Officer has been placed on administrative duties and RCMP has launched code of conduct investigation
A still from the surveillance video shows Cpl. Lacy Browning stepping on student Mona Wang’s head after a wellness check by the RCMP on Jan. 20. (Submitted by Bridge Law Corporation)
A surveillance video that is part of a civil lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court shows an RCMP officer in Kelowna dragging a female nursing student down a hallway and stepping on her head after a wellness check at her apartment.
The suit alleging physical and emotional abuse was filed by Mona Wang, a student at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, against RCMP Cpl. Lacy Browning on March 23.
The officer disputes the claim, saying that only necessary force was used to subdue the student when she became violent. In Browning’s statement of defence, filed June 15, she alleges Wang had a box cutter in her hand and denies that she assaulted the student.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Browning has been placed on administrative duties and the RCMP has launched a code of conduct investigation as well as a criminal investigation, according to a police spokesperson.
In the notice of claim, Wang says she was experiencing mental distress on the evening of Jan. 20, 2020, and her boyfriend called the RCMP requesting a wellness check.
The lawsuit says Browning found Wang lying on her apartment’s bathroom floor and did not provide medical assistance.
Wang said she was not able to stand on her own when Browning demanded she get up.
Dragged down hallway
“Browning proceeded to assault the plaintiff by stepping on the plaintiff’s arm,” the lawsuit states. “Browning kicked the plaintiff in the stomach while the plaintiff was lying on the bathroom floor semi-conscious.”
According to the lawsuit, Browning handcuffed Wang and then dragged her out of the suite, down a hallway toward the floor’s elevator while punching her in the face.
The officer took Wang into custody without telling her why she was being detained and transported her to the Kelowna General Hospital, according to the civil claim.
Wang says she suffered cuts, swelling and bruising from the alleged mistreatment.
“As a direct, foreseeable and proximate result of Browning’s reckless and unlawful actions, the plaintiff has suffered emotional distress, humiliation, shame and embarrassment, psychological and emotional trauma,” the lawsuit states.
History of suicide attempts
In her legal response to Wang’s claim, Browning denies she used more force than was necessary to subdue the student and take her into custody.
In her statement, Browning says Wang had a history of suicide attempts, and when the officer arrived at the apartment she found the student lying on the bathroom floor with empty bottles of pills and an empty wine bottle near her.
Browning says Wang was holding a box-cutting knife in one hand and had cuts on her arm and chest.
After she removed the knife, Browning claims the student was initially unresponsive but then became combative, and started yelling that she wanted to be killed.
“The defendant Browning then struck the plaintiff several times with an open palm, which subdued the plaintiff sufficiently for the defendant Browning to successfully handcuff the plaintiff,” the legal response states.
Taken to hospital
“The limited use of force by the defendant Browning was no more than was reasonable and necessary in the circumstances to both direct compliance as well as protect the plaintiff from further harm.”
Browning says she detained Wang under the Mental Health Act, took her out of the apartment and to a police car outside, and the woman was taken to hospital.
Her response says she moved Wang to the front door because she wasn’t sure emergency responders would be able to access the building and because she felt it unsafe to leave Wang alone.
This month, the court ordered the apartment building where Wang lived at the time of the incident provide surveillance video of the incident.
Wang’s lawyer Michael Patterson provided the video to CBC News this week.
The video does not capture what happened in Wang’s apartment, but it shows Browning dragging the student down the hallway and then into the building’s lobby as other people are coming in and out of the building.
Wang is lying on the floor in pants and a bra and not moving.
At one point, when Wang lifts her head, Browning steps down on her head, forcing it back to the floor.
Browning later grabs Wang’s hair and lifts her head and shoulders up off the ground.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran saw the video for the first time Monday night and said he was “very disappointed.”
“It is really disturbing and I think it just highlights the need for systemic changes,” he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker.
“Dealing with mental health and addiction issues is not easy, but what I saw in that video was incredibly disappointing.”
RCMP announced Tuesday that Browning had been placed on administrative duties after a review of the video and the allegations.
“An internal code of conduct and criminal (statutory) investigation is underway,” wrote RCMP Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet in an email.
“The RCMP will also be asking an outside police department to independently review the findings of our criminal investigation once completed.”