Officers ordered to pay $13,000
for assault, arrest in 2007

Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun, Oct. 14, 2009

Vancouver police officers arrest a suspect in this November 2006 photo
used to illustrate VPD response to violence and drunkenness on Granville Street.
Photo: Handout.


VANCOUVER — Two police officers were found liable for assault, battery and false imprisonment and ordered to pay $13,000 after they roughed up a man on a Vancouver street and arrested him without reasonable grounds in 2007.

The man, Daniel Woods, is happy with the judge’s decision, his lawyer Timothy Goepel said.

“Unfortunately a night out with his buddies turned into having his face smashed into the pavement and spending six hours in jail,” Goepel said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

Woods, 47, was crossing Granville Street near Smithe at about 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2007, with his friend Steve Webster, 30, when an unmarked police SUV made a U-turn and entered the intersection and turned its emergency lights and siren on.

It was dark at the time, and Woods testified that he did not realize it was a police vehicle. Woods told the court that he was startled and put up his hand to tell the driver to hold off.

Vancouver Police Const. Paul Gies was the passenger; Sgt. Stephen Eely was driving. They gave evidence that they thought Woods had punched the vehicle.

Woods continued walking down the street, but within seconds Gies had grabbed Woods’s arms, spun him around, pushed him toward the road and took him down onto it, according to the judgment.

“I find that Constable Gies used excessive force. He came down hard somewhere near the claimant’s neck with his knees, injuring him, while the claimant was on the ground, on his stomach, under two police officers,” Provincial Court Judge Ann Ehrcke wrote in the judgment.

Witness Jesse Lobdell said the entire police response was aggressive and forceful. Another witness, Sandy Sadovich, who knows Woods, said Gies was smiling, laughing and taunting Woods for about five minutes.

Woods was ultimately arrested by Eely for breaching the peace and taken to jail, where he stayed overnight.

Woods, who is employed in utility maintenance for the City of Vancouver, had abrasions on his forehead and nose and a cut on his lip, redness next to his ear and red areas on his back, according to court documents.

Ehrcke found some of the police evidence was “unreliable.”

“In my view Constable Gies did not have the authority to grab and push or otherwise physically stop the claimant without concurrently telling him that he was being detained and why,” Ehrcke said in the judgment. “The wrongful arrest of the claimant by Sergeant Eely was also either wilful or reckless. ... They did not have reasonable grounds to arrest the claimant for mischief, or to arrest him for a breach of the peace and have him sent to jail.”

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