A Williams Lake teenager says she was punched in the face several times by an RCMP officer while she was handcuffed in the back of a police car.
“I know for a fact that he punched me more than six times,” says 17- year-old Jamie Haller, whose mother, Martina Jeff, has sent a letter of complaint to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, accusing RCMP Const. Andy Yung of assault.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has issued a press release calling for an independent investigation of the incident by, at minimum, a senior officer from outside the Williams Lake detachment.
Staff Sgt. Warren Brown of the Williams Lake RCMP says once the issue was brought to his attention, he did request a senior member from another detachment to investigate the incidents that took place at night on Saturday, Sept. 10 “in efforts to be fair and impartial.”
According to Jeff’s letter, Jamie had called her mother at about 11:15 p.m. to say members of the Indian Outlaws gang were chasing her in the vicinity of Nesika elementary off Moon Avenue.
While running, Jamie says she dropped the phone but saw “a white lady” and asked her to call the police. Jeff says she was driving through the city, with her other daughter, looking for Jamie when she saw a number of police cars with their lights flashing. She says Jamie was on the ground, crying and in handcuffs. She says she watched two officers grab her and throw her roughly into a police car and shut the doors.
“They didn’t even say anything to me,” Jamie says. “They just came and grabbed me and picked me up and dragged me over by the road, and they just put handcuffs on me. I was the one being chased, and they roughed me up and put me in the car. All I wanted was to tell my mom what was going on.”
Jamie says she began kicking at the window.
“Why they were being rude to me, that’s why I was kicking on the window, because they have no right to do that to me when I needed help,” she says. Jamie says the police told her not to kick on the window, and one of the officers jumped in the backseat and sat on her legs, while another, believed to be Yung, started punching her in the face.
“I was asking to see my mom, and he was like, ‘no, you can’t see her,’ and then he goes and punches me.”
Jeff says she watched the officer “put his whole upper body in the car” and punch Jamie, whose younger sister, age 12, says she also saw this take place. In her letter to the commission, Jeff says: “I was close enough to see the movement of his arms, as he was striking her. Const. Yung stepped out and another officer said you can see her now. Const. Yung started walking away really fast. He was opening and closing his fists.”
Jeff says her daughter’s face started swelling and there was blood coming down on each side of her mouth, while she was still handcuffed with her hands behind her back.
Jeff adds that when she indicated to police she would be pressing charges, she heard one officer say, “you guys are aboriginals. No one is going to want to help you.
“And they were saying, ‘good luck, good luck.’ I was telling them thank you for the good luck because we need it.”
Jamie was then taken to the detachment, where Jeff picked her up the following morning.
She says she then took her to hospital.
“The doctor was worried about concussions, so they did X-rays,” says Jeff, who took pictures of Jamie’s swollen face while at the hospital.
Brown says there was a 911 call made that night about a female screaming for help.
He says the RCMP attended the area, believing an assault had occurred, and arrested two people, including a female.
“As the investigation unravelled, we ended up placing a female into a police car,” Brown says. “During that time, there was a confrontation between that individual — a 17-year-old female — and the attending members.”
Brown says that when the matter was brought to his attention, he saw a photograph of the female and her injuries.
“As a result of reviewing those photographs, I initiated a public complaint against the investigating members,” Brown says, adding that police also initiated contact with the mother and the teenager.
“Because the versions of events are so different between both sides, including the police and the 17-year old and her mom, that contributed to why I initiated a public complaint.”
He says he requested a senior investigator from an outside detachment to investigate the file to be fair and impartial.
“I think it’s very important that the community has trust and confidence in the detachment here, and for that reason, I ask that they be patient and refrain from opinion until such time the investigation is complete.”
As a result of her injuries, Jamie says she missed at least five days or work and a week of school. She, her mother, and Jamie’s sister all say the experience has caused them to lose trust in the RCMP and may not call for their help if they find themselves in another dangerous situation.
Yung couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.