Sheriff fired for excessive force against mute man back on job
The Alberta sheriff fired two years ago for using excessive force on a disabled man at the Red Deer courthouse has been allowed to quietly return to his job, CBC News has learned.
“(I’m) outraged,” William Berry explained. “The law should be a shield for the weak and helpless. Not a club for the powerful.”
Berry, a two-time cancer survivor, is hard-of-hearing and mute. In December 2011, while attempting to pay a speeding ticket, the 52-year-old inadvertently entered the courthouse through an open exit door, bypassing courthouse security.
Sheriff Thomas Bounds grabbed Berry, dragging him back to the exit. Berry, only able to communicate through hand signals, fell to the ground. During the altercation, his breathing tube was dislodged. It was eventually replaced by another sheriff.
Following an internal investigation, the Solicitor General's department found Bounds used "excessive" and "unjustified" force. Bounds was charged with assault through a private prosecution. The charge was eventually stayed.
Berry says he was left injured and traumatized by the experience; he has since filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Bounds and the province. In February 2012, after the investigation was finished, Justice Minister Jonathan Denis told CBC News that Bounds was no longer employed by the government.
However, the province has confirmed that Bounds returned to work as a sheriff in the Red Deer courthouse in January 2014.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees appealed Bounds’ termination. The settlement reached with the province allowed him return to work. A non-disclosure agreement was also included in the settlement.
Berry says that the fact that Bounds has returned to the job leaves him feeling betrayed. He says that Denis and the province have misled both him and the public. He believes the Justice Minister should have to explain why Bounds was allowed to return to work.
Berry says he will continue with his lawsuit against the province.
"If they think I'm going away, they are mistaken."
Denis refused to comment on Bounds’ return, saying that the matter was before the courts.
Red Deer courthouse camera footage of incident
With files from the CBC's Janice Johnston