British Columbia

Force used by 'calm and rational' Mounties justified after high-speed chase, B.C. judge rules

A man who led police on a cocaine-fuelled car chase through Campbell River was not the victim of excessive force by the Mounties who arrested him, a B.C. judge has ruled.

Shane Roberts was high on cocaine when he led RCMP on pursuit through Campbell River in 2016

A B.C. provincial court judge has thrown out a Charter challenge alleging excessive use of force by RCMP in Campbell River. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

A man who led police on a cocaine-fuelled car chase through Campbell River was not the victim of excessive force by the Mounties who arrested him, a B.C. judge has ruled.

Though Shane Willie Bob Roberts was bitten by a police dog and his nose was broken during the arrest on July 30, 2016, his Charter rights were not infringed, provincial court Judge Barbara Flewelling wrote in a recent decision.

"The use of force by the officers involved in the arrest of Mr. Roberts was justified," the judge said.

She wrote that she watched and listened to recordings of the encounter many times, and the officers involved appeared to be "calm and rational" throughout.

"This is not a case in which officers applied gratuitous force to someone after arrest and who was already under control, compliant or cooperative. As soon as Mr. Roberts was handcuffed, the officers immediately reduced the level of intervention required up to that point," Flewelling said.

'My head just went squirrely'

On the day of the chase, then-41-year-old Roberts had snorted five or six lines of cocaine, puffed a bit of pot and consumed about a dozen beers, he later told police.

An RCMP constable pulled him over after he noticed that the licence plate on Roberts' car had been inactive for four months. The officer testified that when he looked inside the car, he could smell beer and saw two open cans of Budweiser in the centre console between Roberts and his passenger.

When the officer asked for Roberts' licence and insurance documents, Roberts put the car into gear, said "I'm sorry, I can't," and drove off. He later admitted "my head just went squirrely."

The entire interaction was captured on the dashcam in the officer's car and a microphone he was wearing, according to the court decision.

A B.C. provincial court judge has ruled the amount of force used on Shane Willie Bob Roberts during his arrest, which he was resisting, was appropriate. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The Mountie called for backup, and five other officers responded. They followed as Roberts sped through red lights and stop signs, swerved around corners and drove into oncoming traffic, at one point colliding with a pickup truck.

"Mr. Roberts drove all around the downtown and Campbellton areas of Campbell River through residential, business and commercial areas of the city," Flewelling wrote.

Finally, the officers set down a spike belt, and Roberts eventually came to a stop on 16th Avenue close to Ironwood Street.

Roberts was 'struggling and combative'

In court, Roberts contended that an officer punched him and hit him with a baton while he was still sitting in his car, ready to surrender, but the judge said she did not accept that version of events. Flewelling said the officers were only trying to subdue Roberts, who was punching them.

Video from the scene showed the officers working to control "a struggling and combative" Roberts when he finally stepped out of the car, according to the judge. The officers used "stun blows" on his head in an attempt to get him under control, and the canine handler on scene ordered his dog to bite Roberts' leg.

Roberts argued that he was bitten after he was in handcuffs, but the judge said there was no evidence to support that.

"Throughout the cross examination, counsel for Mr. Roberts suggested that the officers involved allowed their adrenaline and emotions to overtake their ability to think rationally and conduct an appropriate risk assessment. I disagree," Flewelling wrote.

Roberts has already pleaded guilty to four charges in relation to the chase and is also charged with assaulting the three police officers who arrested him. He's scheduled to make his next appearance in court on Feb. 22.

The incident was not investigated by the Independent Investigations Office, because it did not meet the watchdog's mandate of probing encounters that cause death or serious harm, according to the decision.

About the Author

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.