A suspect was punched in the face and bitten several times by a police dog, but the use of force was justifiable, the Independent Investigation Office of B.C. has decided.
The IIO released its report today, Nov. 14, regarding an incident Feb. 16 south of Nanaimo. RCMP tracked a suspect for about two hours after a break-in at a cabin in the Nanaimo Lakes area.
“The degree of force used was at the upper end of the justifiable range and, in different circumstances, might well be considered excessive,” noted Ronald MacDonald, the IIO’s chief civilian director, in his report. “In these circumstances, however, it was not.”
According to an RCMP press release last winter, David Banford, 39, and a woman were found inside a private cabin by civilians after a break-in. Banford used bear spray to escape, fled on foot, but was tracked down by RCMP with the help of police dog Jager.
As Banford struggled after being bitten by the dog, the officer judged the suspect as “still motivated to escape [and] because of these factors, ‘took the fight out of the suspect with two stun strikes with a closed fist to the face.'”
Banford was found to have suffered puncture wounds to his buttocks and leg and a fractured eye socket and fractured nose.
Banford complained that he surrendered immediately with no resistance, but was “bitten by the [police dog] for no reason and struck a number of times in the face, also without any justification.”
MacDonald wrote that while the complainant’s account was “reasonably plausible in itself, [his] narrative suffers from significant credibility deficiencies in other areas.”
In his statements to IIO investigators, Banford claimed he and his female companion had been stranded for two days in the woods without food because their vehicle was stuck in snow and that they had permission to enter the cabin. He also said he was confronted by four men, all but one had weapons, and that he was struck with a crowbar and had his life threatened by the men who, he alleged, said were going “break his girlfriend’s kneecaps” and because there was no cellular phone service in the area they would handle the situation themselves instead of calling the police.
Banford said he bear-sprayed the men and then fled into the woods “to get help or get someone there” and left his girlfriend behind.
The report noted that at some time during his flight he found a trail camera, which he stuffed in his backpack, that recorded sounds as he was apprehended by police. Those sounds included screams, presumably Banford’s as he was being subdued by a police dog, a male voice calling the name of the police dog and the voice of a police officer ordering Banford to comply with commands or the officer would set the dog on him again. The commands recorded by the camera included profane language used by the officer toward Banford during the arrest.
The report noted that during Banford’s arrest the officer was operating “a long way from help in extremely trying environmental conditions” and that that Banford “was known to have used weapons very recently and might reasonably be believed to to still be in possession of a weapon.
“While it is understandable that a person with a dog’s teeth in his thigh will be inclined to struggle, [Banford] was now presenting [arresting officer] with a difficult situation that needed to be resolved quickly,” MacDonald said in his decision.
The report also noted the language used by the arresting officer immediately after the struggle to restrain and arrest Banford was “intemperate,” but that the level of force used in this case, given the circumstances, was not excessive.
The IIO will not forward the case to Crown counsel for consideration of any charges.
Full details of MacDonald’s decision can be read online.