(Phil McLachlan - Western News)

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

B.C.’s police watchdog has cleared a Penticton Mountie of any wrongdoing after a man died in hospital following his arrest.

According to the Independent Investigations Office of BC, a man was arrested in Penticton on November 8, 2019, after he allegedly shoplifted two frozen pizzas from a local supermarket.

An officer arrived on scene to find the suspect walking down a street. He called to the man to stop but the suspect started to run away, according to a police watchdog report released Thursday, Aug.13.

The officer pursued the suspect on foot and managed to catch up with the man and grab his right arm, causing him to fall to onto a curb.

The officer held the suspect down by kneeling on his back or buttocks area while calling for assistance. Two more officers arrive on the scene and attempted to arrest the suspect; however, the man became agitated and resisted, the report reads.

READ MORE: Police watchdog clears RCMP of wrongdoing in West Kelowna man’s death

After the man managed to be placed in handcuffs an officer noticed a minor injury to the suspect’s face and called an ambulance. The suspect was described as elderly and ‘out of it’ by RCMP.

A woman who witnessed the arrest called the IIO to report the incident, claiming there was no need for several officers to attend and that the man had tried to walk away and the RCMP’s use of force was unnecessary.

Video obtained by the police watchdog showed no apparent force was applied to the suspect. Other witnesses to the arrest also confirmed they did not believe excessive force was used.

The man was eventually taken to the hospital and apprehended under the Mental Health Act. However, he left the hospital without permission on the morning of Nov. 8 and was later escorted back without incident by a different RCMP officer.

While in the hospital, the man reportedly remained active but somewhat agitated. On Nov. 11 he became short of breath. A chest X-ray showed he had three broken ribs and blood was pooling between his chest wall and lungs. The man was treated with a chest tube, which was later removed.

On Nov. 14, the man again experienced shortness of breath and died.

The autopsy report listed the cause of death as “pulmonary thromboembolism, due to blockages of blood vessels inside the lungs caused by blood clots in the legs.”

The police watchdog reviewed the case and determined the original officer who detained the suspect was justified in pursuing him for the arrest and that the officer was entitled to use of force in the course of carrying out police duties.

The two officers who later arrived on scene to arrest the suspect used no more force than necessary to restrain the man, according to the IIO.

Although the IIO report states the suspect in question may have suffered a serious injury during his arrest, it was not apparent to anyone at the time including medical personnel who dealt with the man at the RCMP detachment and hospital.

The Police Act requires the IIO to investigate incidents where there is serious harm or death as a result of police action.

READ MORE: B.C.’s police watchdog investigating Kelowna RCMP’s actions after man’s death

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Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: jen.zielinski@bpdigital.ca


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