A Burns Lake RCMP officer may have been cleared of an allegation of excessive force in an incident last December but a civilian involved has now filed a civil claim.
In a civil claim filed May 17, Shelly Lewis of Burns Lake says she suffered injuries and a subsequent loss of income in the process of being detained by Constable Duncan McDonald on Dec. 6, 2020 at her Tchesinkut Lake residence.
Around noon on that date Burns Lake RCMP said they responded to a report of an impaired snowmobile operator. Officers located Lewis’ boyfriend, arrested him and took him to RCMP cells without incident.
According to the police report, while one officer was waiting with the snowmobile for a tow truck, a woman exited the residence and attempted to approach the snowmobile to retrieve something.
What Lewis says happened next has her seeking damages for pain, suffering, loss of amenities, loss of enjoyment of life, damages for past lost income and loss of opportunity to earn income, damages for future loss of income and future earning capacity, damages for past and future cost of care, damages for loss of housing capacity, special damages, costs of this action, costs of past and future health care services under the Health Care Costs Recovery Act (HCCRA) and aggravated and punitive damages.
Lewis’ lawyer, Daniel McNamee of the Jensen Law Group in Kamloops, has filed her legal claim, which states that on that day in December, an unknown RCMP member or members searched parts of the residence and garage without a warrant after arriving at Lewis’ residence.
“I don’t know how many police. But I saw one officer looking up into my window and another standing beside him when I looked out to see who it was. I quickly got dressed and went outside just to be told to go back in so I did and then I went back out to ask what’s happening and they told me to go back inside or I’ll be arrested so I did,” Lewis told Lakes District News, adding that she stepped outside to get the keys to her brand new snowmobile and papers, only after she saw the police officers leaving with Darcy.
”I was on the phone with my sister when I went outside to get my key and paperwork from my snowmobile and this is when Constable McDonald attacked me from behind. Resulting in all my injuries,” she added.
The notice of civil claim states that about 20 minutes after most police officers left the residence, she was standing on her front lawn when the remaining constable, McDonald, demanded that she stop moving.
It further states that she complied fully with the verbal direction and while she was immobile and compliant, the officer ran at Shelly Lewis and tackled her from behind and proceeded to arrest her without warrant or any grounds.
The civil claim states that he slammed Lewis to the ground which resulted in personal injuries and a fractured arm. She was then arrested and taken down to the Burns Lake RCMP detachment and held in custody, something the suit says was false imprisonment.
“While in custody, she was humiliated during a strip search and required to and assisted in removing her wire bra in the presence of male officers at the detachment,” says the claim.
The circumstances were reported to the Independent Investigations Offfice (IIO) of B.C., which looks into matters where people are either injured or who have died during involvement with police.
A news release issued by the IIO stated that the Chief Civilian Director of the IIO reviewed the medical evidence and determined that the injury sustained by the woman does not meet the threshold required for serious harm as defined by the Police Act.
“Because there isn’t a death, the IIO has stepped away but I have lost like six months of work because I can’t work after the whole incident,” said Lewis, a drywaller, who has since lost her work due to limited mobility of her arm and shoulder.
The legal notice states the injuries ranged from whiplash, to a chipped tooth, headaches and concussion, a fractured arm, nausea, shoulder pain, back pain, chest pain, jaw pain, emotional upset and post-traumatic stress.
“She complained of being in pain and needing medical attention while she was held in the city cells but her complaints were ignored and she was not provided with any medical attention after her arrest. As a result of the unlawful arrest, the excessive force, the false imprisonment, the strip search and the refusal to provide medical care, the plaintiff has sustained personal injury, loss and expense all of which have caused and continue to cause her pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, inconvenience, loss of income and loss of earning capacity,” states the notice of civil claim.
A response to the civil claim can now be made but has to be made within 21 days after the notice of the claim is served.