No charges laid against officer seen striking man during arrest

No charges will be laid against a Whitehorse RCMP officer who struck and held a man in a chokehold while trying to arrest him at a house party in Whitehorse in April 2015.

No charges will be laid against a Whitehorse RCMP officer who struck and held a man in a chokehold while trying to arrest him at a house party in Whitehorse in April 2015.

There was no reasonable prospect of conviction, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said today.

Yesterday the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team released parts of its investigation.

The use of force, while significant, was not unreasonable given the situation, ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson said during a press conference in Whitehorse.

A video showing the officer trying to handcuff a man lying on the kitchen floor at a home in Whitehorse went viral last year, prompting a protest in front of police headquarters.

But that video only showed parts of the man’s physical contact with the officer, Hughson said.

ASIRT investigates police use of force resulting in injuries or death.

Throughout the investigation ASIRT has refused to name anyone involved, including the officer, citing its own policies.

Joshua Skookum, 27, was charged on April 5, 2015, with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and two counts of failure to comply with bail conditions.

The charges were withdrawn on June 10, 2015.

Publicly available court documents identify Const. Nathan Menard as the officer involved.

A full investigation was done by ASIRT on top of the RCMP’s, Hughson said.

Every witness was re-interviewed and the team selected an elder from Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation to act as an impartial observer.

The elder was satisfied with how ASIRT carried out the investigation, Hughson said.

She admitted the video was difficult to watch.

“It clearly depicts violent acts that would be disturbing to any reasonable person,” she said.

“(But) one must be careful not to allow the natural and almost instinctive reaction to the video to have a disproportionate influence on the necessary objective and unbiased assessment of the facts.”

The Criminal Code allows police to use force in certain circumstances, she said.

The investigation shed some light on what happened that night.

Police responded to a 911 call on April 5, 2015, at around 1 a.m.

A man using a false name complained about noises at a residence, telling the dispatcher there were people yelling and fighting.

The police knew that home from previous violent incidents and one homicide.

The officer responded alone, according to ASIRT.

Once outside, he heard people yelling inside and what he thought was something dropped or thrown to the ground.

After entering he realized there had been a house party and guests had been drinking.

When he reached the kitchen, he found a man – Skookum – covering his head with a hoodie, hands in his pockets, trying to hide.

He asked for Skookum’s ID.

Once Menard radioed the name Skookum gave, which turned out to be false, the man became nervous and tried to flee, ASIRT alleges.

Skookum, who was clearly intoxicated, according to the officer, told ASIRT investigators he was on violation of his bail conditions when Menard confronted him.

Skookum came in contact with Menard, almost knocking him to the floor, according to investigators.

Menard grabbed Skookum’s arm, and Skookum elbowed the officer in the face.

Skookum told investigators that was accidental.

They both struggled and went to the floor, which is when the video recording started.

“I’m doing nothing,” Skookum is heard screaming in the video.

Menard, who is on top of Skookum, strikes him in the face, prompting onlookers to yell at him. According to ASIRT, Menard “delivered an elbow strike to the face/jaw area with his right arm.”

Skookum actively resisted, ASIRT said.

The officer tells people to back off before taking Skookum in a chokehold: he wraps his right arm around Skookum’s throat while his left arm pushes Skookum’s head to the floor.

One person later threatens to kick the officer in the head.

Menard manages to get Skookum on his stomach and eventually handcuffs him.

Federal prosecutors sought an expert opinion on the use of the chokehold – called vascular neck restraint -before deciding not to lay charges, Hughson said.

She noted police officers have the authority to enter a residence without a warrant under their duty to preserve life. In this case Menard was checking on the occupants’ safety.

“When you’re looking at the circumstances and judging his decision to enter the residence it’s subjective to a reasonableness standard,” she said.

“It’s one of those cases where it fell on the line.”

The video prompted a protest in front of Whitehorse RCMP’s headquarters on Fourth Avenue last year.

The chief of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, Eric Fairclough, told the News at the time he was concerned about the use of force by the officer.

The fact Menard went in alone – potentially at risk of harm – was the force’s call, Hughson said.

“You have to be mindful these officers make these decisions in a split-second,” she said.

“If he errs on the wrong side and somebody in that house is injured, that’s not going to end well.”

ASIRT doesn’t make recommendations but shared its investigation with Yukon RCMP.

The News asked Yukon RCMP whether any changes in procedures or officer training would be implemented as a result of the investigation but did not hear back before press time this morning.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 27, 2021

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres centre Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals, scores in win against Rangers

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read