3 Calgary police officers charged with assault in violent arrest caught on video
One officer allegedly dug the point of a key into man's neck when he was handcuffed
Three Calgary police officers who are accused of participating in a violent arrest that left a 34-year-old man with a collapsed lung and broken ribs have been charged with numerous offences including assault and public mischief.
The mischief charge relates to false statements two officers are alleged to have given that led to Clayton Prince being charged with resisting arrest. That charge against Prince was later stayed, along with a charge for possession of a small amount of marijuana.
The following officers were charged Wednesday:
- Const. James Othen, 38, faces four charges including assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon and two counts of public mischief.
- Const. Kevin Humfrey, 33, faces charges of assault causing bodily harm and two counts of public mischief.
- Const. Michael Sandalack, 31, faces a charge of assault causing bodily harm.
"I consider the dishonesty and the charging of a person who did not commit an offence to be — by far — the more serious charges," said Sue Hughson, executive director of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which investigated the incident.
"To suggest that a person committed an offence that they did not commit and potentially subject that person to the criminal justice process, and potentially imprisonment, is extremely serious."
Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin said the alleged actions of the officers are "not representative of the kind of policing we expect in this city."
"But, as I've said before, accountability is incredibly important and, through all the processes, this is probably one of the highest levels of accountability an officer will experience — having to stand in court and be judged in court," Chaffin said.
Description of the arrest and injuries
The arrest took place on July 30, after an officer attempted a traffic stop on a white SUV in a parking lot around the 6700 block of Macleod Trail South.
The driver fled on foot and a short chase ensued before he gave up and was arrested.
"After Mr. Prince had surrendered to police and was lying prone on the ground on his stomach, with his hands behind his head, it is alleged that the named officers committed an assault upon Mr. Prince, both before and after he was handcuffed," Hughson said.
"Mr. Prince sustained broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a facial laceration and significant bruising. Once Mr. Prince was placed handcuffed in the back of a marked police vehicle, it is alleged that Const. Othen reached into the vehicle and dug the point of a key into Mr. Prince's neck behind his left ear, an area known to be vulnerable to pain compliance techniques, resulting in an injury that became infected and required additional treatment."
The officers only came under investigation after video from a police dashcam surfaced that contradicted their accounts of the incident.
Other Calgary Police Service officers flagged the video to their supervisors, Hughson noted.
"This is important, as it should be remembered that the actions of the officers charged in this case should not reflect on the many good men and women within the CPS, and all the police services in this province, who go to work every day in good faith to serve and protect the people of this province," she said.
Chaffin said he watched the video personally and immediately turned the investigation over to ASIRT.
"There was an obviously a disconnect between what we believed happened and what this video was showing," he said.
The video has been submitted as evidence and won't be released for the time being, the chief said, although he expects it will be made public eventually.
"As soon as the court matter is concluded, then that will become publicly available, likely," he said.
The officers appeared before a justice of the peace via telephone on Wednesday and were released from custody with conditions they not have any contact with police or civilian witnesses or the victim.
"Any police officer charged with any offence would be very concerned," said lawyer Alain Hepner, who represents Othen.
The officers and their lawyers met with ASIRT officials Wednesday morning.
"The other lawyers and I are waiting for disclosure and we're in a holding pattern until we receive it," said Hepner.
Prince has not responded to the CBC's request for comment.
A fourth officer who was also under investigation initially will not be charged, Hughson said.
"That does not mean that he may not be subject to other, internal disciplinary processes," she said. "It just means there was insufficient evidence to charge him."
Two of the officers were suspended with pay and two were placed on desk duty following the incident.
Chaffin said the three officers facing charges have now been "relieved of duty" and he will be "reviewing their status in the days and weeks to come."
He said the fourth officer who was not charged "will likely just be returned to duty."
The three facing charges will appear in court on Oct. 19.
- An earlier version of this story said four Calgary police officers would be charged. In fact, only three are facing charges.Oct 05, 2016 9:38 AM MT