The family of a man with epilepsy says police beat him severely in his home then arrested him after they had called 911 for help with violent symptoms from a seizure.
And his was the second case like it in Edmonton within a week.
Neil Ryley, 49, has epilepsy, a brain disorder characterized by recurring seizures. At the end of June, his ex-wife Tracey Schimpf suspected he was having a medical episode when he started acting erratically.
'This is probably the ultimate of what can go wrong when someone has a seizure.' - Gary Sampley, executive director of the Epilepsy Association of Northern Alberta
"He was upset. Freaking out," she said.
Ryley has seizures often, but it's only about three times a year that he displays defensiveness, violence or anger, Schimpf said.
Symptoms such as hallucinations, confusion and violence can occur during and after certain types of epileptic seizures, according to the Edmonton Epilepsy Association.
Schimpf said she called 911 for an ambulance three times. She also recommended the paramedic crew bring police officers with them. In the past, officers had helped the paramedic team restrain Ryley and bring him to the stretcher when he had aggressive episodes during or after seizures.
Ninety minutes after her first call, Schimpf said, police arrived without an ambulance. She let two officers into Ryley's house, which is near 121st Avenue and 92nd Street.
They went into Ryley's bedroom. He had calmed down a little, but after a few minutes of talking, Schimpf said she heard a scuffle.
The officers called for backup. Schimpf said roughly 10 police officers were soon at the home. Schimpf saw at least six more officers go into the bedroom. She didn't see what happened, but she says she heard more struggling.
"I heard banging. One officer said 'Stay down.' I heard that a lot," she said.
Sometime after the other police officers went in, she saw one officer come out with a bloody nose.
Ryley himself said he does not remember what happened. But he did take pictures of bruises on his hip, legs, arms, face and abdomen. A couple of those bruises appear to be shaped like a boot.
Edmonton police spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said Ryley head-butted one of the officers, breaking his nose, and bit another. Police offered no comment on Schimpf's claim that it took 90 minutes for police to arrive after she first called 911.
The officers charged Ryley with assaulting a peace officer. They took him to hospital, arrested him, then put him in jail for eight days. His lawyer got him out on bail after producing a letter that verified his medical condition.
CBC has also confirmed a second man with epilepsy was arrested and charged with assaulting a peace officer six days earlier, while displaying symptoms linked with epileptic seizures.
Police say they responded to that scene because of reports a man was running naked near a children's school. Undressing and disorientation can be associated with certain seizures in the epilepsy spectrum.
Sheppard said that man put his hands around an officer's neck. Police then tasered him before arresting him.
"There are 44 known types of epileptic seizures. Some are quiet. Others come out with a look of aggression," said Gary Sampley, executive director of the Epilepsy Association of Northern Alberta.
"They may lash out defensively, unconsciously. What happened is not uncommon," he said.
Sampley knows of eight cases over the last 11 years in Edmonton where people who were coming out of seizures lashed out and were criminally charged. He said in every case, the charges were eventually dismissed.
"This is probably the ultimate of what can go wrong when someone has a seizure in public."
Lawyers for both men are in negotiations to try to have the charges dropped.
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