WARNING: This story contains a hyperlink to a video that contains graphic content.
RCMP in Alberta used one of their vehicles to knock down a man who they believed to be carrying a firearm on a highway south of Edmonton on Friday before arresting him.
Two people, one who saw the man before he was hit and one who saw the man after, told Global News he is a local Indigenous man.
The incident started to unfold at about 11:45 a.m. when members of the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment were called about someone carrying a firearm while walking south on Highway 2A, police said in a news release issued Friday night.
“Wetaskiwin RCMP, with the assistance of RCMP Police Dog Services, responded to the area and quickly located a lone male walking with a firearm,” the RCMP said. “As the suspect was not following police verbal commands to drop the firearm, for public and police safety, a police vehicle was used to disarm the male.
“A 35-year-old male was subsequently taken into custody. On-scene officers provided medical assistance, and the male was then transported to a local area hospital via ground ambulance with non-life threatening injuries. No officers were injured as a result of this incident.”
Police said the incident will be reviewed through an “RCMP internal review process” and not by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.
“This incident was reported to the director of law enforcement of Alberta and was deemed to be in-scope; however, although determined to be in scope, ASIRT will not be conducting an investigation,” the RCMP said.
A video of the arrest was posted to social media and shows the RCMP vehicle striking the man twice from behind. After the man is hit the first time, someone can be heard yelling, “drop the gun!” The man then continues walking before being struck again before police officers and a police dog rush towards the man to take him into custody.
Peter Desjarlais of Maskwacis told Global News he passed the man on the road and said to him “it appeared to be a rifle” that he was carrying. When he stopped at a nearby business, he asked some people there what was happening and said he was told that police were responding to a man with a gun but that it was not a real gun.
Desjarlais said the people told him the man was walking on the highway because his ride left him. He said he was shocked when he later saw the video of how the man was arrested.
“There was no need for that,” he said. “The gun was not real. There was other ways they could have handled it. They had a dog… to take him down.”
At a news conference on Friday night, Chief Superintendent Darcy Fleury, the officer in charge of RCMP’s Central Alberta District, told reporters he could not comment on allegations raised by community members that the man was not holding a real gun.
“At this time, we know it’s a firearm,” he said. “(But) I haven’t got the exact details.”
Desjarlais told Global News that police often “treat our people pretty rough.”
“I don’t like to see what I saw today,” he said. “I’ve seen that too many times where our people are mistreated.
“I want to see justice.”
When asked about how RCMP will respond to members of the local community who are upset about how police dealt with the situation, Fleury said the RCMP will explain to community members why officers felt they had to take the actions they did.
“This incident, really, it’s the person with the firearm,” he said. “We will communicate with the community.
“The RCMP is out there and we did respond to a call that was a person with a weapon, and we responded immediately. And we took the actions at that time members felt was appropriate.
“This person was continuing to walk and obviously had some intent to the community…. So I think the message is the RCMP is there for the safety of the public.”
Luci Johnson is a court worker from the area and said she passed by the man after his encounter with police.
“We didn’t realize the severity of it,” she said. “We knew something was going on but we didn’t think it was as dramatic as we came to see.
“You could tell that he (the man police arrested) was stressed… I honestly think that he was in shock…
“We’re human. How do we not have compassion for something like that?
Johnson said the man had children and she fears how this incident will impact them.
“We know the RCMP have a job to do but that wasn’t part of their job,” she said. “If they’re going to use the dog in that capacity that should have been enough.
“We see some of the incidents that have happened here and just shake our head.”
Johnson described her reaction to seeing the video of the takedown after it happened.
“The first time (the vehicle hit the man) was shocking, but the second one was unbearable,” she said. “It was heartbreaking to see.”
Johnson said she believes the RCMP relationship with the community needs improvement and that “they need to take a step back and look at our community.”
“There’s been historical trauma,” she said, adding that while the RCMP’s role is to protect society, she sometimes feels police are “coming in and harming us.”
“That was a very excessive thing for them to do to our community members… how do we sit down and heal from something like this?… What is the RCMP going to do about it?”
As of 7:30 p.m., police said an RCMP collision reconstructionist remained at the scene while an investigation into what happened is ongoing.
Police said southbound traffic on Highway 2A, about 1.5 km south of Wetaskiwin, was still being diverted and that was expected to remain the case for several hours.
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