Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired tags

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — A First Nation chief wants an independent investigation into an alleged RCMP assault during an arrest that he says began over expired vehicle registration tags and ended with him facing charges of resisting arrest and assaulting police.

"Because we are minority... nobody speaks up for us," Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam said during a press conference Saturday.

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"Every time our people do wrong... (the RCMP) always seem to use excessive force and that has to stop ... Enough is enough."

Adam said he was leaving a casino after 2 a.m. on March 10 with his wife and niece. The group went to his truck, which had recently expired license plate tags, at the Peter Pond Mall in downtown Fort McMurray, Alta., when officers confronted the group.

He said a police vehicle pulled up behind them while he was moving a child seat. Adam said he asked the officer why police were harassing him and told him who he was.

He said he then told the officer that he would raise the matter with his superior.

He said the officer told him to get away and that he didn't need to talk with him, and Adam said he made his way back into his truck where his wife was at the wheel.

Adam said he told his wife that they weren't allowed to go anywhere. He said she replied, "For what?" and put the truck into drive.

Then the officer, Adam said, knocked on the driver's window and was yelling.

"And my wife rolled down the window. The RCMP raised his hands, put it inside the vehicle, reached over and put the truck into park and shut the vehicle off and told my wife that you cannot move this vehicle, it has no registration. And then they started talking and started arguing," Adam said.

The RCMP manhandled his wife, Adam said. The police called for backup and more officers arrived on the scene, he said.

One of the officers who arrived "he just gave me a, what you would call in the wrestling world, a clothesline," he said.

During the altercation, Adam said he suffered a deep laceration inside his mouth and he could feel blood pouring out. He fought to maintain consciousness, he said, and felt someone hitting him on the back.

Adam was taken into police custody and held until about 9:30 a.m., said his lawyer Brian Beresh.

Adam was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting police in the execution of duty, said Alberta RCMP in a statement Saturday. He will appear in Wood Buffalo Provincial court on July 2.

Wood Buffalo RCMP initiated a vehicle stop on an unoccupied and idling vehicle with an expired plate, according to the statement, and a confrontation with Adam resulted.

"During the incident, Adam was being placed under arrest and resisted. The members were required to use force to affect the arrest," the statement said.

An in-car video system captured the incident and it was reviewed by supervisors.

"It was determined that the members' actions were reasonable and did not meet the threshold for an external investigation."

A photo Adam took the day after the arrest shows him with a large bruise around his right eye and dried blood on his cheek. Adam and Beresh released two videos taken by bystanders of the incident.

A 41-second video shows RCMP asking Adam's wife, who was in the driver's seat, to exit the truck because she is under arrest. She can be seen stepping out of the vehicle and asking why.

On a roughly three-minute video Adam can be heard identifying himself and telling police he is bleeding.

"What did you do to me? I'm bleeding man," he says in the video, and asks why they did this to him.

Adam can be heard yelling expletives during the altercation.

Both videos are dark due to the time, Beresh said at the press conference, noting the RCMP have better-quality recordings, which he has seen but is not permitted to release.

He called for the RCMP to release their recordings "so that the truth is known."

RCMP spokesman Const. Patrick Lambert said it is not routine procedure for police to disclose materials that could be used in prosecution to the general public.

"His court appearance is set for July 2 and information would come to light in that atmosphere in the courthouse," Lambert said.

Beresh also called for a full investigation by an independent police force and for all police to wear body cam equipment when working outside of the station.

He said the videos show Adam did not assault an officer or resist arrest, but made the mistake of asking why he was being arrested.

"He was challenging the authority, he was challenging the uniform and that can't be permitted in the militaristic-type organization like the RCMP."

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates deaths or injuries involving police, said that it will investigate the incident.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2020.

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