The Edmonton Police Service is conducting a criminal probe into an arrest by its officers — captured on video and shared online — that involved an alleged truck thief who was Tasered, kicked repeatedly, slammed headfirst into a brick wall and then thrown against a cruiser while he was handcuffed.
CBC News has also learned Bill Sweeney, the province's director of law enforcement, has asked the EPS to investigate whether the police service withheld medical treatment from the prisoner.
Sweeney made the request after learning from CBC News about the alleged treatment of Kyle Parkhurst after his arrest.
In an email, Sweeney said police told his department's executive director the "injury" sustained by Parkhurst was not serious.
But Parkhurst's lawyer, Mark Jordan, said his client told him his request to see a doctor was denied, his injuries were never photographed, and when it came time for his mugshot, his blood-soaked white shirt was covered with a sweater supplied by police.
Parkhurst allegedly was only assessed by a doctor after another lawyer acting for his grandmother filed a written complaint to the Edmonton Remand Centre and Alberta Health Services on June 25, two weeks after his arrest.
Parkhurst told Jordan last week he had no memory of being thrown head first into a wall, although he was still having headaches and nightmares, and was combing scabs out of his scalp.
Jordan said Parkhurst told him he was left to bleed for hours after the arrest, first in the back of a police cruiser and then in an EPS cell.
"He had blood coming into his mouth and he tells me he was trying to spit out the blood that was in his mouth," Jordan said.
"He was yelled at because the police thought he was making a mess of their vehicle."
He said Parkhurst told him he heard an officer outside the cruiser boasting about how he had stomped him.
In an interview, Parkhurst's grandmother, Arlene Tindall, said she thought he should have received some diagnostic imaging tests to determine, at the very least, if he had a concussion.
"He said he had numbness on the left side of his face and his nose," Tindall said.
Watching the video, she said, "was just like a heart-crushing, gut feeling — I don't know how to explain how that hurt.
A tenant of an apartment building overlooking a parking lot in downtown Edmonton filmed the June 11 arrest after police boxed in a truck allegedly stolen by Parkhurst.
After the video was posted online, sparking media coverage, EPS announced its professional standards branch was investigating, and Chief Dale McFee later confirmed one officer had been removed from active duty. That officer's identity has not been disclosed.
But the police service did not disclose the criminal investigation in its news release or in McFee's public statements to reporters.
CBC News only learned about the criminal investigation from Sweeney after it sought to determine why EPS was allowed to investigate a potential assault on a prisoner.
Edmonton police did not acknowledge several emailed interview requests from CBC News over the past several days. And Bonnie Riddell, executive director of the Edmonton Police Commission, did not respond as promised last week.
In an emailed statement late Tuesday, an EPS spokesperson said Parkhurst was assessed by a paramedic at the police station and his injuries were deemed to be minor. The spokesperson also denied a sweater was used to cover Parkhurst's blood-stained white shirt for his mugshot.
CBC News is still seeking an interview with EPS Chief Dale McFee about the incident.
Under provincial law, the investigation could have been conducted by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team. But Sweeney said his executive director decided to allow the EPS professional standards unit to continue its investigation after it informed him it also had already begun a criminal investigation.
The video begins after the truck is boxed in by two police cruisers. Several officers run toward Parkhurst, guns drawn, as he exits the vehicle. One officer yells, "Hands up, buddy. You're going to die."
Parkhurst is quickly surrounded by several officers, who force him to the ground and begin striking him. They Taser Parkhurst; it can be heard on the video, along with Parkhurst's shouts of pain.
Jordan said his client told him he was not resisting. Police yelled at him to give up his right arm so he could be handcuffed behind his back but Parkhurst said he couldn't because another officer was holding it. Then he was Tasered.
At one point, while Parkhurst is subdued on the ground, a bald officer looks over his right shoulder, his left, then his right again, before kicking Parkhurst three times.
The same officer then hauls Parkhurst to his feet and smashes the top of his head into a brick wall. Parkhurst appears to be handcuffed at that point.
Parkhurst, 26, now faces nine charges, including possession of a stolen vehicle, failing to stop, dangerous driving, driving while prohibited and allegedly using a vehicle as a weapon to assault EPS Const. Jordan Steele.
CBC News provided the video to Mount Royal University criminologist and use-of-force expert Kelly Sundberg.
The law allows officers to use force in an arrest, "however, once you have the person under control, if you continue to use force then you are committing an assault," Sundberg said.
"When you see that bald officer looking both ways — as if looking, 'Is the coast clear?' — and then deploying boots to the guy, what was the purpose of that?
"When a person is in custody, there is absolutely no excuse to take someone and put their head into a wall."
The video shows the same officer walking Parkhurst, who does not appear to be resisting, over to a police cruiser. The officer places a hand in the middle of Parkhurst's back and violently shoves him against the cruiser. Using one hand to hold Parkhurst, the officer then opens the passenger door of the cruiser.
"[The suspect] was clearly compliant at the police-car area," Sundberg said. "So I don't know what was going on there, why that officer thought it was OK to continue using that force."
"You cannot just stand idly by and watch someone be abused. You can't watch someone get their head slammed into the wall.
"Once [a suspect's] level of resistance decreases, the level of force has to decrease proportionately. And if it doesn't, that is an assault and the other officers have a duty to prevent that."
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