BRITISH Columbia's newly minted police watchdog has been called in to investigate an incident in North Vancouver in which a bank fraud suspect was badly injured by a police dog.
The Independent Investigation Office, launched by the province in September, announced late Thursday it would be looking into the encounter, which unfolded earlier in the day near the city library.
North Vancouver RCMP descended on Lonsdale Avenue at 2 p.m. after the 41year-old suspect reportedly tried to defraud a bank in the 1300-block. According to a witness, the man emerged from the Scotiabank next to Civic Plaza followed by what appeared to be a bank manager, just as police closed in. He reportedly took off on foot and cut north up an alley.
"I saw a young fellow, probably mid-20s, run out of there fast," said Christopher Larock, who watched much of the event unfold from inside the library. "Then there was a single cop right there (behind him). They don't run very fast with their duty belts, and certainly the suspect was a motivated runner."
A short time later, as Larock left the building and headed toward his car, he saw the suspect reappear near Chesterfield Avenue, having apparently eluded his pursuer, and dive into a bush a short distance north of West 14th Street.
By this time, police cruisers were blocking off the area and a canine unit had arrived on scene, he said.
"The dog just went right in on him, and you heard him screaming. And he kept on screaming," said Larock. "Then the dog handler went in and got him and got the dog off him."
The suspect was rushed to Lions Gate Hospital with serious injuries, according to police. He underwent surgery and remained there Friday morning.
The civilian-led IIO had a team in North Vancouver within hours of the incident, according to the office.
"Our mandate is to investigate incidents of death and serious harm," said spokesman Owen Court. "The injuries that this gentleman sustained met the definition of serious harm."
Court couldn't offer a timeline, but he suggested the file would wrap up sooner rather than later.
"The broader commitment is to turn these investigations over in, shall we say, a more timely manner than the public is accustomed to seeing."
Cpl. Richard De Jong, speaking for the North Vancouver detachment, said the alleged fraud attempt will still be investigated by the RCMP. He couldn't release many details, he said, but confirmed they will likely recommend charges. No money was taken, said De Jong.
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