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Family of man who died after being Tasered, pepper sprayed by Whistler RCMP sues

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Independent police watchdog investigating Whistler death (Aired: March 9, 2020) – Mar 9, 2020

A civil lawsuit has been filed in B.C. Supreme Court over the death of a man in Whistler, B.C., alleging four RCMP officers used excessive force when they tried to take him into custody.

Jason Koehler’s family alleges in the lawsuit that Koehler died shortly after being jolted with a Taser, pepper sprayed and beaten with police batons on March 8.

The statement of claim filed June 11 says police were called to a restaurant in Whistler for a report of a disturbance and when police encountered Koehler, they made limited efforts to de-escalate the situation.

The attorney general of Canada, B.C.’s solicitor general and four unnamed officers are named in the lawsuit. No statements of defence have been filed in the case.

In a media release at the time of the incident, RCMP said officers deployed pepper spray, a conducted energy weapon, and batons, while trying to gain control of an intoxicated male, after which the male “suddenly became still.”

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READ MORE: B.C.’s police watchdog looking into man’s death after incident involving Whistler RCMP

The allegations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court and neither the attorney general nor the solicitor general were immediately available for comment.

An RCMP spokesman said the force had no comment because the matter was before the courts.

Koehler was not violent with police, was unarmed and communicated his willingness to peacefully leave the restaurant while raising his hands above his head, the lawsuit says.

“Jason Koehler’s last words to the RCMP were ‘Don’t kill me,’ ” the lawsuit alleges.

It says Koehler lost consciousness at the scene as the four officers beat him and he could not be revived. He was pronounced shortly afterward.

“RCMP members did not have reasonable grounds to arrest Jason Koehler and, in any event, RCMP members used excessive force in attempting to arrest (him),” the statement of claim says.

READ MORE: 3 stabbed in Whistler brawl, 3 suspects arrested

B.C.’s police watchdog announced on the same day as the confrontation that it was investigating to determine if police actions or inactions were responsible for the man’s death.

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The Independent Investigations Office said in a news release on March 8 that officers had responded to a report about an intoxicated male in Whistler Village.

“During the interaction with police, both OC (pepper) spray and a conducted energy weapon were deployed,” the release said.

The court document says Koehler, who operated a smoking accessories store in Whistler, suffered from mental health issues which had previously brought him in contact with police.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Koehler’s mother, father, brother and son.

It asks for general and aggravated damages, funeral expenses and compensation for loss of guidance and financial support.

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