Two Edmonton men have accused city police of using excessive force during their arrests.
On Thursday, May 14, James-Dean Sauter stopped at the Circle K convenience store downtown at 11605 – 104 Ave. to pick up some mints.
The 37-year-old said he was in the store for a brief moment when police charged in and tackled him to the ground.
“I assumed they were not there for me,” Sauter said. “I’ve never had a criminal record.
“I heard them shout, ‘That’s him!'”
Sauter said he was handcuffed, his shoes removed and his hands tied to his feet.
“I was in extreme pain when they tackled me to the ground.”
Sauter said the officers told him he was under arrest for stolen property — a vehicle. He said he tried to explain to police that his vehicle was registered to him and the arrest must be a misunderstanding.
Sauter’s licence plate had been stolen and replaced with a different one.
“I was repeating that I didn’t steal the vehicle and I felt that that was agitating the officers because there was witnesses,” said Sauter.
Also in the store that day was 24-year-old Joshua Powell, who pulled out his cellphone and started recording the arrest.
After being told by Edmonton police to stay away, he told an officer, “I’m just filming for both of your protection.”
Sauter said he was also punched, his head slammed in the ground, and an officer’s boot wiped across his face and put in his mouth.
“While the attack and the punch and slamming my head in the ground was horrific in itself,” said Sauter, “it felt like they were de-legitimizing me as a person.”
At one point during the video, Sauter can be heard yelling, “You just punched me in the face.”
Powell stated, “That was a bit excessive as an outside perspective.”
Sauter said police then put a bag over his head and he started crying out that he couldn’t breathe.
After being taken into custody, Sauter said he was released without any charges and police paid for his impound fee and vehicle tow.
Edmonton police confirmed it is investigating both arrests and said that eight officers who were present are all subject to the investigation.
“At this time, it is too early to determine any changes to the duty status of the officers,” said EPS in a written statement.
Sauter’s lawyer, Prav Alwis, called the officers a danger to the pubic and said they should be terminated.
“Even had he committed a crime, there is no justification for that level of force,” said Alwis.
“This could happen to anybody who is just going about their day and we can’t have officers who are a danger to members of the public.”
While Powell was filming Sauter’s arrest, he said police tried to block his view.
In a second video, an officer approached Powell while he continued to record.
Powell said, “What are you doing to me?” before the camera went black.
Powell said he was tackled by multiple officers and one was attempting to grab his phone.
He was taken into custody and charged with obstructing a peace officer.
His lawyer, Tom Engel, called the actions of police criminal.
“He was criminally assaulted, he was handcuffed, so a weapon was used. He was kidnapped. I don’t use that word lightly,” said Engel. “That’s kidnapped within the meaning of the Criminal Code, which means being confined against your will.”
On Wednesday, July 9, 2020, Engel was notified that the Crown had issued a stay of proceedings and terminated the charge.
“To say that Mr. Powell did anything to obstruct those police officers is ridiculous,” added Engel.
Engel said he will now seek to gain access to the security footage at the Circle K and continue to file complaints with the EPS Professional Standards Branch. At the very least, he said the officers should be suspended.
Both Sauter and Powell said their arrests have tainted their view of police and they had never had a negative run-in with officers before.
Sauter added his brother is a detective with EPS and other family members served with the RCMP.
He said he is thankful Powell was in that store back in May.
“I believe he’s a hero and everybody should see him as a hero.”