A Kelowna, B.C., RCMP officer is facing a third lawsuit alleging police brutality, but the police are offering a different version of events, claiming their officer was the one who was assaulted.
Cole Charles Vasko, a Kelowna sheet metal worker, filed the notice of civil claim on Sept. 10, naming the Attorney General of Canada, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Cst. Lacey Browning as defendants.
In the suit, Vasko said he was walking home after visiting a friend’s house with his five-year-old son when he got into an altercation with a motorist, who subsequently contacted police.
The altercation occurred on March 9, 2019 around 12:00 a.m.
“As the Plaintiff was walking home, he felt someone grab him from behind. He was spun around, thrown to the ground and smacked in the face which caused damage to his nose,” the court documents allege.
The civil suit alleges Const. Browning and her colleagues failed to notify Vasko of the reason for his detention.
“Browning proceeded to threaten to pepper spray and taser the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff was assaulted in the presence of his son,” the suit alleges.
Vasko was taken to the Kelowna RCMP detachment and was detained for 10 hours, according to the notice of civil claim. He was dragged out of the RCMP vehicle and dropped on his face, causing “further damage and bleeding,” the suit alleges.
“The Plaintiff’s arm was twisted behind his back by Browning at the detachment, until the Plaintiff could feel the ligaments in his elbow begin to tear, causing damage to his elbow,” the court documents allege.
While a response to the notice of civil claim has not yet been filed in court, the RCMP’s southeast district commander issued a rare public statement regarding the lawsuit on Friday.
In the statement, Chief Superintendent Brad Haugli said Mounties were called to a report of a “very intoxicated” male carrying a small child along a local road.
“Our member attended, initiated an investigation and arrested the male for causing a disturbance,” reads the statement.
“The accused resisted arrest, assaulted the police officer and was ultimately taken into custody and transported to cells.”
RCMP say the man was charged with assaulting a police officer, willfully resisting arrest and causing a disturbance.
The charges were stayed in December 2019 and “alternative measures” under the Criminal Code were advanced, police said.
“I suggest that the media directly contact the Plaintiff and ask about the nature of the letter he wrote to Const. Lacy Browning,” Haugli said, alluding to a letter that has not yet been made public.
“While I respect that anyone can initiate a civil process, and our lawyers will respond to the civil allegations via the courts in due time, I did not want this matter to be reported without proper context or comment,” Haugli said.
Vasko is seeking punitive and exemplary damages.
“As a direct, foreseeable, and proximate result of Browning’s reckless and unlawful actions, the Plaintiff suffered emotional distress, humiliation, shame and embarrassment, psychological and emotional trauma all to the Plaintiff’s damage,” the lawsuit claims.
“Browning and the RCMP committed the acts herein despicably, maliciously, oppressively, with the wrongful intention of injuring the Plaintiff from an improper and evil motive amounting to malice and conscious disregard of the rights of the Plaintiff.”
Const. Browning is also at the centre of a high-profile sweeping civil suit filed by Mona Wang, a UBC Okanagan student who was dragged down a hallway after a wellness check in January, which was recorded on surveillance video.
In its response to that claim, RCMP said Wang was arrested under the Mental Health Act.
“In light of the plaintiff’s volatile demeanour, aggressive actions and repeated refusals to follow commands … the limited use of force by the defendant Browning was no more than was reasonable and necessary in the circumstances,” the response claims.
Const. Browning is on desk duty while facing a criminal investigation into her actions involving Mona Wang and an internal code of conduct investigation is underway.
“I monitor the progress daily,” Haugli said, in relation to the wellness check incident.
Const. Browning is facing another, separate lawsuit filed by Fiona Louise Read, who alleges she was assaulted by Browning during a 2016 arrest.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Global Okanagan has reached out to Vasko, via his lawyer, for comment.