Police used too much force
on mentally challenged man: Parents

Sam Cooper, Vancouver Province, April 7, 2010

Rodney Moffat (centre) was strolling near his brother’s home
on March 29 when RCMP officers responded after a neighbour
had seen him playing with a large orange and silver plastic toy space gun
and called 911. Moffat stands with his parents Karl and Eva Moffat.
Photo: Kim Saunders for the Vancouver Province.


The parents of a mentally challenged Quesnel man who was hurt by police in a toy gun takedown are afraid an unrepentant RCMP force will mistakenly shoot someone in a repeated scenario.

Rodney Moffat, a shy and soft-spoken 49-year-old, weighs about 90 pounds and lives with his parents in Quesnel.

He was strolling near his brother’s trailer-park home on March 29, when RCMP officers swooped in with guns drawn and slammed him to the ground. The reason?

A neighbour saw him playing with a large orange and silver plastic toy space gun, and called 911, spurring police into a dramatic “takedown.”

Rodney was walking with the bulky toy tucked in his waistband, when a cruiser pulled up and a female officer ordered him to put up his hands at gunpoint, while a male officer tackled him from behind, he says.

He suffered bruised ribs and pain in his wrists and lungs after the rough arrest, and is currently on painkillers.

“I bruise easily, I’m a very small person,” Rodney said on Wednesday. “I don’t even know how they got the cuffs around my little wrists.”

Police say they took the gun call seriously as the “suspect” was walking near two schools, and they have not admitted any error in Rodney’s arrest.

And that has enraged Rodney’s father Karl, a retired police officer of 31 years with the Windsor Police Department.

“They still don’t believe they used excessive force on a retarded boy,” Karl Moffat said in an interview Wednesday.

Following the takedown, Rodney “was terrified, he was crying, he was as white as a ghost,” Karl said. But it’s thinking about what could have happened that “still haunts” Rodney’s parents at night.

“What if he had turned around to run? They could have shot him in the back for no reason at all,” Karl Moffat said.

The retired policeman said he’s not interested in seeking damages from the RCMP, but he wants the force to acknowledge they used excessive force, apologize and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“With the police thinking they didn’t do anything wrong, could there be a repeat performance? What are they going to do in water-gun season? They’re going to run silly,” Karl said. “Rodney is fortunate he didn’t get shot [but] I’m concerned this could happen to someone else if this is there standard practice.”

“They should say sorry and stop fibbing about it,” Rodney Moffat said. “Before I thought police were supposed to protect us, not abuse us, like they did.”

Rodney Moffat said he’s glad that police returned his new toy gun, but his mother Eva had to demand “four times” before police turned it over.

“I just like playing with things like that — I like the sounds and the lights [of the space gun] when I’m watching Star Trek,” he explained.

In an interview, Staff Sgt. Gary Clark-Marlow of the Quesnel RCMP suggested that the parents and local media are unfairly playing up the incident.

Asked whether an investigation into the arrest will be completed, or an apology offered to the Moffats, Clark-Marlow said no complaint has been filed, and from reading the initial incident report he sees no evidence that excessive force was used.

“The parents seem to be accusing us of reacting to a toy pistol,” he said. “The big picture is ... we were about to lock down several hundred students. We had what we believed to be a credible threat of a person with a gun near a school that is in session.”

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