National News

Woman files civil suit against 3 Mounties, city

By Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - A woman who alleges she was beaten by a Mountie in Williams Lake, B.C., when she was 17 has now filed a civil suit against the city and three RCMP officers, including one who was acquitted of an assault charge.

Jamie Haller, who will turn 20 next week, filed the lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday.

She said in her notice of civil claim that she was walking alone on the evening of Sept. 10, 2011, when five or six men began chasing her, prompting her to run and yell for help until a homeowner called police.

She said Const. Andy Yung arrived and found her hiding behind a fence. But instead of providing assistance, the lawsuit alleges, he tackled her, dragged her to a more open area and pressed her face down into the ground.

The notice, which contains allegations that haven't been tested in court, says Haller was scared and confused and initially believed that she was being attacked by one of the young men who was running after her.

"When she realized that the person who had grabbed her was a police officer, the plaintiff protested and advised the defendant, Andy Yung, in clear terms that she was the person who had asked for the police to be called and that she had committed no crime," the document says.

The lawsuit says Cpl. Jason Pole then arrived, and then Haller was handcuffed while she demanded to be released. The notice alleges the officers refused to stop treating her as a suspect.

The document says Yung told her to shut up and locked her in the police cruiser as she kicked the inside door of the vehicle to protest her arrest.

The notice alleges Const. Daniel Hay, the third officer Haller named in the lawsuit, held her legs while Yung repeatedly struck her in the face with his fist.

The document says the bruises on Haller's face and eyes left her unable to work for a week at a fast-food outlet or go to school during that time because her vision was blurred.

Yung was found not guilty of assault last August, but Haller is suing him and the other two Mounties for civil damages.

Yung's lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. None of the officers have had the opportunity to file a statement of defence.

Haller's lawyer, Jason Gratl, said his client is seeking unspecified financial compensation and that her distrust of law enforcement means she is now afraid to call police.

"It is an example of how First Nations are treated," said Gratl.

Yung told the trial that he was defending himself when he punched Haller, said Gratl.

Gratl said Haller was initially charged with assaulting Yung, but the Crown dropped those charges.

He said the City of Williams Lake is named in the lawsuit because it has a contract with the RCMP to provide municipal police officers.

RCMP Sgt. Rick Lebeuf of Williams Lake said he could not comment on Haller's civil suit. He said Yung has transferred to another detachment in the Vancouver area for reasons unrelated to the case.

Josh Patterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said Haller's arrest and treatment are an example of how First Nations people are overpoliced and underprotected by law enforcement.

"In many First Nations communities, sadly, people don't feel that police are there as their protectors and as their allies," said Patterson.

"We did a whole report on 2011, we toured around most of the province and this is something we heard over and over again. And this case is a perfect example of that. It's a sad example of a First Nations person seeking help from law enforcement but instead being injured by law enforcement, having to fear law enforcement."

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