Charges dropped against Calgary woman who accused police of excessive force

When Calgarian Tara Yaschuk shared video of her arrest with CBC News, she wanted to support the growing public outcry for police reform.

'I can't breathe': Woman who called 911 was held on floor with a knee to her back

Tara Yaschuk, 51, said "I can't breathe" several times as police arrested her in her home. Yaschuk has alleged excessive use of force and assault and has filed a Police Act complaint. (Yaschuk family)

Charges have been dropped against a Calgary woman accused of assaulting a police officer after she called police in a mistaken case of car theft. 

When Calgarian Tara Yaschuk shared video of her arrest with CBC News, she wanted to support the growing public outcry for police reform.

Yaschuk was arrested in October in her Springbank Hill home, after she called 911 to report a stolen vehicle. It turns out the vehicle was borrowed by Yaschuk's son, and upon realizing the mistake, she believed the call had been cancelled.

A few minutes later officers identified as Constables Lavictoire and Desjardins showed up and entered the house.
She did not invite them into her home.

In the video Yaschuk — who stands five-foot-four-inches tall — can be heard asking, "Who let you into my home?"

An officer responds, "Nobody." The officers tell Yaschuk's son to leave but he refuses and continues to record.

Then, an officer identified in the complaint as Desjardins says, "Seriously, I am going to arrest somebody."

The video shows the officer grabbing Yaschuk's wrist and taking her to the ground. Yaschuk can be heard repeatedly asking why she is being arrested and eventually one of the officers says, "Assault on a police officer."

Watch a Calgary woman being detained by police with what she says was excessive force

3 years ago
Duration 3:18
Tara Yaschuk says the incident started when she mistakenly thought her car was stolen and called 911 (A name spoken in the video has been obscured at the family’s request.)

"I didn't do anything," says Yaschuk.

At first, she struggles on the ground but when told to "stop resisting," she can be heard saying, "I will stop resisting," followed by, "I've stopped resisting."

For much of the encounter, the complaint says the officer identified as Lavictoire has a knee on either Yaschuk's back or neck and her face pressed into the floor. "I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe," she pleads.

The officers do not readjust their positioning.

Yaschuk was taken to a police district office and held in a cell for hours before being released.

On June 10, the day the video was made public by CBC News, it was addressed by Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld.

"What I can tell you is that I have been privy to a little bit more information in relation to that matter since the complaint has come out and I am not at liberty to say a ton about it, obviously. As it turns out, that matter is before the courts, I don't think it was reported as such but there is an outstanding prosecution in relation to that."

Yaschuk's lawyer, David Chow says that's the first time his client was made aware she was facing a criminal charge.

"After following up on Chief Neufeld's comments, Ms. Yaschuk learned that an Information alleging assaulting a police officer was laid against her on March 6, 2020 (over four months after the incident). On review of disclosure provided to her on June 11, 2020, it was confirmed that the police never served her with a summons or notice that she had a matter before the court," Chow said in a statement to CBC News.

Less than a month later, there was an about-face on the charge against Yaschuk.

"On July 3, 2020, some of Ms. Yaschuk's confidence in the justice system was restored as a result of swift action by the Calgary Crown Prosecutor's Office, who after reviewing the case, determined that the charge should be withdrawn," said Chow.

Yaschuk's fight isn't over. She wants the officers disciplined and has filed a complaint with the Professional Standards Division of Calgary Police Service.

Calgary police issued a statement in relation to the complaint against the officers.

"We can confirm that a complaint was made to our Professional Standards Section. A thorough investigation will be conducted using all available evidence including video from the incident captured by the family. We will keep the complainant up to date with the investigation on a regular basis. However, it would be inappropriate to comment further in the media until the investigation has been completed."

Police wouldn't say whether the officers are still on duty during the investigation.

With files from Meghan Grant