Manitoba’s police oversight agency cleared two Winnipeg police officers of causing a 23-year-old to sustain a gash on his ear and collapsed lung, after an investigation found no reasonable grounds to lay charges.
Shortly after midnight on Sep. 1, 2020, Manitoba RCMP informed the Winnipeg Police Service that a stolen vehicle they had been pursuing crossed into city limits. Mounties were pursuing the vehicle in relation to a rural residential break-in where guns were stolen, according to the final investigation report issued by the IIU.
Shortly before 12:45 a.m., Winnipeg police spotted the suspect vehicle near the Brooklands neighbourhood. Officers tried following the vehicle, but it fled, the report says.
The vehicle sped northward, then eventually travelled eastward on the north perimeter highway. An RCMP unit tried stopping the vehicle where the east perimeter highway meets Dugald Road in Transcona, but they aborted after the driver refused to stop and continued westward, the report says.
Winnipeg police were able to lay down stop sticks — devices that deflate tires during high-speed pursuits — at the intersection of Dugald and Lagimodiere Boulevard, in St. Boniface’s industrial area, and the suspect vehicle drove over them.
The vehicle’s tires began to disintegrate. But as the vehicle slowed down, it moved into the southbound lanes of Lagimodiere and travelled northbound against oncoming traffic, the report says.
Shortly after 1 a.m., the vehicle went into a ditch near Grassie and Lagimodiere boulevards, in the East Kildonan-Transcona area.
Two men — one of whom was believed to be armed with a shotgun — fled from the vehicle. Two other men stayed in the vehicle and were arrested by police, the report says.
The men who fled were eventually arrested. The first after a brief foot chase, the second was found a few blocks away on a residential property on Mahonee Drive.
The latter, a 23-year-old, was found with a gash on his left ear. He was sent to the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre to be treated, but was admitted into hospital for a possible collapsed left lung, the report says.
The injuries and hospitalization meet the definition of a serious injury per IIU regulation, so an investigation was opened into the incident.
Civilian director finds no grounds for charges
IIU civilian director Zane Tessler designated two WPS officers as subject officers. He originally designated nine WPS officers as witness officers, but after reviewing file materials he determined only five were involved in the 23-year-old’s arrest, the report says.
Investigators interviewed each subject and witness officer, the injured man and three civilians who witnessed at least some of what occurred. A physician from the office of Manitoba’s chief medical examiner also provided a professional opinion on the likely cause of the man’s injuries.
Investigators also reviewed various reports, WPS radio transmissions recordings and the WPS use-of-force policy.
The 23-year-old told investigators he was not injured before the vehicle went in the ditch, but noted he had difficulty breathing when officers brought him to the police cruiser after he was arrested, the report says.
Officers involved in the arrest noted the man was bleeding from his ear when he was apprehended, it adds.
The 23-year-old’s medical report noted he had no broken bones. Given that, the physician from the chief medical examiner’s office told investigators the collapsed lung was likely the result of a fall onto his back, stating that falling flat on the back from a height would produce such trauma without breaking any ribs, the report says.
The doctor also noted that use of force would likely show itself through bruises wherever the man was hit; a fall with the back landing on a hard surface may not cause bruising, the report says.
“The force of the fall could knock the wind out of the person, and in turn could cause a lung to collapse, especially in a scenario where the body is under stress, such as running or jumping,” it says.
After reviewing all the information, Tessler did not find reasonable grounds to justify laying any charges against the two officers, the report says.