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Lawsuit from B.C. student claims assault by RCMP officer during moment of 'mental distress'
VANCOUVER -- A B.C. nursing student claims she was assaulted by a member of the RCMP during a wellness check earlier this year.
A notice of civil claim filed in a Kelowna courthouse names the federal attorney general, B.C.'s minister of public safety and RCMP Const. Lacy Browning as defendants.
The student, Mona Wang, was "under mental distress" when her boyfriend called emergency services to request a health check on Jan. 20, 2020, according to the documents.
Her lawsuit alleges Browning entered her apartment and found her lying on the bathroom floor in a "state of semi-consciousness," but that the corporal did not identify herself as a Mountie or try to find out if Wang needed medical care.
The plaintiff claims Browning asked her to stand, which she couldn't do.
It is alleged that Browning "proceeded to assault the Plaintiff by stepping on the Plaintiff's arm," then kicked Wang in the stomach.
"Browning repeatedly assaulted the Plaintiff while shouting, 'stop being dramatic,' 'control your f--king dog, don't make me hurt him,' and other phrases such as 'stupid, idiot,'" the lawsuit claims.
It is alleged Wang was then handcuffed and dragged, while lying on her stomach, through the apartment, leaving her with injuries to her face, upper thigh, right breast, sternum and forearms.
It is alleged Wang was dragged to the building's elevator, while she was punched in the face.
None of the claims in her lawsuit have been proven in court.
Surveillance video from the building, which was obtained by CTV News, shows an RCMP officer dragging a shirtless woman, who is face down, by her hands or wrists out of an apartment and down a carpeted hallway.
Another clip shows the officer dragging the woman through the building's lobby toward the front door. The woman lies face down on the floor for some time, and is eventually brought to her feet by the officer, out of view of the camera. Holding the woman's arm, the officer brings the woman outside, using a nearby floor mat to prop open the door.
Wang is wearing a bra and pants at the time. Several residents are seen walking by during the incident, and at one point, the officer is seen pulling on Wang's hair, then let her head rest back down.
Earlier, when Wang lifts her head, the Mountie pushes it down with her boot.
Wang's lawsuit claims her face was bruised, she had broken blood vessels to the left eye, her right eye was swollen and her right temple was bruised.
Wang was taken to hospital while in police custody. It is alleged Browning "misled the medical professionals" at Kelowna General Hospital with claims that Wang was high on methamphetamine, which the plaintiff claims she's never used.
A toxicology report showed no illegal drugs in Wang's system when she was admitted to hospital, the suit claims.
A response to the civil claim says the section regarding the toxicology report is "outside the knowledge of the defendants."
The defendants' version of events includes that police were called in because the plaintiff, who they allege had a history of suicide attempts by ingesting medication, had stopped responding to texts.
When Browning arrived, the defendants say, she tried to get access through the intercom system, but her calls were unanswered. She got in when another resident opened the door for her.
It is alleged Browning knocked multiple times at Wang's apartment and announced herself as a police officer, and that the plaintiff eventually unlocked the door.
The defendants claim Browning approached the closed bathroom door, and again announced she was a police officer. There was no response, so she opened the door.
Browning claims the door struck Wang when she opened it.
The response says Browning found Wang lying on the floor on her right side. She was motionless but appeared to be breathing.
The defendants allege Wang was holding a boxcutter knife, and had lacerations on her chest and upper arm.
They also claim there were two empty pill bottles on the floor, and some loose pills nearby.
"It was evident to the Defendant Browning from the size of the bottles that a significant number of the pills were unaccounted for," the response states, adding the pill bottles were for acetaminophen and melatonin.
The defendant claims there was also a bottle of red wine beside Wang, and it appeared nearly empty.
The defendant claims she tried to disarm the woman by immobilizing her arm and taking the knife, but the plaintiff's dog attacked the Mountie. It is alleged the officer moved the dog to a bedroom, then came back to the bathroom, where it appeared Wang was unresponsive.
It is alleged that Browning performed a sternum rub to "ascertain her true level of unconsciousness," the defendants' response says. Wang noted in her suit that her sternum was bruised.
The plaintiff opened her eyes and shouted, according to the defendants' version of facts. It is alleged that Wang asked to be killed, and held one hand hidden behind her back.
Browning claims, due to a belief that Wang had already injured herself and the possibility she might have another weapon, she thought Wang might hurt herself or the officer.
It is alleged the plaintiff was then told she'd be apprehended under the Mental Health Act, and pulled onto her stomach to check if there was another weapon. There wasn't, the defendants say.
They claim the plaintiff actively resisted arrest while "continuing to curse violently," and that Wang hit Browning several times with an open palm.
The plaintiff was told to stand up so they could leave and refused, Browning claims.
At that time, Browning "moved the plaintiff to the front door of the building," the version of facts states.
In the response, the defendants do not describe how Browning moved Wang, but say her reasons for doing so included she had no other police resources available, and that she was unsure whether first responders would be able to get inside in a timely matter.
She also lists as reasons that it was unsafe to leave the plaintiff alone in her home, that the plaintiff refused to stand and walk, and that she was concerned about an immediate need for medical and/or psychiatric help.
When they got to the front of the building, the plaintiff decided to co-operate, and walked to the police car which was used to take her to the hospital, the response to the civil suit says.
It is alleged Wang collapsed on the floor of the hospital when they arrived.
The defendants deny that Wang suffered any injuries as a result of the events of that day, and they deny Brown intentionally misled hospital staff. They also deny the plaintiff suffered any losses or damages.
The plaintiff said she suffered emotional distress, humiliation and shame, as well as physical injury, from what the lawsuit describes as "reckless, malicious, and unlawful disregard of the rights and safety of the plaintiff."
Wang's lawsuit alleges negligence, and sites Section 37 of the RCMP Act, which outlines, among other things, that Mounties must "respect the right of all persons" and "perform the Member's duties promptly, impartially and diligently, in accordance with the law and without abusing the Member's authority."
Wang is suing for general, aggravated and punitive damages, as well as special costs, damages pursuant to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other damages.
She's named government officials in the suit as well, alleging liability for the negligence of RCMP members.
The defendants say the investigation, arrest and detention of the plaintiff were "reasonable, lawful and executed in good faith," and that Browning did not act with malice.
They claim the "limited use of force by the Defendant Browning was no more than was reasonable and necessary in the circumstances to both direct compliance as well as protect the plaintiff from further harm."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Jon Woodward and St. John Alexander