Kelowna Mountie charged with assault in arrest caught on camera
Videos show man being repeatedly punched by a police officer during impaired driving arrest
WARNING: This story contains a graphic image depicting the injuries of the man who was punched.
A Kelowna RCMP officer has been charged with assault after he was caught on camera repeatedly punching a man in the head during an impaired driving arrest last year.
The charge against Const. Siggy Emmit-Steven Pietrzak was sworn on Wednesday in Kelowna Provincial Court, according to the B.C. Prosecution Service. An RCMP news release says he is currently suspended from duty with pay.
Pietrzak became the subject of an internal investigation following the May 30, 2020, arrest of 30-year-old Tyler Russell in a Kelowna parking lot.
According to RCMP, officers were responding to reports of a suspicious vehicle and when they arrived on scene, they found Russell inside intoxicated. Police allege he was unco-operative and clenched his fists as he struggled with the officers.
Two videos of the arrest later surfaced showing an officer punching Russell in the head at least 10 times while two other RCMP officers restrained him.
According to RCMP spokesperson Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, the results of an internal investigation into the arrest were reviewed by another police agency before the file was forwarded to Crown prosecutors for charge approval.
Russell has filed suit against Pietrzak, alleging the encounter left him with "serious injuries and consequences, including: post-traumatic stress disorder, diminished self-worth, depression, anxiety and loss of enjoyment of life," among other consequences.
In his response to the claim, Pietrzak has said the punches were justified after he saw his fellow officers struggle to arrest Russell, who was "larger and stronger" than they were.
None of the allegations in Russell's claim or Pietrzak's response have been proven in court.
Pietrzak is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on the assault charge on May 3.