Two Kelowna RCMP officers took the stand as witnesses on the second day of an assault trial for Const. Siggy Pietrzak.
Pietrzak was charged with assault in April 2021 almost a year after the incident where the accused allegedly repeatedly punched a man who was being placed under arrest in downtown Kelowna.
Const. David Carter took the stand on May 24 to explain how the arrest of Tyler Russell took place on May 30, 2020.
Carter said that he called for backup after Russell was instructed to exit his vehicle under suspicion of impaired driving. Carter alleged that the situation then began to “escalate.”
He claimed that the complainant “raised his voice” while Carter was attempting to give him instructions. He also stated that Russell refused to walk to the police vehicle for a breathalyzer test.
At this time, Carter said that he verbally arrested Russell for obstruction of justice.
Carter then attempted to handcuff the complainant and a struggle ensued. Carter testified that another officer, Const. Donahue arrived to assist him.
Const. Donahue testified in court on May 25, that when he arrived on the scene to assist Carter he saw the officer holding Russell’s arm, in an attempt to handcuff him.
Donahue told the court that he attempted to help Carter by grabbing the other arm of Russell and tried various tactics to get him to the ground.
Donahue said that Russell was yelling, “what are you doing? What is going on?” while resisting arrest.
Carter claimed he and the Donahue “were losing” in the struggle with Russell when Pietrzak arrived on the scene and ran towards them.
“He used closed hand strikes to Mr. Russell’s face,” said Carter.
Following the strikes, the officers were able to handcuff Russell and place him in the police vehicle.
The watch commander Martin Trudeau handled the “prisoner” after the altercation, when Russell was brought back to the RCMP detachment.
Trudeau alleges the incident was “nothing out of the ordinary,” and “we had an altercation with a prisoner and he was injured.”
The commander reported that it was apparent that Russell was bleeding from his head, and while he did not believe the complainant required immediate attention, called paramedics to assess Russell.
Trudeau then stated that Russell was “extremely agitated” and while he was “not a threat, physically,” was being very loud and repeatedly asking to see a doctor.
He then said that for the “safety” of the paramedics, Russell was secured in a restraint chair.
“It was not difficult to place him in the chair. He was not fighting,” said Trudeau.
He also decided to implement a spit hood or a fabric hood which was placed over Russell’s head to prevent spitting on the paramedics.
Russell was “not actively spitting” but Trudeau determined that it was best to be preventative.
The paramedics determined that Russell required a doctor’s examination and transported him to the hospital under RCMP supervision.
Trudeau said that he had planned to go for a mountain bike ride with Pietrzak the day after the incident but they cancelled because Pietrzak had injured his hand in the altercation.
Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet confirmed that Pietrzak remains suspended with pay. She said that his duty status remains subject to ongoing review and assessment and the code of conduct investigation is also ongoing.
The complainant Russell has filed a civil lawsuit against Pietrzak. The Attorney General of Canada, also named in that lawsuit, denied Pietrzak used excessive force.