The most brutal blows of the assault lasted just nine seconds as Transit Police Cst. Edgardo Diaz Rodriguez delivered 10 baton strikes to his victim’s head, neck and back – all over alleged fare evasion.
That was in 2011. Today, the video of the assault was released, a month after Diaz Rodriguez was sentenced.
Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, says the attack, which was captured on surveillance video at the Rupert Street SkyTrain station in August 2011, clearly demonstrates excessive force.
“It’s shocking to see this kind of force used particularly when someone is running away. They’re clearly not posing any threat to officers if they are trying to get away,” he said.
The victim, then 22 years old, was at the SkyTrain station to meet a friend. When his friend ended up taking the bus instead, he went to leave and was confronted by two transit cops on the stairs over his unpaid fare. The former UBC football player told the officers he wasn’t even taking the train but they decided to issue him a violation ticket anyways. He provided his full name but the officers didn’t believe him so he was arrested for obstruction. When he tried to flee, he was tackled, punched and then subject to a brutal baton beating by Cst. Diaz Rodriguez.
Diaz Rodriguez pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm this past May. Last month he apologized in court during his sentencing – admitting he lost control of the situation, and was handed 12 months probation.
“One has to imagine that if any of us were at the SkyTrain station and took out batons and started to hit someone in this way that many times we would most likely be looking at jail time,” said Paterson.
Diaz Rodriguez is still the subject of two Police Act probes into the baton beating, which could end in his dismissal from the force. But the officer, who was also suspended for eight days last year after being found guilty of neglect of duty under the Police Act for an incident in 2013, remains on the job with pay doing administrative duties.
Transit Police spokesperson Anne Drennan is confident a similar situation will not repeat itself.
“There was an interim police chief at the time – a completely different regime and executive. I can tell you that the chief today and his executive would not have made the same decisions that were made five years ago, it would have been a very different situation,” she said.
Drennan also said excessive force by Transit Police officers is not condoned.
“When something like this happens and one of our own is found guilty of something like this and there is video that comes out like this that will shock people…we feel that it makes all of us look bad and none of us like that.”
The victim, whose identity is protected by a court order, just wants to move on with his life, telling Global News that some of the blows he took were harder than any of his football hits – and that night changed his life in more ways than you can imagine.