No charges against Portage la Prairie RCMP after man hospitalized with broken ribs after arrest

Manitoba's police watchdog has closed its investigation after a man was found to have broken ribs and a collapsed lung following an arrest by police in Portage la Prairie last summer.

Police allege man was resisting during 2021 arrest; man and witnesses suggest otherwise

The IIU has closed its investigation after the Manitoba Prosecution Service refused to pursue charges against RCMP officers involved in an arrest last summer that left a man seriously injured. (Submitted by RCMP)

No officers will be charged in connection with an arrest in Portage la Prairie last summer, after which the suspect was found to have broken ribs and a collapsed lung, says Manitoba's police watchdog.

Portage la Prairie RCMP arrested the man in a traffic stop on the morning of July 9 over reports he was in contravention of a no-contact order stemming from a domestic assault, according to a Friday news release by the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba.

The man resisted arrest, police say, and later complained of breathing issues. He was jailed and then hospitalized, where it was discovered he had several broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

The RCMP reported the incident to the IIU, which investigates all serious incidents involving police in the province. At the time, the IIU said it was suggested the broken ribs stemmed from the police encounter.

During the course of its investigation, the IIU designated three Mounties as subject officers and three as witnesses. The organization reviewed radio transmissions, summary incident reports, officers' notes, cellphone video footage, a subject behaviour response report, GPS data from police vehicles and the injured man's medical records.

The IIU also interviewed the man and two civilian witnesses, as well as consulting with a physician over the possible cause of injury, the IIU release states.

The IIU says its investigation suggests that day the man drove family to a convenience store to buy goods.

Two RCMP officers in the area walked toward his vehicle and said they "just wanted to talk to him." The man said an officer then gave him handcuffs and told him to put them on. He refused, so an officer cuffed him.

The man told IIU an officer then roughed him up. He told IIU he did not lay hands on the officer.

'Punching, kneeing, elbowing'

The officer called for backup, at which point others arrived and "dog-piled" on him and kicked and kneed him, the man told IIU. An officer cuffed his legs together once he was on the ground and continued to beat him, the man said.

"[He] said there were two officers at his legs and one by his head. The officer who was at his head … applied a pressure point with his thumb on his neck 'where your windpipe is,'" the man told IIU. 

"While this occurred, another officer was punching him and a third officer was kneeing him. [The man] said another officer was jumping on him 'like a trampoline.' [The man] said that the officers took a break and then started beating him again.

"[The man] said that In an effort to get him into a cruiser car, some officers were pulling his legs, arms and head while others were punching, kneeing, and elbowing him. The officers lifted him up and slammed him onto the ground, knocking the wind out of him," the man stated in his account to IIU.

Once in jail at the RCMP detachment, the man said he was not provided an opportunity to contact his lawyer.

He then complained about having trouble breathing. He was taken to Portage District General Hospital and examined, where x-rays revealed he had a collapsed lung and several fractured ribs, the IIU states.

The man also reportedly told hospital staff he was in an ATV accident weeks prior but didn't seek medical attention, according to RCMP.

Civilians, police interviewed

Two civilian witnesses there that day were with the man. Their account to IIU mirrored what the man said occurred. 

One of those witnesses was a woman who had the no contact order in place against the man, who was also breaking a curfew requirement, an officer told IIU.

Two of the witness officers called in for backup said the man was not complying with police requests when they arrived.

"[He] was using his legs to kick at police, was thrashing his body, using his handcuffs (that were in the front) to push officers away and throw punch at them," one of those officers said.

Another said she arrived to see two officers in a struggle with the man, and said there were three others "in the mix." She told IIU that while he was cuffed on the ground, she approached and the man swept at her legs, causing her to fall; he later apologized. 

In February, the IIU shared the results of its investigation with the Manitoba Prosecution Service for its opinion on whether criminal charges should be pursued against officers involved in the arrest.

Prosecutors suggested it was likely the rib fractures could've occurred during the struggle with police, "but the possibility that the rib fractures occurred as a result of the ATV accident should be considered."

Prosecutors advised against pursuing charges after considering the evidence.

"While it is always in the public interest to hold police officers accountable, there must also be a reasonable likelihood of conviction for MPS to prosecute a matter," prosecutors told IIU. "We are not satisfied that there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction."

As a result, the IIU has closed the investigation.