Williams Lake RCMP Const. Andy Yung has been acquitted on a charge of assault against Jamie Haller of Williams Lake, who suffered injuries while in the custody of police on Sept. 10, 2011 in Williams Lake.
Haller was 17 years old at the time of the incident.
Judge Randall William Callan gave his ruling in Williams Lake provincial court on April 22, saying he had no reason to doubt Yung’s evidence.
Summarizing events Callan said initially the RCMP were called after civilians heard a female screaming in the forested area in the vicinity of Midnight Drive and Western Avenue.
When police located Haller, she was hiding behind a home on Western Avenue.
“They identified themselves as police, and attempted to speak to her,” Callan said. “She was not co-operative and continued to be hysterical. They arrested her for being drunk in a public place. She was handcuffed. Crown and defence agreed this was a lawful arrest.”
During the three-day trial held in Williams Lake provincial court Jan. 21 to 23, Haller testified she was punched in the face several times by Yung while she was handcuffed in the back seat of a patrol car, and another officer held her legs.
At the trial Yung did not deny that he punched Haller in the face several times. He said he went to the back of the police car and opened the door because Haller was kicking violently. He testified that when he opened the door, Haller kicked him in the face, grabbed his neck in a scissor hold, and began pulling him toward her.
After trying to apply a pressure point to force her to let go, he punched her until she released him from the scissor hold, Yung said.
“Const. Yung’s belief that it was necessary to use force to remove himself from a scissor lock was reasonable,” Callan said in his ruling. “I accept the evidence that he believed he had run out of options, and did not know whether the other constables could help him.”
Evidence presented by Const. Yung was corroborated in part by Const. Dan Hay, Const. Steven Stewart and Haller’s mother Martina Jeff, who testified as witnesses at the trial, Callan added.
Constables Hay and Stewart, also on duty the night of the incident, testified they saw that Haller had Const. Yung in a scissor hold.
“Const. Hay testified he was shocked to see Jamie Haller’s buttocks and feet over her head, and her ankles locked behind Const. Yung’s neck,” Callan said.
At the trial, Haller’s mother Jeff testified she was behind the police car and saw Const. Yung at the right rear door of the car making punching motions with his arm and then pulling back and closing the door, Callan said.
Callan also said testimony given by the civilian witnesses and the RCMP witnesses, stated Jamie Haller was “highly intoxicated, agitated and kicking at anyone in range.”
Outside the courthouse, Jeff said she was very upset about the judge’s ruling.
“I’m an Aboriginal person,” Jeff said. “If that was me going to court for assaulting somebody like that I would have definitely got charged. I would have definitely gotten thrown in jail. It breaks my heart. He admitted that he hit her. What is wrong with the judge? It’s because we’re natives.”
Shaking her head, Haller said she was also upset, and said there was no way she could have got her legs up and over her head to put Yung in a scissor hold.
Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Warren Brown said it was a set of “very unfortunate circumstances” that resulted in the court case.
“Any time a police officer is charged with a criminal offence based on conduct or performance that concerns me,” Brown said. “As the judge said today, police are often faced with violence and unpredictable circumstances. They have a split second often to react and often have to live by those decisions.”
In Const. Yung’s case, the judge advised he found his evidence to be truthful, Brown said.
“At the end of the day, that’s what means most to me. Whether we do right or wrong, it’s based upon whether we’re truthful about that,” Brown said.
“Regardless of the decision today, I’m pleased that comments were made favourable of Const. Yung’s truthfulness.”
The RCMP will have to conduct a duty status review before a decision is made regarding Yung’s activity in the future.
Yung has been on active, but non-operational duty, since the assault charge was recommended by the Abbotsford Police Department on March 7, 2012 after it conducted an independent investigation.
Hillary (Hank) Adam was appointed as an independent observer of the case by the RCMP to ensure everyone was treated fairly, particularly the family.
“The family accepted me as an observer, they had asked some other chiefs from the Tsilhqot’in, but they didn’t have the time to do it and I was the current chief of Canoe Creek at the time,” Adam said.
After the verdict, Adam told the Tribune he was struggling with the judge dismissing Haller’s credibility as a witness to the incident.
“Although some bits and pieces might be left out or didn’t come across, he didn’t accept any of her evidence,” Adam said.
“I find that hard to believe. Obviously the RCMP have been through the process many times and know what the process is.
“If everyone’s giving evidence that measures up to be the same then they know that evidence is going to be used in the courts,” Adam said.
“Regardless if it’s true or not, it’s going to be used as true and credible.
“The part and evidence that was missed is that if Jamie had him in a scissor lock, and she was pulling him down six inches within her face, why were the bruises on the left side of her face? How did the bruises land up on that side of her face? That was left out. There’s no mention of it,” Adam said, adding he was “disturbed” by the whole thing.