A Canadian court ruled in favor of a semi truck driver who sued after police allegedly beat and Tased him in the cab of his vehicle in 2016.
This week, a court in British Columbia ruled in favor of truck driver Bradley Degen, 52, following a three week trial.
Degan was awarded more than $317,000 after the court found that two RCMP officers used excessive force in an encounter on July 25, 2016.
On that day, RCMP Constables Perkins and Spoljar responded to a citizen complaint about a semi truck idling near a lumberyard in Surrey, British Columbia. The citizen told police that Degan might be under the influence of alcohol and was unresponsive to their attempt to talk with him.
Degen later testified that he had arrived at the facility at 5:30 p.m. but was told that the facility was closed for the day. He decided to park near the lumber yard and go to sleep in order to deliver his load of lumber when the warehouse opened in the morning. Due to the heat, he left the truck idling to keep the air conditioning running and went to sleep wearing only his underwear. He left the truck once that evening prior to police arriving to urinate on the street.
The officers said that they knocked on the door of the truck and got no response, then looked inside to find Degan asleep. The noise eventually awakened Degan, who says he made contact with police but turned down the truck from high idle to low idle to reduce noise. He remained in the truck with windows and doors locked but lowered a window a couple of inches.
From court documents:
“[Degan] testified that he asked, through the window, what was going on. He testified that the officer kept yelling “open the f*cking door”. When asked at the trial about his unwillingness to open the door, the plaintiff testified that there was no value to your rights if you have to give them up at a certain point.
[Degan] testified that he told the officer at the driver’s window that he was there delivering a load, and said that “you guys got the wrong guy” and “I’m going back to bed”. He also conceded that he possibly then told the officer or officers to “f*ck off”.
[Degan] then brought the truck back up to high idle and rolled up the window. The plaintiff testified the closing of the window caused the officer at the driver’s side to let go of his grip. He testified that as a result, Cst. Perkins fell or jumped to the ground. The plaintiff testified he did not push the hand of the officer that was gripping the window. He does not recall Cst. Perkins then announcing that the plaintiff was under arrest for obstruction of justice.“
After this, both the driver’s side and passenger side windows were broken by the officers, who entered the cab.
Degan testified that he was immediately Tasered which caused him to lose control of his bladder.
“Degan then testified that Cst. Perkins punched him multiple times on the right temple. At the same time, the plaintiff stated the second officer entered the vehicle from the passenger side, having unlocked the door. He testified they both “pinned me down”, bent his left wrist, and handcuffed him. He stated it was Cst. Spoljar that had come in the passenger side of the vehicle and when he had done so, laughed and pointed out that the plaintiff had “pissed himself”. He says both officers were in the cab and both removed him from the cab. Of this he is certain. He is uncertain if the second officer, Cst. Spoljar, punched him in the head and torso during the course of both officers pinning him down,” the court documents say.
The testimony of Perkins and Spoljar differs from Degan’s. Spoljar admitted to punching Degan while trying to gain entrance into the cab because he believed Degan might be reaching for something, and that Degan punched back, knocking him off the truck.
Degan was arrested for obstruction of justice and assaulting a police officer, though the charges were later stayed.
Degan told the court that he suffers from headaches, seizures, reduced sleep times, and short term memory loss.
Though the court questioned the credibility of some of Degan’s testimony, Justice David Crossin found that “the officers used more force than was necessary in tasering the plaintiff. This amounted to battery.”