A Mountie charged with assault told a Kelowna Provincial Court on Sept. 21, that he considers resisting arrest and yelling, to be “assaultive behaviour,” that requires a forceful response.
Kelowna Const. Siggy Pietrzak was charged with assault in April 2021, almost a year after being caught on camera, appearing to repeatedly punch Tyler Russell in the head. In May 2020, Russell was placed under arrest by Const. David Carter, for obstruction of justice after refusing to take a breathalyzer test.
Carter called for backup when Russell allegedly raised his voice and refused to obey orders of the arrest. Const. Donahue was dispatched, to assist Carter with the arrest.
Upon arrival Donahue then called for additional backup. Despite being told to stand down, the court heard that Pietrzak chose to attend the scene.
Pietrzak claimed he saw Donahue and Carter struggling on either side of Russell and said that he could see that one of Russell’s arms was free and the hand was making a fist.
The Crown disagreed, giving evidence that both of Russell’s arms were being restrained by Donahue and Carter.
The defendant told the court that he did not ask Donahue or Carter for direction before punching Russell in the head multiple times, saying that he “didn’t feel there was time to casually have a conversation,” due to the urgency of the situation.
Pietrzak said that the strikes were appropriate because Russell he was displaying “assaultive behaviour,” including; refusal to get on the ground, making a fist and yelling “f**k off.”
“Punching an actively resistant subject multiple times in the face is not proportional to the threat posed by them… refusing to go to the ground is not fighting,” said Crown counsel David Hainey.
Pietrzak disagreed with this statement.
He maintained that the force he used was proportional to the arrest and stated he considered someone trying to stand up and resist arrest as fighting.
Pietrzak said he delivered a total of approximately four strikes to Russell’s head, stopping when Russell “went limp” and fell to the ground, where he could be handcuffed.
Earlier in the trial, Donahue said that he believed that together, the three officers could have wrestled Russell to the ground, without Pietrzak’s punches.
Both Carter and Donahue said that they did not feel as though Russell was being “assaultive” during the arrest. Neither Carter nor Donahue deployed forceful techniques at the time of the arrest.
Russell was never charged in the incident and Pietrzak remains suspended with pay.