaintiff. The Crown did not approve the charges,” the suit says.
Cpl. Browning was placed on administrative leave following the first lawsuit, the RCMP confirmed to CTV News. Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said the force is also reviewing Read's allegations "to determine if there are any other actions that need to be taken."
There are two ways the RCMP can deal with a complaint, an RCMP spokesperson said. In one, an officer’s supervisor can provide feedback directly and try and resolve the complaint informally.
In a more formal route, the complainant can proceed directly through the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which can trigger an investigation by police officers of the incident.
Neither happened, because her complaint was dismissed out of hand, Read recalls.
It’s not the first time a brutality complaint has been dismissed by the Kelowna Mounties. Nathan Stroeder told CTV News earlier this month that he tried to file a complaint against Const. Siggy Pietrzak back in 2017.
But the supervisor didn’t accept the complaint, Stroeder said. He eventually filed a complaint in Ottawa via the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. The complaint was not substantiated, though Stroeder complained about deficiencies in the investigation.
Pietrzak was seen on video punching a man repeatedly in the face during an arrest last month.
“Even when I was being released, I tried telling my story then and nobody had any interest in hearing my story,” Read said, adding that it's hard to imagine an officer would change behaviour if they are insulated from any complaint.
“You have to listen to the whole situation to make a determination and not just assume that people are bad and you have to manhandle them, or be aggressive with them,” she said.
“For a few years after it, I would see a police car go by, I’d go into a sheer panic,” she added. “I will never feel safe again.”