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Lethbridge, Alta., police officers who arrested teen dressed as stormtrooper cleared of misconduct

Three Lethbridge, Alta., police officers who took down and handcuffed a 19-year-old woman wearing a stormtrooper costume outside a Star Wars-themed business have been cleared of professional misconduct under Alberta's Police Act.

The incident was investigated by an external police force but no charges laid against arresting officers

This image from a video that went viral shows a woman — dressed as a stormtrooper for a Star Wars-related restaurant promotion — after she was forced to the ground by Lethbridge, Alta., police officers who feared the gun she carried might be real, on May 4, 2020. (Deiby Corleoni/YouTube)

Three Lethbridge, Alta., police officers who took down and handcuffed a 19-year-old woman wearing a stormtrooper costume outside a Star Wars-themed business have been cleared of professional misconduct under Alberta's Police Act.

The officers had already been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but Wednesday's news follows a further review of the case by the Medicine Hat Police Service.

Two 911 calls reporting a person in a stormtrooper costume carrying a firearm prompted the police response to the space-themed restaurant where the young woman was encouraging passersby to take advantage of its "May the Fourth" specials.

LISTEN | 911 call, released by Lethbridge police:

Stormtrooper 911 call

12 months ago
Duration 4:07
One of the 911 calls to Lethbridge police reporting a woman in a stormtrooper costume.

"There is no doubt that this incident was extremely stressful for the woman involved as she likely did not understand what was happening and was not able to see or communicate well through her helmet," said Lethbridge police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh in a written statement.

"Firearm calls like this are also very stressful for officers who are trying to process everything very quickly while protecting themselves and other people in the area from a potentially lethal weapon."

The themed shop had one of its employees dress up as a stormtrooper from Star Wars to encourage customers to get take-out food. (Coco Vanilla Galactic Cantina/Facebook)

On May 4, 2020, the Coco Vanilla Galactic Cantina restaurant was holding a May the Fourth promotion, a pun on the movie franchise's expression, "May the force be with you."

The young woman was encouraging passersby to try specials like the restaurant's Yoda Soda.

She was holding a toy E-11 blaster rifle, standard issue for the fictional stormtroopers.

After police arrived, the young woman dropped the toy weapon, but police said she didn't initially comply with their direction to get on the ground.

With weapons drawn, police forced the woman to the ground and removed her helmet. That caused her to suffer a bloody nose, bruising and scratching, the woman's boss previously told CBC News.

The takedown was caught on video that went viral, even gaining the attention of William Shatner, famed as Captain Kirk on Star Trek.

The woman was handcuffed but ultimately released and no charges were laid. 

The Medicine Hat Police Service was asked by the provincial Director of Law Enforcement to do a criminal investigation into whether any of the three Lethbridge officers had breached the Alberta Police Act.

"Upon completion, it was reviewed by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), and the Crown Prosecution Service was consulted. It was determined there were no grounds for criminal charges against the three LPS officers," a release from the Lethbridge Police Service said. 

LISTEN | The other 911 call:

Lethbridge stormtrooper 911 call

12 months ago
Duration 2:54
One of the 911 calls to Lethbridge police reporting a person in a stormtrooper costume.

    Corrections

    • An earlier version of this story incorrectly said ASIRT determined that criminal charges were not warranted against the officers. In fact, the Medicine Hat Police Service made that determination.
      Jul 15, 2021 10:33 AM MT

    With files from Joel Dryden

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