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B.C. charge stayed in police dog handler assault case

Police considered using a baton, bear spray and a bean bag rifle in attempts to subdue man in alleged domestic violence case.
Abbotsford police car
The charge stemmed from an incident in Abbotsford on July 12, 2020. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department

The BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) has stayed a charge of assault causing bodily harm against a police dog handler saying the case would not be possible to prove in court.

The charge related to a July 12, 2020 incident in Abbotsford in which Const. Simon Courtoreille of the Lower Mainland Integrated Police Dog Services directed his police service dog to gain control of a suspect who was physically resisting arrest.

The dog bit the suspect twice causing injuries. One injury required stitches.

The incident

The BCPS issued a timeline of events in the case.

That July day, Abbotsford police responded to a complaint that a man had allegedly committed an intimate partner violence-related assault, was intoxicated by drugs, and had barricaded himself in a small bedroom with his three-year-old son.

Eight police officers, including Courtoreille, entered the house where they found the man and his son sleeping in the bedroom.

The child was removed after which Courtoreille and four other officers attempted to arrest the man.

While another officer was waking the man, Courtoreille and his police service dog were at the bedroom door.

A police officer told the man he was under arrest for assault and the officer was able to put handcuffs on one of his wrists.

However, the man resisted, yelling at police, questioning their right to be in the room, pulling his arms away from the officers, flailing with his torso, and moving his legs in such a way that he was sliding down the bed.

Officers tried to regain control of the man with physical force, including striking him several times.

The struggle continued until the man slid off the bed onto the floor near Courtoreille and the dog.

The man's physical position made it difficult for the officers to control him.

Meanwhile, the dog was barking and bit the man twice.

The man was then cuffed and subdued.

"There is no evidence that any officer asked Const. Courtoreille to deploy the dog, and no evidence that Const. Courtoreille gave any warning before setting the dog on the (man)," the BCPS said. "None of the four officers in the bedroom heard Const. Courtoreille issue any commands to his dog."

The BCPS said Courtoreille was controlling the police service dog with a harness and a collar at all times during the incident.

Officer interviews

The BC Posecution Service said two of the officers who were in the bedroom said they considered using different types of force when they were unable to physically restrain the man.

Among weapons considered but ruled out were a baton, bear spray and a bean bag rifle.

"Three out of the four officers said that they had lost control of the fight with the AP, and that the use of force by deploying the dog was appropriate in ending the (man’s) active resistance and concluding the incident," the BCPS said. "They said that other force options other than the dog were either not available or would have caused greater physical harm to the (man)."

The charge assessment

Charge information was sworn in Abbotsford Provincial Court on Oct. 20, 2022 after an investigation by the Independent Investigations Office.

Since the initial charge assessment, the BCPS said, the prosecutor who initially approved the charge did witness interviews and received additional relevant information from witnesses.

"After a full and careful review of all the available evidence, the assigned Crown counsel concluded that it would not be possible to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused committed any offence in relation to the incident," the service said, adding the charged offence no longer met the charge assessment standard, and the assigned prosecutor has stayed the charge.