RCMP dashcam video shows officer tackling, punching Chief Allan Adam during arrest
WARNING: Story contains graphic content
RCMP dashcam footage of the March arrest of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam shows an arriving officer jump-tackling the chief to the ground without warning, punching him in the head and putting him in a chokehold.
In the nearly 12-minute video obtained by CBC News, an agitated Adam swears repeatedly at the police officers, accuses the RCMP of harassing him and removes his jacket while appearing ready to fight one of the officers after RCMP pulled behind his idling truck outside a Fort McMurray, Alta., casino early in the morning of March 10.
RCMP had noticed Adam's licence plate had expired.
"F--king leave us alone!" Adam shouts at an RCMP officer, moments after he pulled up behind his idling truck in the parking lot with the cruiser's lights flashing.
"Don't f--king stop behind us like you're f--king watching us."
At one point, Adam tells an officer to tell his sergeant that "Chief Adam f--king tells you, 'I'm tired of being harassed by the RCMP.'"
The officer, who is still in his vehicle at that point, repeatedly tells Adam to return to his vehicle and that he will talk to him in a minute.
"You and I are going to have a f--king problem, right here, right f--king now," Adam tells the officer.
Adam appears to become increasingly agitated and at one point storms past the rear of his truck while removing his jacket. A few moments later, he assumed a fighting stance while his wife appeared to try to calm him.
The video shows the officer briefly grabbing Adam's wife as she stands at the rear passenger side door of the truck. Adam yells at the officer to not touch his wife.
About seven minutes into the incident, behind Adam's truck, the officer tries to grab Adam's left arm in what appears to be an attempt to arrest him.
At that moment, another officer runs up and jump-tackles Adam to the ground. The second officer punches Adam in the head as he continues to struggle and a few seconds later places him in a chokehold.
"F--k you, don't resist arrest!" the officer yells, along with, "Don't resist! Don't resist!"
Adam's face is bloody as officers lead him to their vehicle.
'I struck the male'
An affidavit filed in court along with the video quotes the notes of Const. Simon Seguin.
"I charged at the male [Adam] with the intention of bringing him to the ground," Seguin wrote in his notes.
"I struck the male as he tried to come up," Seguin later wrote. "He turned on his right side. I struck him using my right hand on his right side of the face.
"I wrapped my hand [left arm] around his jaw and started squeezing."
WATCH | Nearly 12-minute dashcam video of Chief Allan Adam's arrest:
Seguin said at one point, "I then wound up placing my left knee on the back of the male's head and 'cranked' the male's left arm up."
"The male [Adam] was complaining of police brutality."
Chief alleges officers assaulted him
Adam, through his lawyer Brian Beresh, declined an interview request. An RCMP spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
Beresh entered the video into the public court file Thursday as part of a motion seeking to have charges against Adam stayed. The RCMP had rejected Beresh's call to publicly release it. The RCMP said they could not release it because it is evidence in the criminal case against Adam.
In an interview Thursday, Beresh said there is no way senior RCMP officers, after viewing the dashcam video, should have concluded the officers' actions were appropriate.
"This was a false arrest; there was no basis for it, and it was excessive force used," he said.
"We reject that totally. We will let the public look at the video and make a determination."
Beresh said he thinks Adam's behaviour leading up to the arrest was "a reaction to the systemic racism that his people have suffered for a long time, and that is a part of what agitated him."
"He, as the leader, feels that he has to stand up and make the statement," Beresh said. "If you're bothering me as the leader, what is happening to those people that have no voice?"
The incident occurred at about 2 a.m. MT on March 10 after Adam, his wife Freda Courtoreille and their niece left a casino in downtown Fort McMurray.
Adam said a police vehicle pulled up behind his truck while he was moving a child seat. He said he asked the officer why police were harassing him and told him who he was, and he said he told the officer he would raise the matter with his superior.
Adam said he made his way back into his truck where his wife was at the wheel, and that he told her that they weren't allowed to go anywhere. He said she put the truck into drive, and then the officer began knocking on the window.
More officers arrived during the ensuing altercation, and Adam said one of the officers "just gave me a, what you would call in the wrestling world, a clothesline."
He said blood was gushing from his mouth and as he fought to maintain consciousness, he was being struck repeatedly on the back.
"Every time our people do wrong … [the RCMP] always seem to use excessive force and that has to stop," Adam told reporters Saturday. "Enough is enough."
Adam said that if he wasn't a member of a minority group, he wouldn't have been subjected to violence for an expired vehicle registration. He views the violent incident as part of a broader pattern of harassment by police of minorities across Canada.
Saturday's news conference occurred amidst a paroxysm of mass demonstrations, some violent, across the United States, Canada and the world following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by police in Minneapolis.
Adam's allegations of police brutality and the photo of his battered face have received widespread attention at anti-racism rallies, which attracted large crowds across the country.
RCMP says Adam resisted arrest
In an emailed statement Saturday, Wood Buffalo RCMP said officers had observed the expired licence plate on Adam's truck and when he returned to the vehicle, a confrontation occurred. RCMP said Adam was placed under arrest, resisted the arrest, and officers "were required to use force to effect the arrest."
RCMP charged Adam with one count each of resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer. He is to appear in court July 2.
After reviewing the dashcam video of the incident, senior officers determined the arresting officers' actions were reasonable "and did not meet the threshold for an external investigation."
But Alberta's director of law enforcement subsequently directed the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) to conduct an investigation since a criminal allegation had been made about police by Adam and his lawyer.
On Friday, ASIRT issued a plea for witnesses to Allan's arrest to contact them, especially anyone with additional video or audio recordings of the incident.
Trudeau 'deeply alarmed'
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was deeply troubled by Adam's allegations and vowed to bring in "significant, concrete and rapid measures" to address systemic racism in policing.
"We have obviously all seen and been deeply alarmed by the pictures that Chief Adam shared," Trudeau said.
The prime minister added his voice to concerns already raised by two other federal ministers, including Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, who said in a tweet that the government will be paying close attention to the independent inquiry into Adam's allegations.
Also on Monday, the commanding officer of the RCMP in Alberta publicly denied there was systemic racism in policing in Canada.
Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki told a news conference in Edmonton that he didn't believe there was systemic racism in policing in Canada or in Alberta.
In a statement issued later, Zablocki walked back his claim, at least in part.
"We all acknowledge that racist individuals can be anywhere throughout our society and institutions — and we have acknowledged that organizationally in the RCMP."