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Three Vancouver police officers acquitted of assault

"We knew from day one they had done nothing wrong," Vancouver Police Union president Ralph Kaisers said.

Three Vancouver Police Department officers have been acquitted of assault-related charges connected to a May 24, 2017 SkyTrain station incident.

The officers allegedly tried to stop David Cowie for riding a bike with no light, helmet, lights or proper reflectors. Cowie sustained fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.

The situation was captured on transit CCTV.

Const. Brandon Blue was charged with assault causing bodily harm, while constables Beau Spencer and Gregory Jackson were accused of assault.

The Crown's case, presented by prosecutor Peter Campbell, alleged the officers had used more force than was necessary in order to subdue Cowie in order for him to be cuffed.

Vancouver Provincial Court Judge Jay Solomon, however, said in his decision that the Crown had failed to make its case.

“Each accused is found not guilty of assault and is entitled to an acquittal,” the judge said.

He said he agreed with the officers’ testimony that they had used reasonable force in the circumstances.

“I accept their evidence they did not intend to cause seriously bodily harm,” the judge said.

“This was not a case of a friendly interaction with a law-abiding member of the public,” Solomon said.

The incident took place on the ground floor of the Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain station.

A fourth constable had been pursuing Cowie when he ditched his bike in the officer’s path. The officer leapt over the bike and managed to take Cowie to the ground in an effort to arrest him, the court heard.

As he struggled with Cowie, the officer radioed for assistance, a call that brought Blue, Spencer and Jackson to the scene.

Solomon said Cowie received seven knee strikes and eight punches from the officers.

He said a concern of the officers was that Cowie’s hands remained free and unseen, raising fears he might have a weapon to use.

The officers testified they were focused on getting that arm in cuffs for their own safety and that of the public.

The BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) has said the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) investigated the case and passed on its report for consideration of charges to Crown counsel in February 2019. 

The BCPS said the charge assessment process was slowed by the complexity of the issues, volume of disclosure and its requests for further disclosure.

The officers were charged in September 2021.

Police union response

Vancouver Police Union president Ralph Kaisers said the decision was the appropriate one.

He said the officers were attempting to subdue and arrest the suspect.

“He struggled with the police and obviously the police were in a position and had to use force to effect that arrest,” Kaisers said.

He said he was disappointed that the IIO and the Crown took the case as far as a trial.

“I’m surprised that Crown counsel even approved charges,” he said.

“We knew from day one they had done nothing wrong.” 

Video produced by Alanna Kelly