Kelowna, B.C., nursing student sues RCMP for alleged assault during wellness check

Click to play video: 'Kelowna cop on desk duty after allegedly dragging nursing student down hallway during wellness check'
Kelowna cop on desk duty after allegedly dragging nursing student down hallway during wellness check
Surveillance video appears to show a Kelowna RCMP officer dragging a UBC Okanagan nursing student handcuffed down the hallway while performing a wellness check. Jules Knox reports. – Jun 23, 2020

A woman in Kelowna, B.C., has filed a civil claim against the RCMP for how she was allegedly treated while an officer was performing a wellness check.

The plaintiff, Mona Wang, is a nursing student at UBC Okanagan.

The lawsuit has been filed against Const. Lacy Browning, Canada’s attorney general and B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general, who is responsible for the actions of the RCMP.

Part of the interaction between the officer and Wang was captured on video surveillance and has been released by the student’s lawyer.

Click to play video: 'Surveillance video of wellness check on Kelowna woman'
Surveillance video of wellness check on Kelowna woman

The footage shows a woman being dragged down a hallway by a police officer.

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Tuesday, after the videos became public, police announced an internal Code of Conduct and criminal investigation is being conducted and that the officer in the surveillance footage had been placed on administrative duty.

The RCMP said once the criminal investigation is finished it will be bringing in an outside police department to review the findings.

According to the civil claim, on Jan. 20, Wang was at home in mental distress, so her boyfriend called 911 and asked for a health check.

The lawsuit says Browning responded to the call and found Wang lying on the bathroom floor in a state of semi-consciousness.

Browning did not introduce herself as an RCMP officer or make any attempt to assess if Wang needed any medical assistance, according to the civil suit.

The lawsuit claims that the RCMP officer told Wang to stand up, but she couldn’t, and so didn’t respond.

Click to play video: 'Nursing student in disturbing wellness check video shares her side of the story'
Nursing student in disturbing wellness check video shares her side of the story
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“Browning proceeded to assault the plaintiff by stepping on the plaintiff’s arm,” the lawsuit alleges. “Browning kicked the plaintiff in the stomach while the plaintiff was lying on the bathroom floor semi-conscious.”

The civil suit also claims that Browning told Wang to “stop being dramatic” and called her a “stupid idiot.”

The lawsuit says the officer then handcuffed Wang and dragged her on her stomach from the bathroom through the apartment, causing bruising and serious injuries to her face and upper thigh.

“Browning dragged the plaintiff to the elevator while punching the plaintiff in her face,” the civil suit alleges.

“The plaintiff suffered bruises to the face, broken blood vessels to the left eye, swollen right eye and bruising to the right temple,” according to the lawsuit.

Wang was taken into custody and transported to Kelowna General Hospital.

“Browning deliberately misled the medical professionals at KGH by advising them that the plaintiff was high on methamphetamine,” the lawsuit says.

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“The plaintiff has never used methamphetamine or any illicit drugs. The toxicology report from KGH showed that at the time that the plaintiff was admitted, she had no illegal drugs in her body or blood,” according to the civil suit.

However, the defendants filed a response that disputes several of the allegations.

“The RCMP were informed that the plaintiff had become unresponsive to text messages,” the defendants said in their civil claim response. “The plaintiff was described as having a history of prior suicide attempts by ingesting medication.”

The civil response also says that Browning was initially unable to access Wang’s building, but was finally let in by another resident.

Wang’s door was initially locked, but when Browning went to ask the strata for access, the officer heard the lock turn, according to the civil response.

The defendants say that Browning identified herself as an officer multiple times, including as she approached the bathroom.

Their response also alleges that Wang had a boxcutter knife in her hand, and that there were empty pill bottles on the floor.

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Browning observed that Wang “had already engaged in self-injurious behaviour and appeared motivated to harm herself further,” according to the defendant’s response.

The officer also observed that Wang “was behaving in a bizarre and erratic manner and uttering statements asking to be killed,” the civil response alleges.

It also said that the officer decided the plaintiff was acting in a manner that was likely to endanger Browning’s own safety and told Wang that she was apprehending her under the Mental Health Act.

Wang flailed her arms, swinging them at Browning, and cursing violently as the officer tried to arrest her, according to the civil response.

“The defendant Browning then struck the plaintiff several times with an open palm, which subdued the plaintiff sufficiently for the defendant Browning to successfully handcuff the plaintiff,” the response reads.

Browning allegedly asked Wang to stand up, but she refused, according to the defendants.

The civil response says that Browning was alone with no other police resources immediately available.

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It also says that she believed Wang’s erratic behaviour made it unsafe to leave her alone, and she was facing “uncertainty over whether other first responders would be able to enter the building in a timely manner, or at all, once they arrived.”

So Browning moved Wang to the front door of the building to wait for more police, according to the defendants’ response.

“Upon their arrival at the entrance to the building, the plaintiff opted to co-operate and walked with the defendant Browning to her police vehicle,” according to the defendants.

The civil response explicitly denies that Wang suffered any injuries as a result of the events at issue in this action.

The defendants also deny that Browning intentionally misled any medical professionals.

“Defendant Browning was required and/or authorized to detain and arrest the plaintiff without warrant and to use as much force as necessary for that purpose,” the civil response says.

It also alleges that at all times, Browning was acting in the course and scope of her duties.

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The lawsuit says Wang is seeking punitive and exemplary damages against the defendants because “the actions of Browning and the RCMP were reckless, arrogant, high-handed, abusive and showed a callous disregard for the plaintiff’s rights.”

The court documents Wang filed also say she suffered psychological and emotional trauma, humiliation, shame and embarrassment because of the officer’s actions.

In a statement, an RCMP spokesperson said the police force “respects the court process” and will file an official response with the court.

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