Surrey RCMP officer accused of instigating confrontation with crowd in Strawberry Hill plaza
Police say officer's car swarmed while he was trying to drive away
An investigation is underway after Surrey RCMP say a group of men "swarmed" an officer's police cruiser in the Strawberry Hill area of Surrey earlier this month, although a number of witnesses claim the situation was instigated by the officer.
The incident was captured on several videos filmed by members of the public at Surrey's Strawberry Hill Plaza on Sept. 11, just after 9 p.m., when a confrontation took place between a group of South Asian men and the police officer.
Police say the officer was responding to a noise complaint made by an on-site security person.
"The security officer had reported that this vehicle had been in the area for the last three hours, and it was extremely loud," said Const. Sarbjit Sangha, a media relations officer with the force.
Sangha says the situation escalated when the officer tried to leave the area.
WATCH | Video captures confrontation between RCMP and crowd in Surrey, B.C.
In multiple videos posted to social media, the officer appears to throw papers at a man before getting into a police vehicle. He then turns on the sirens and tries to drive through the group of men standing in the parking lot.
The video then shows the officer reversing his vehicle to try to drive away as some people call him a "bully" before the person making the video starts crying out, "This guy hit me."
According to Sangha, the officer was attempting to leave the area.
"When you see that video, that officer is trying to get into his vehicle to leave this area as he is being swarmed by a group of people," said Sangha, calling the behaviour of those on the scene "unacceptable."
"If you are intentionally getting in front of the vehicle, you are putting yourself in danger," he said.
'He just threw the tickets at his face'
But witnesses say the police version doesn't tell the whole story and claim the Surrey RCMP officer instigated the heated argument.
One of the people involved in this incident says the officer approached the group of men and asked them to leave in a disrespectful way.
CBC has agreed to use the pseudonym Amreek Singh, as opposed to his real name, as he is an immigrant and is worried being identified could impact his status in Canada.
"A cop car came there and told us to 'get out of the f--king parking lot,'" Singh said.
According to Singh, the officer then went to a parked car and issued a ticket and a notice.
It wasn't the ticket itself but the way it was handed to the driver, which became another point of contention, says Singh.
"He just threw the tickets at his face."
When Surrey RCMP's Sangha was asked how the ticket was issued to the driver, Sangha said it was "handed to the driver."
Lawyer raises concerns
Paul Autin, a Surrey resident who saw the situation unfold, says the Surrey RCMP's account of what occurred differs from what he saw.
"The ticket was thrown in the gentleman's face, which obviously was totally disrespectful," added Autin. He also questioned the officer's attempt to drive away.
"[The officer] got in his car and used the front of his car like a battering ram and started pushing them all out of the way," he said.
Kyla Lee, a Vancouver-based criminal lawyer, says the Surrey RCMP officer's conduct seen in the videos concerned her.
"The way that the papers were thrown at the person that he was serving the papers to is far below the standard of professionalism that we expect, and more concerning than that was the very dangerous maneuver the officer made when he pulled out of the parking spot."
After reviewing the footage, Lee says the officer tried to use sirens as an intimidating tactic, and Surrey RCMP's characterization of the incident as a "swarm" is "troubling."
"Rather than reversing out of the spot into a clear area, he put his lights and sirens on and pulled toward a crowd of people, essentially using the lights and sirens to try to bully those people out of the way."
While the investigation remains ongoing, the Surrey RCMP says nobody has been charged as a result of the incident.
B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office, which is called in whenever police action or inaction results in serious injury or death, is not involved as there are no reports anyone was seriously hurt.
- A previous version of this story did not make clear that Amreek Singh is a pseudonym. It has been updated.Oct 07, 2022 3:41 PM PT