Exclusive

Rob Wright alleges takedown by officer on steroids caused brain damage

A Terrace, B.C., man who suffered permanent brain damage after a 2012 takedown in an RCMP jail cell — an incident captured on video obtained by CBC News — is alleging the officer was on steroids.

Terrace, B.C., man suing RCMP for allegedly violent jail cell takedown

A Terrace man who suffered permanent brain damage after a takedown in an RCMP jail cell is alleging the officer responsible was on steroids 2:39

A Terrace, B.C., man who suffered permanent brain damage after a 2012 takedown in an RCMP jail cell — an incident captured on video obtained by CBC News — is alleging the officer was on steroids.

Robert Wright is suing the arresting officer, Const. Brian Heideman.

Police allege, in court documents, that Wright’s injuries were not caused by RCMP members, but are "attributable to previous and/or subsequent incidents, or congenital defects or pre-existing conditions."

In the video, Heideman and two other officers escort Wright into a cell. Wright is clearly combative, yelling and swearing.

The video shows Wright being thrown to the ground. Wright's head hits a hard surface, with an impact that allegedly caused irreversible brain injury.

Wright says he doesn’t remember the incident. On some days, the 50-year-old forgets he is married, among other things.

Robert Wright and Heather Prisk in happier times on the day of their engagement, a year before the 2012 incident in the Terrace, B.C., RCMP lock-up. (submitted by Heather Prisk)

"My life's pretty down right now, like, compared to what it used to be," said Wright in an exclusive interview with CBC News in his apartment.

This week, Wright’s lawyer amended his claim against the officer, adding allegations about steroid use. The RCMP has not yet had a chance to respond to this amended claim, and refused to comment to CBC News. The officer has not been reached for comment.

RCMP Const. Brian Heideman is accused of throwing Robert Wright to the ground. (submitted by Heather Prisk)

Heideman, who is now stationed in Vernon, B.C., was censured earlier this year for involvement with steroids and docked eight days pay by the RCMP.

He has been cleared in other complaints and inquiries, including one from his time based in Edmonton involving a high-speed car chase that left two teenagers dead.

On April 21, 2012, the night the video in the Heideman case was recorded, Wright's wife, Heather Prisk, had called police, concerned he might hurt himself while driving drunk, without a licence.

That call, police say, alerted them that Wright "might act violent."

History of drunk driving

Wright does have a history of drunk driving and at least one attempt to resist arrest, but he was never charged in connection with this incident.

His lawyer, Scott Stanley, says that despite his client’s rough past, there's nothing in the jail cell video to suggest police needed to use force at the point he was thrown on the ground.

"As a human it's hard to look at it… just the raw violence that's depicted in it … it’s just very challenging to look at it and as a lawyer, you have to look at it more than once."

In ambulance reports and court statements of defence, police say Wright was angry and shouted threats as he was arrested.

Once in the jail, the video shows Wright being led to a cell, where he is asked to kneel on a knee-high bench, facing the wall. Police request that he cross his ankles, and Wright seems to uncross them a few times while swearing at the officers.

The video then shows Heideman grabbing Wright and throwing him to the ground.

Within seconds, blood is pooling around the unconscious man’s head.

Lives changed forever, says wife

Wright was taken to hospital twice and discharged before he was found unconscious in the cell at 4 a.m. PT, according to medical records.

Prisk believes the incident forever changed her husband.

Heather Prisk has a tender moment with husband Robert Wright after his injury. (submitted by Heather Prisk)

"He can become quite agitated and sometimes act aggressive and swearing inappropriately. He wasn’t like that before," she said.

"I know it was wrong because Rob shouldn't have come out of a jail cell like that — in an ambulance to the hospital on frickin' life support. That's not how you are supposed to come out of a city cell."

On mobile? Click here for the Wrights' Statement of Claim

On mobile? Click here for the Statement of Defence

With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.