Nursing student says RCMP wellness check left her physically injured, emotionally scarred
TORONTO -- A nursing student in British Columbia alleges she was physically injured and emotionally scarred by an encounter with an RCMP officer while she was in “crisis.”
Mona Wang has launched a lawsuit claiming she was assaulted and abused by an RCMP officer who was dispatched to Wang’s residence in Kelowna to check on her wellbeing earlier this year.
Surveillance video shows a handcuffed Wang, dressed only in a bra and leggings, being dragged facedown by her wrists and arms down a hallway and through the building’s lobby by a female officer.
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This incident comes to light during a time of scrutiny into the use of police force during wellness checks. Since April, at least four people in Canada have died at the hands of police during calls for wellness and mental health checks.
Those fatalities include: Ejaz Choudry, a 62-year-old father of four who was shot and killed by police inside his apartment in Mississauga, Ont., on June 21; Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old Indigenous woman who was shot by police June 4 in Edmundston, N.B.; and Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black-Indigenous woman in Toronto, who fell from a high-rise balcony on May 27 after police arrived.
D’Andre Campbell, a 26-year-old Black man with schizophrenia, was shot to death by police on April 6 in Brampton, Ont., after calling police for help.
The surveillance video released as part of Wang’s civil action shows people coming and going in a building lobby as the RCMP officer stands over Wang, who is face down on the floor.
Wang’s boyfriend called police on Jan. 20 to request a wellness check, believing she was in serious distress.
The lawsuit names RCMP Const. Lacy Browning, the federal attorney general and provincial public safety minister as defendants.
Wang says she was unable to stand when the officer arrived, but that Browning demanded she get up. She alleges the officer kicked her when she didn’t get up.
In her notice of civil claim, Wang says she was kicked, punched, and dragged through her building.
No video has emerged to show what took place in the apartment, but cameras outside do capture a woman identified as Wang being dragged by her wrists, face down. At one point, Browning is seen putting her boot on the plaintiff's head. She's also seen pulling Wang's head up by the hair, then lowering her head back to the ground.
Wang says she was left swollen, bruised and cut and suffering nightmares.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The officer, who has been with the RCMP at least nine years, provides her version of events in court documents. She alleges that she found an intoxicated Wang in the bathroom, holding a boxcutter knife with the blade extended, and with bleeding lacerations to her chest and upper arm.
There were melatonin and acetaminophen pills scattered about and a nearly empty wine bottle. Court documents say the officer took away the boxcutter from Wang, who was "behaving in a bizarre and erratic manner."
In the court documents, the officer says she believed Wang posed a threat to herself and to others. The officer says Wang did not follow orders, swore excessively, repeatedly asked to be killed and swung her arms around until Browning was able to handcuff her.
Browning said she thought Wang might need urgent medical or psychiatric help, and sought to take her into custody under the Mental Health Act. But the plaintiff refused to leave the apartment on her own.
The officer said she feared leaving Wang in her apartment alone, believing she was suicidal, and didn’t know whether other first responders would be able to access the apartment.
The defense says the “investigation, arrest and brief detention of the plaintiff were reasonable, lawful and executed in good faith” and that only necessary force was used.
However, an internal code of conduct review is now underway and Browning is now on administrative duties.
Her "duty status is subject to continual assessment,” Staff-Sgt. Janelle Shoihet told CTV News in an emailed statement.
"We can confirm that an internal Code of Conduct and criminal (statutory) investigation is underway," Shoihet said.
"The RCMP will also be asking an outside police department to independently review the findings of our criminal investigation once completed."
In an interview with CTV News, Wang says she “wasn’t really in a great state of mind” that night and had ingested wine and pills. She says she then had a panic attack.
“So, I was hyperventilating and that was why I think I was drifting in and out of consciousness.”
She says the officer told her to “stop being dramatic.”
Wang admits to calling the officer names, but denies being threatening. She says she asked to be taken to the hospital but was told she was being arrested. She says she was punched before “blacking out.”
She remembers screaming for help and being dragged down the hallway.
“And I just don't understand why she felt the need to have to drag me into the lobby where everyone can see me in the middle of winter, right, and I didn't have a shirt on, I didn't have my shoes on,” said Wang.
“And I was just calling for help. It was quite difficult for people that I see on a daily basis walking past, seeing me in such a vulnerable state.”
Wang, who studies nursing at the University of British Columbia, says she works with combative patients every day and nurses are trained to de-escalate situations.
“And I definitely think that when police get in a situation like that their instinct is to use violence.”
Wang says she had drunk wine and taken melatonin and Tylenol. She acknowledges she had cut herself with a box cutter but denies she was holding it when the officer arrived. She says she was in crisis but got no sympathy from the officer.
Her notice of claim alleges Browning’s “reckless and unlawful actions” have caused her to suffer “emotional distress, humiliation, shame and embarrassment, psychological and emotional trauma.”
She is seeking unspecified damages.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione, St. John Alexander and Jon Woodward