Police are defending their actions following an encounter with a Canadian Tire employee suffering from an epileptic seizure in a central Hamilton parking lot Sunday.
Spokespeople for the service say what the officers did was “appropriate” as attempts were made to subdue 27-year-old Marcus Charles outside of his workplace, captured on video.
That footage shows two officers attempting to restrain a screaming Charles on a sidewalk at Main Street East and West Avenue South in broad daylight.
During the scuffle, an officer can be seen deploying a taser-like weapon, apparently giving Charles an electric shock.
“I was screaming for my life. I was, I was terrified,” Charles told Global News.
“I didn’t think that we called the people to come over here to taser me. I thought it was for assistance. I thought it was purely for help.”
Witnesses said paramedics tried to restrain Charles prior to police being called to the scene.
Charles says the experience left him with injuries to his wrist, his arms and his face.
His partner Chantelle Chevrier says she arrived at the scene just as the matter was ending and believes the officers were simply not trained to deal with the medical episode.
“I feel like cops shouldn’t be called into a medical distress situation,” said Chevrier.
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“They never handle it properly.”
In a statement to Global News, Hamilton police said one officer suffered a concussion as a result of what happened and claimed the “officers’ actions were appropriate to the situation they faced.”
Charles says police and paramedics, like his fellow store employees, knew he had epilepsy and maintains he posed no threat to anyone.
“I thought they were trained professionals and they knew what seizure and epilepsy and all this stuff,” he said.
“I thought they were all prepared for this.”
Cynthia Milburn, CEO of Epilepsy South Central Ontario, shared Charles’ characterization of the incident and suggested none of what happened was his fault.
Her concern lies with both paramedics and police apparently not being able to handle the breakdown.
“The seizure will run its course. Paramedics are trained on this,” Milburn explained.
“I believe police have some training on this, and they were actually told it was a seizure. So … this kind of force was really upsetting for me to watch and to know this is happening out there.”
Charles says his employer and fellow employees have been supportive, but says their call to paramedics leading to a call for police has been very costly.
He’s now facing three criminal charges alleging he assaulted the officers on scene.