'I'm not this mean monster,' RNC officer says

Officer told his side of autistic man's arrest at a Public Complaints Commission hearing Thursday.
Const. Rod Priddle was off work for two years after Dane Spurrell was detained. (CBC)

One of the officers who mistakenly arrested a young autistic man told his side of the story before the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission Thursday.

Const. Rod Priddle said the incident will always be a dark period in his life.

Priddle, a veteran on the force for 18 years, was the officer who threw Dane Spurrell to the ground almost three years ago.

Spurrell, 18 at the time, was walking in Mount Pearl on the evening of April 18, 2009. Priddle and Const. Lisa Harris were on duty that night and spotted Spurrell, assuming he was intoxicated.

However there was no smell of alcohol, so Priddle shone a light into Spurrell's eyes and thought he was on drugs. When Spurrell didn't cooperate, Priddle raised his voice, and used the F-word a couple of times. The situation escalated to force.

Priddle said what transpired next still gives him shivers. Spurrell was face down on the ground, arms in front of him. Priddle pushed his thumb behind the man's ear. The pain was supposed to convince Spurrell to obey orders.

What Priddle didn't know was the young man had a shunt in his head, and had he picked the other ear, he could have crushed the shunt.

Priddle and Harris pulled and pushed Spurrell into the back of a police cruiser, and Spurrell spent the night in the lockup.

The events of that night still weigh heavily on Priddle

"I feel, still feel, absolutely horrible about this. That started probably the worst period of my life," he said.

Priddle wound up being off the job for two years, but has since returned to work.

"I'm absolutely sorry that all this happened to Dane. I'm not this mean monster going around trying to put someone in jail," he said.

The RNC apologized to the Spurrell family after the incident, but later concluded in an internal investigation that officers did nothing wrong. In response, Dane's mother took the matter to the complaints commission in 2010.

The commission will pass judgment on the incident.