He shot himself while allegedly stealing a puppy. Now he will not be brought to justice after a police officer beat him in hospital

Peel Regional Police said the force's Occupational Standards Division immediately began an investigation into the allegations set out in the judge's findings and an investigation is still ongoing.  (Peel Regional Police - photo credit)

Peel Regional Police said the force’s Occupational Standards Division immediately began an investigation into the allegations set out in the judge’s findings and an investigation is still ongoing. (Peel Regional Police – photo credit)

A man who accidentally shot himself in the leg during an alleged armed puppy robbery was forced to keep his charges after a judge found a Peel police officer held him in hospital and repeatedly slapped him in the face.

In a decision released this month, Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas Bielby wrote that at the time of the attack in December 2019, the man was lying in a hospital bed, handcuffed by one wrist while suffering from a gunshot wound and a broken leg, as well as being on medication and awaiting surgery.

“The applicant was vulnerable and physically unable to defend himself,” the judge wrote in his decision. “The officer took advantage of the applicant’s situation.

“There was no justification for what happened.”

CBC News is not identifying the man because his charges have been stayed. It also does not identify the officers involved as they remain under investigation by the Peel Police Professional Standards Division.

The man, who was 20 when he was arrested on December 20 this year, ended up in hospital after an alleged Kijiji online sale of a nine-week-old American bulldog named Tarzan took place. The puppy’s owner was meeting with the man outside a home in Brampton when the man allegedly stole the animal at gunpoint. Shortly after, the man accidentally shot himself in the leg – although he initially told police he injured his leg in a fall.

He was subsequently charged with robbery and weapons offenses. The pup was returned to the victim, who sustained no physical injuries, Peel police told CBC Toronto on Wednesday night.

Peel Regional Police

Peel Regional Police

Provocation no excuse, judge rules

Two officers were stationed outside the man’s hospital room the night of his arrest and were relieved by two more in the morning. The man testified that when he woke up that morning he asked if he could get a lawyer.

According to him, one of the officers replied: “Suck a cock”. The official denied this allegation in his statement.

From there, the man testified that he and the same officer began exchanging insults. He admitted that he had offended the officer’s appearance and told him that he would be in big trouble if he didn’t arrange for him to contact a lawyer.

The judge acknowledged that the police officer was “provoked” by the man’s insults, but wrote that this should not be an excuse to attack him.

“I would expect an experienced police officer to act professionally and be able to ignore any such provocation,” Bielby wrote.

After the exchange, the two officers came into the man’s room and locked the door, he testified. One stayed at the door while the other approached the bed and grabbed the man’s one unbound wrist, calling him “a pussy” and slapping him “backhand” three times in the face. The officers then returned to their chairs outside the room.

Officers discussed the case over lunch and proposed “collusion”: judges

The man then pressed the emergency button by his bed and set off a code blue alert, after which he claimed the officer who hit him called him a “snitch”.

The officer later testified that he had very little memory of the incident.

It was only after his operation around 2 p.m. and after repeatedly asking for a lawyer, the man testified, that another officer came with a cell phone he had used to call his lawyer.

The next day, this officer took a statement from the man. According to the ruling, the officer asked if the man had told his attorney about the attack and suggested that he might not want to follow his attorney’s advice — something the judge considered a violation of attorney-client privilege.

The reality is, if the police had simply refrained from attacking him, he would have been brought to justice for it. – Andrea VanderHeyden, Attorney at Law

The officer suggested the man file a complaint with the Independent Police Inspector’s Office, but took no further steps to investigate the assault allegation, the judge noted.

In his decision, Judge Bielby wrote that he accepted the man’s evidence over that of the two officers, noting that it was broadly consistent throughout. During cross-examination, officers claimed not to be able to remember many details, sometimes giving ambiguous answers or replying, “I can’t comment on that.”

It was determined through cross-examination that the two officers involved in the attack came to the courthouse together, had lunch and discussed the case before testifying, with one admitting that he had told the other he had no idea why he was planning to Court was summoned and needed him to trigger his memory.

The judge called the admission “troubling,” adding, “It suggests collusion.

“The fact that the applicant had a criminal record in the past does not alter my acceptance of his evidence,” Bielby wrote.

The Police Occupational Standards Division is investigating

In a statement to CBC News, Peel Regional Police spokeswoman Jennifer Trimble said the force has “an established process” with the Office of the Crown when it comes to serious allegations of wrongdoing.

“In this case, the Crown informed our office of the court’s findings and we immediately launched an investigation into the allegations. The investigation is being led by our Professional Standards Department and that investigation is ongoing,” she said.

Peel Regional Police

Peel Regional Police

As for the man who was beaten, his attorney, Andrea VanderHeyden, told CBC News that he spent a year in custody awaiting trial on the charges. She secured his release on bail in December 2020 and he has been under strict house arrest since then with no reported violation of his terms.

Since then, she says, he’s attended online school and found work. It’s unclear if he will take legal action against the officers, but for now he’s relieved with the outcome. VanderHeyden added there was no indication Peel Police would appeal the decision, adding that the 30-day window to file a claim had now expired.

A few weeks ago, she added, a Peel police officer showed up to the man, demanded fingerprints and said they would arrest him if he didn’t comply. VanderHeyden said police later told her it was a matter of miscommunication.

At a time when many officials and police forces, including the Peel Police Commissioner, have called for Canada’s bail system to be tightened to deter violent offenders from endangering public safety, VanderHeyden notes this case as outstanding.

“There were definitely solvable problems,” she told CBC News. “The reality is, if the police had simply refrained from attacking him, he would have been brought to justice for it.

“All they had to do was show a little self-control.”


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