Investigation launched into violent arrest caught on camera in B.C. Interior
VANCOUVER -- The RCMP has launched an internal investigation after video surfaced showing an officer repeatedly striking a suspect during an arrest in the B.C. Interior.
A passerby witnessed the violent takedown while driving through Williams Lake on Sunday, and recorded video that she later posted to social media.
The recording begins with police pursuing a pickup truck down Highway 97. The pickup driver swerves across the opposing lanes and stops the vehicle, then briefly runs away from police before halting and kneeling on the ground.
As one officer arrests the man, another can be seen kicking and punching him repeatedly while he's face-down in the snow.
At that point, the witness begins yelling at police: "Hey, stop that! We're filming this. You're being filmed."
CTV News has reached out to the woman who posted the video.
On Monday, the Tŝilhqot’in National Government condemned the arrest as "police brutality" and called for the officers involved to be suspended.
"We are shocked and outraged by the police violence captured in this video. We are particularly concerned by indications that the man attacked by RCMP in this video is Indigenous," Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the threat of unwarranted, unnecessary violence from the RCMP is a reality that Indigenous peoples live with every day."
The Tŝilhqot’in National Government also demanded an independent investigation into what happened. So far, the RCMP has promised a review of the incident and an internal Code of Conduct investigation undertaken by Williams Lake RCMP.
Chief Supt. Warren Brown, the RCMP's North District Commander, said there are ongoing discussions around "what role an external agency may have in reviewing the use of force, and determining whether it was reasonable and necessary under the circumstances."
In a written statement, Brown also argued the witness video lacks context, and that the arrest "was the culmination of a high-risk, multi-jurisdictional incident that put the lives of the public and police in several communities in jeopardy."
According to the RCMP, officers in Kamloops received reports of an erratic driver Sunday morning on Highway 1. Authorities said "queries on the truck showed that at a recent stop in Kamloops, a person driving it had been found in possession of a loaded handgun," though the suspect they eventually arrested was not armed.
Police allegedly found the vehicle in Clinton, but said the driver sped off and passed several vehicles on the wrong side of the road.
"Again, the driver failed to stop for officers in 100 Mile House when they attempted to pull him over by using their lights and sirens, and narrowly missed striking an officer, who was attempting to stop the truck in 150 Mile House," Brown said.
"Just outside of 150 Mile House an officer successfully deployed a spike belt, despite two deflated tires the driver continued to drive on the bare rims, until the truck was demobilized by another spike belt near White Road on Highway 97."
It's at that point that the witness video begins. While the RCMP acknowledged that the suspect "appeared to be surrendering," authorities said the man wasn't complying with an officer's commands to show his hands.
Brown said the suspect remained in custody Monday on seven outstanding warrants for offences that include dangerous driving, flight from police, prohibited driving, possession of stolen property and three counts of breach.
The RCMP also said the suspect was not physically injured.