UPDATE: The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has been “directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest” according to a release from the Government of Alberta on July 10. According to the release, “ASIRT’s investigation will focus on the actions of police during this incident, while RCMP will maintain responsibility for the investigation into the initial complaint and the man’s subsequent actions.”
Whitehorse RCMP have come under scrutiny after a witness to the arrest of a man July 6 alleged that officers used excessive force, leaping at the suspect “superman-style” and kicking him multiple times, among other things.
Yukon RCMP Supt. Chan Daktari Dara, however, says that the officers’ conduct was justified.
Whitehorse resident Siku Allooloo, in a July 6 Facebook post, wrote that she had filed a complaint “for a brutal excessive use of force incident” she said she witnessed at Rotary Park that morning.
“A man was walking across the park with an axe, which I only noticed because 4 officers pulled up and rushed toward him,” Allooloo, who did not respond to requests for comment from the News, wrote in the post.
The man dropped the axe as the officers approached and walked away with his hands raised, according to the post, and the officers surrounded him, standing around for awhile and “exchanging a few words.”
“Then suddenly the officer directly in front leapt in the air superman-style, grabbed the man by the back of the neck and slammed him head-first to the ground, while at the same time the officer directly behind lept forward and tackled him,” the post alleges.
All four officers kneeled on the man as he “remained docile,” the post continues but a “few seconds later, the officer on his side stood up and started to kick the guy, 4 huge kicks, then stopped a few seconds and kicked him another 2 times.”
Allooloo, who said she was with her coworkers from the Women’s Directorate at the time, wrote that she ran up towards the officers and the man with her phone, worried because he “wasn’t moving at all.”
“As soon as the officers saw me approach with my phone recording they changed their behaviour entirely and appeared to treat the man very gently,” the post says.
“… Afterward when the arrest was being finished he was speaking politely to them. I couldn’t believe it.”
According to a Yukon RCMP press release July 7, officers from the Whitehorse detachment were dispatched around 11:15 a.m. July 6 after a report of a man walking on Second Avenue “carrying an axe, swinging it around, hitting property and uttering threats at individuals on the street.”
Officers found the man in Rotary Park, the release continues, “still swinging the axe at random and appeared to be agitated,” and approached with “extreme caution” due to the “high risk for public safety” due to the number of people out at the park and on the street.
One officer raised his “conducted energy weapon” while another drew his gun, but neither weapon was used. While the man “eventually threw the axe away,” he “did not comply with police commands and instead walked away,” the press release says, and he was arrested “after a brief struggle.”
Paul Fraughton, 33, is facing charges including possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, mischief under $5,000 for allegedly breaking a trolly window at the McBride Museum, resisting arrest and breaching a probation order prohibiting him from possessing weapons.
Fraughton, reached by what the News believes to be his email, declined to comment. He was released on bail and is scheduled to appear in court again later this month.
In an interview July 9, Supt. Dara said that officers handled the situation, which he described as “dangerous” and having a high potential for violence and risk to the public, “effectively.”
“This is not a normal occurrence we see every day in Whitehorse in terms of a man wielding an axe and I believe that in this situation, our officers acted in a reasonable and measured manner,” he said.
Asked about the allegations that police apparently used excessive force even after the man had dropped the axe, Dara said that the man “was not fully cooperative at that point yet.”
“Members saw an opportunity to close the gap as this person was walking away and proceed to take control of him and handcuff him. He was under arrest for a variety of offences,” he said.
He confirmed that Fraughton was known to police, and that officers have had multiple interactions with him since November.
Dara said he hadn’t been notified yet of a formal complaint, which Allooloo wrote in another Facebook post she had received a reference number for immediately upon filing, but explained that due to how civilian complaints are handled, detachments don’t always see them right away.
He added that police have “received more positive support than criticism in this particular situation,” and encouraged any witnesses, including Allooloo, to contact police to give formal statements.
“We’re paid to protect the public, protect Yukoners, and we do our best to do that,” Dara said. “And this situation, I think we acted well, I think we acted in a reasonable manner to put a stop to the situation as quickly and as safely as possible for everyone.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org