By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Police are defending the actions of officers who kneed and kicked a man while arresting him and are reaching out to Indigenous leaders to discuss what happened.
A blurry, 74-second video taken by a bystander and posted online Thursday shows three officers in Winnipeg struggling to turn a man on the ground over to handcuff him.
One officer knees the man in the back twice. A fourth officer walks up and kicks the man two times in the shoulder. One officer deploys a Taser while another puts a foot on the man’s shoulder.
The man is soon in cuffs.
The video has prompted accusations from some social media accounts of police brutality.
Kevin Walby, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg, said the video shows problematic behaviour, since the suspect was already on the ground when he was kneed, kicked and shocked with a Taser.
“All three of those uses of force come after the person is already detained and restrained,” Walby said Friday.
“He’s squirming around a little bit, but you tend to do that when you’ve got three people with their knees in your back and on your pressure points.”
Walby compared the video to that of Rodney King — an unarmed man whose arrest and beating at the hands of Los Angeles police in 1991 sparked riots.
The Winnipeg Police Service on Friday released a longer and clearer video taken from nearby security cameras and held a news conference about the use of force.
Const. Jay Murray said officers were responding to multiple reports of a man armed with a gun and high on methamphetamine who was threatening pedestrians during Thursday’s morning rush hour. He said the man had broken a large granite slab and busted a window at the Centennial Concert Hall to break in.
When officers arrived, Murray said, they saw a suspect throw what appeared to be a handgun to the ground. The suspect refused orders to get on the ground, he said.
“Officers struggled to place the male into handcuffs. While struggling with the officers, a knife and a heavy bar were located on the male.”
The security camera video shows the man throwing what appears to be a gun — it was later found to be an airsoft or replica gun — to the ground as he walks away from several officers who run after him.
Three officers wrestle with the man for several seconds before getting him to the ground and one officer punches the man several times in either the head or shoulder area. The video shows that after the knees and kicks, and at about the time the Taser was discharged, officers got a knife from the man’s waist area and kicked it away from him.
Murray said the video is hard to watch, but officers did what they had to so they could arrest the man.
“That’s the goal, to get that person into custody safely, and they were unable to do so until the kicks were applied to the shoulder and the Taser was used.”
Murray also said the kicks probably saved the man’s life, because the situation would have escalated if he had gotten control of the knife.
“If that individual gets a hold of that knife that’s in his waistband, and officers see that … you’re potentially in a lethal force encounter,” he said.
Flinn Nolan Dorian, 33, has been charged with several offences, including possession of a weapon.
Murray said police Chief Danny Smyth has reached out to Indigenous leaders to discuss the arrest.
The behaviour of Winnipeg police and other forces around the province toward Indigenous people was already being questioned by some Indigenous leaders.
“First Nations in Manitoba were still reeling from the police shootings of three of our citizens over 10 days in April, as we stood in support of Black Lives Matter,” Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said in a release earlier this week.
“The A.M.C. has long advocated for extensive and fundamental reform of the enabling legislation from which municipal, provincial and federal police services draw their powers. If this legislative reform means a systematic defunding and reduction of police services to redirect police budgets to health, education and social services organizations … then so be it.”