Warden Steve DiCastri recieves the keys to the Okanagan Correctional Centre from CEO of Plenary Concessions Mike Marasco in October 2016. (Western News file photo)

Inmate suing Okanagan Correctional over alleged assault

Inmate claims an officer grabbed him by the throat and threw him onto the bed

The Okanagan Correctional Centre is facing its second small claims lawsuit in a month, this time for an alleged attack on an inmate.

“Correctional officer Ozbuker entered my cell. Upon entering, Ozbuker asks if I can step out,” the lawsuit, filed by Tayler Verhaegen, says of the incident, which allegedly happened at 9 p.m. on Oct. 10.

“I asked why, but I was not told by Ozbuker. I then requested a correctional supervisor to be present. Soon after my request, Ozbuker took out his pepper spray and pointed it a few inches from my face.”

Related: Inmate suing Okanagan Correctional over cart crash

The guard reportedly threatened to spray Verhaegen, who said he was frightened and asked, again, for a supervisor.

“Ozbuker did not say anything. Instead he put his spray away and turned around, grabbing my throat. Ozbuker did not say anything. Ozbuker lifted me by my throat and slammed me half on my bed and half on the ground,” the lawsuit reads.

“I was able to turn around and place my hands behind my back, but Ozbuker used his open palm to hit the back of my head into the mattress. I could not breath, and so I turned my body.”

Verhaegen said more officers came in to restrain him, but some held him to the bed, while others attempted to lift him up, and his face was dragged along the bed frame.

Related: 4 B.C. jails install body scanner to combat drug smuggling

“So I extended my hand to push myself off the bar. In this process, Ozbuker stomped on my hand. I spoke calmly and asked everyone to slow down so I could get my arm behind my back,” Verhaegen said.

“Once everyone relaxed, I was arrested and moved into segregation without seeing health care.”

Verhaegen said he was later released from segregation without any institutional charges, and claims he has yet to be told why the incident occurred in the first place.

Related: Trial for 2014 robbery still not on

Verhaegen has been going through the legal system, awaiting trial after he was accused of a 2014 bank robbery in Kelowna. He was sentenced to nine months in jail for obstructing justice after threatening a witness last October.

Verhaegen reportedly robbed a Bank of Montreal in daylight hours, and had been scheduled for a January 2017 trial, but found himself without a lawyer at the time.

He is seeking $35,000 in damages from the jail, marking the second lawsuit facing the jail in a month.

Related: Prison an ‘economic boon’ to the South Okanagan

Another lawsuit was filed against the jail on Oct. 31, also seeking $35,000, after he ran over his heel with a meal cart while trying to avoid a corrections officer.

Michael Bradley Telford claimed he was promised pain medications, but never given them, and was told to put a tensor bandage on himself.

A request for comment Thursday morning from B.C. Corrections has not yet yielded a response.


@dustinrgodfrey

dustin.godfrey@pentictonwesternnews.com

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