British Columbia

Surrey trucker sues RCMP after officers Tasered him twice in his vehicle

Mounties "intentionally battered" Bradley Degen during the incident in 2016, which caused him to go into convulsions, according to documents filed in a lawsuit being heard in court in New Westminster. Court heard that Degen's personality had changed significantly as a result of the incident. In their defence, police say Degen was drunk at the time and struck one of the officers, and that their use of force was justified.

Man claims police 'battery' left him with long-term injuries; police say he was drunk, swore and struck them

The New Westminster law courts on Aug. 30, 2021. A lawsuit being heard at the courts alleges that two RCMP officers were grossly negligent in their use of force against a Surrey trucker; police say their use of force was justified. (David P. Ball/CBC)

A Surrey, B.C., truck driver claims he suffered long-term mental and physical injuries after RCMP officers Tasered him twice in his vehicle, which he had parked outside a warehouse overnight.

Mounties "intentionally battered" Bradley Degen during the incident in 2016, which caused him to go into convulsions, according to documents filed in a lawsuit which is being heard in court in New Westminster.

Court heard Monday that Degen's personality had changed significantly as a result of the incident.

In their defence, police say Degen was drunk at the time and struck one of the officers, and that their use of force was justified.

RCMP 'grossly negligent,' claim says

According to Degen's statement of claim, he was delivering goods to Vancouver Specialty Cedar Products Ltd., a wood warehouse in Surrey, on July 25, 2016. Finding it had closed for the day, he slept in his truck so he could complete his job in the morning.

According to defence filings, security guards at the facility called police, saying Degen had been stumbling around the warehouse yard and appeared to be drinking while idling his truck. Two officers woke him up around 10:20 p.m. PT and demanded he exit his cab.

Both sides' court filings agree the officers asked him to turn off his truck and speak to them, and when he swore and lay back down, they broke the windows on both sides of the truck. Both officers fired their Tasers through the broken windows.

"One set of Taser prongs embedded themselves in Bradley's chest, directly over his heart … The Tasering caused Bradley to go into convulsions," the statement of claim said.

RCMP "were grossly negligent in their duties and guilty of wilful misconduct in the arrest of Bradley," Degen's court documents state.

"The RCMP members intentionally battered Bradley. Bradley sustained injury, harms, losses and expense as a result of the battery by the RCMP members."

Degen was arrested and charged with obstruction and assaulting an officer, but those charges were stayed in January.

'Any force used was justified in law': defence

The lawsuit was initially filed against the RCMP and its officers, but an amended claim named the defendant as B.C.'s solicitor general, who oversees policing in the province.

Police said Degen had been seen drinking and stumbling around the warehouse yard. They said a witness on the site did not want a truck idling there.

"[An officer] asked the plaintiff to come to the window and turn off the truck," the province said in its response to the lawsuit, adding that Degen was being investigated for impaired care and control of a motor vehicle.

"The plaintiff responded with an obscenity and said he would not open his window."

It said Degen then struck one of the arresting officers.

"[The officers] were acting in the performance of their duties and in the exercise of their powers as provincial constables," the defence filing stated. "Any force used was justified in law ... The material facts pleaded in the notice of civil claim do not support these allegations."

According to the plaintiff's lawyer, Thomas Harding, Degen's family members observed that his personality changed significantly and permanently after the incident. 

In court on Monday, Harding questioned Dr. Derryck Smith, a psychiatrist and former B.C. Medical Association head. He was called as a witness by the defence to determine whether Degen actually suffered serious injury from the incident.

"Personality change from the point of view of the family may or may not represent what psychiatrists regard as a change in personality," Smith testified.

Monday's witness had not directly assessed Degen, said his lawyer, who himself called several experts.

They testified that Degen suffered mild traumatic brain injury and numerous psychological and cognitive issues including depression, "impaired cognition" and difficulty concentrating and sleeping since the arrest.

Hearings in the lawsuit began Aug. 16 and continue this week.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David P. Ball

@davidpball

David P. Ball is a CBC News reporter in Vancouver. Send story tips or ideas to david.ball@cbc.ca, or find him on Twitter @davidpball.

now