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IIO finds no grounds for charges against Victoria police officer who broke woman's arm with beanbag round

Investigators from B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office are seen in this file photo from the IIO. Investigators from B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office are seen in this file photo from the IIO.

British Columbia's police oversight agency has found no grounds for charges against a Victoria police officer who broke a woman's arm with a beanbag projectile during an arrest in Beacon Hill Park.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. says it reviewed audio recordings from police, photos of the woman's injuries and statements from 17 witnesses, including 13 police officers, in reaching a conclusion that ultimately cleared the officer of wrongdoing in the Sept. 9, 2022 arrest.

The incident began around 7:30 p.m., when officers were called due to a complaint about a woman yelling, acting erratically and waving two knives in the air while sitting in a corner of Beacon Hill Park.

A pair of crisis negotiators were called in, but after nearly three hours of efforts to convince the woman to surrender, the Greater Victoria emergency response team was deployed to the scene, the IIO said in a release Monday.

Pepper spray, Taser, ARWEN deployed

The first officer on scene told the IIO that the woman was talking about wanting to die, at one point holding a knife to her own throat. Another officer described the woman stabbing at the ground and swinging the knives as if trying to ward off attackers, saying she appeared to be "in full psychosis," according to the investigation report.

Control of the scene was handed off to emergency response team members around 10:15 p.m. The tactical officers decided to use "gradual escalation from negotiation through increasing levels of force aimed at separating (the woman) from her weapons," the IIO report says.

The woman was surrounded by police vehicles, including an armoured truck, before flashbang grenades, pepper spray and a Taser were fired at the woman, with little effect.

Finally, one officer fired five beanbag rounds from the armoured truck, striking her at least once, at which point the woman began to cut her left arm with the larger of her two knives, according to the report.

This prompted police to fire more less-lethal rounds, including pepperballs and impact rounds from an ARWEN weapon, until the woman threw the knives to the ground.

Police with ballistic shields moved in, again firing a Taser at the woman, and held her down while they began to handcuff her. When on officer took hold of her right arm to put it in the handcuffs, he reported feeling "bone-on-bone grinding" near her shoulder and told his fellow officers he believed the woman's arm was broken, according to investigators.

The woman was treated at the scene by a police medic who tended to the laceration on her left arm, as well as an "an obvious fracture on her upper right arm, consistent with an impact from a beanbag round, which had penetrated the skin," according to the report.

Optics are 'not the best'

The woman was transported to hospital for further treatment.

"Certainly the 'optics' of this incident, which involved 14 police officers, including the emergency response team and an armoured vehicle to apprehend a woman in the throes of drug psychosis, are not the best," Ronald J. MacDonald, the chief civilian director of the IIO, wrote in his report.

"On the other hand, (the woman) was in possession of two bladed weapons, with which she had made vaguely threatening gestures, both against officers and against herself," he added. "For an officer to go 'hands-on' would certainly have involved at least some risk of bodily harm or perhaps worse."

The director of the police watchdog agency commended the Victoria police for their lengthy attempts at negotiating with the woman, saying that she appeared to be a threat to herself and others and therefore taking no action at all could have led to more serious consequences.

"Therefore, taking steps to apprehend was appropriate," MacDonald found. "When it became apparaent that some level of force would be necessary to get (the woman) to drop her weapons, that force was applied incrementally. It is unfortunate that one of (the officer's) projectiles caused a serious injury to (the woman), but all involved officers were clearly trying to apprehend her without harm."

The IIO is an independent police watchdog that investigates all officer-related incidents that result in serious harm or death in B.C., whether or not there is any allegation of wrongdoing. Top Stories

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