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Abbotsford officer acquitted of assault in West Van dog bite takedown

The Crown's expert witness testified the dog bite was an allowable use of force.
First responders load a suspect into an ambulance following a police takedown on the Capilano River Bridge, Feb. 26, 2020. An Abbotsford Police Department member charged with assault in the arrest has now been acquitted. | Catherine Urquhart, Global BC

An Abbotsford Police Department member charged with assault after his police dog bit a suspect in a high-profile takedown in West Vancouver has been acquitted.

In February of 2020, Dustin Mills assaulted a Fraser Valley Highway Patrol constable during a traffic stop in Abbotsford. Mills then fled and led police through multiple jurisdictions before officers boxed him in and arrested him on the Capilano River Bridge on the Upper Levels Highway.

In the course of the arrest, the suspect was bitten by Sgt. Shaun Nagel’s police dog, causing him injury.

The province’s Independent Investigations Office, which is automatically tasked when a suspect faces serious harm or death in an interaction with police, opened its own probe and later concluded there were “reasonable grounds to believe that an officer may have committed an offence.” The B.C. Prosecution Service announced in July 2022 that it had sworn charges of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm against Nagel.

Nagel’s trial began in North Vancouver Provincial Court in August. At issue in the trial was whether the dog bite was a criminal assault, or whether it was an allowable use of force, protected by section 25 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

The Crown’s expert witness testified that it was permissible use of force.

“Accordingly and appropriately, the Crown has invited an acquittal,” Judge Tim Hinkson acknowledged at a Jan. 9 hearing. “Having considered all of the evidence and on the basis of the eyewitnesses, many of whom implicitly or explicitly endorsed Shaun Nagel’s actions that day…. I therefore acquit Shaun Nagel on both counts.”

Abbotsford Police Department deputy chief Jason Burrows released a statement on matter on Thursday, expressing satisfaction with the outcome and acknowledging the Crown’s decision to recommend acquittal.

“Sgt. Nagel deployed his police dog under difficult and dynamic circumstances to arrest a volatile suspect without having the luxury of pausing a scene or going to a video-assisted referee to find a new angle,” it read. “I am grateful no members of the public or other officers were harmed during this high-risk arrest. I would like to acknowledge the professionalism, integrity, and dignity Sgt. Nagel has demonstrated throughout this process.”

In February of 2021, Mills was found guilty of assaulting a police officer, escaping from custody and assault with intent to resist arrest. He was sentenced to time served, court records show.

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