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'Callous and inhumane': Lawsuit filed against Edmonton police for head injury

EDMONTON — A young Indigenous man is suing Edmonton police for an alleged assault that he says put him in hospital for more than a week.
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EDMONTON — A young Indigenous man is suing Edmonton police for an alleged assault that he says put him in hospital for more than a week.

Lawyer Heather Steinke-Attia, who is representing Pacey Dumas and his family, said it has almost been a year since he was allegedly kicked in the head by an officer and the province’s police watchdog has yet to file a report on its investigation.

"There is nothing happening and nothing happening to the officers," Steinke-Attia said Wednesday.

"I can’t imagine the feeling that nobody cares."

A statement of claim filed Tuesday says Pacey Dumas, now 19, was injured after police responded to a disturbance complaint last year.

None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been proven in court.

Steinke-Attia said the defendants have yet to be served. A statement of defence has not yet been filed.

Carolin Maran, a spokeswoman for Edmonton police, said in an email that she could not provide comment on the case because it is being investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.

ASIRT said Wednesday there is an open investigation, but couldn't provide further comment.

The statement of claim says Dumas's mother, Irene Dumas, let officers in her home on Dec. 9, 2020,to search for weapons, but nothing was found.

During that time, the document says Pacey Dumas and his brother Blair Dumas were asked to step outside. Blair Dumas was placed in handcuffs and Pacey Dumas was told to lay face down on the sidewalk with both hands visible, the lawsuit alleges.

"Both Pacey and Blair were compliant with the requests made at all stages of the interaction and neither offered any resistance," reads the document.

It says that while Pacey Dumas was under police control, Const. Ben Todd allegedly yelled and swore at him at a distance.

"Suddenly and without warning, Const. Ben Todd moved swiftly to Pacey and while in motion kicked Pacey in the right side of his head with such force Pacey was immediately rendered unconscious and bleeding," the statement of claim alleges.

The document says several other officers searched Dumas for weapons, but none were found. He was then grabbed by his jacket and dragged about two houses away “for unknown reasons,” it says.

“Pacey is of slight build and has unknown severity of injury suffered to his head,” the document says. 

“Such treatment was callous and inhumane.”

The altercation left Dumas with a serious head injury that required emergency surgery, the document states.

The lawsuit says part of his skull was removed to alleviate pressure from his swelling brain. He has yet to undergo surgery to insert a metal plate to cover the hole in his head currently covered by his scalp, the statement of claim says.

Dumas was hospitalized for nine days, including time he spent in intensive care, the statement of claim says. The lawsuit says he also was infected with COVID-19 while in hospital.

The alleged assault has left him with daily headaches, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and "deformity to his head and permanent scarring," says the statement of claim.

He is also required to wear a helmet daily to prevent further damage to his head, the document says.

Steinke-Attia said no charges were laid against Dumas or his brother.

"To this day we don’t know what they were arrested for," said the lawyer.

She said there were reports Dumas had a knife earlier in the day, "but there was no suggestion at the time that there was use of the knife in any way or that there was harm caused to anyone in any way."

At the time, ASIRT issued a press release saying a group of people, including one who was armed with a knife, were reportedly fighting and had gone to a nearby home. When police arrived, there was a confrontation with a man matching a description of one in the group and "physical force was used."

The release says the man was taken to hospital and a folding knife was recovered from the scene.

But Steinke-Attia said that the folding knife was found a day later under a car across the street from the house.

"The vehicle had nothing to do with anyone in my client's residence," she said. "It's unrelated all together and there is no evidence it had any connection to this matter."

She said the brothers have not indicated to her that they suspect racism was a factor in the police response.

She added that they have no criminal records and have told her they have never been in trouble with the police. 

Steinke-Attia said she has contacted Edmonton's police chief to demand that Todd be suspended during the investigation.

Maran said Todd remains in an "operational position," but is currently not in front-line patrol.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2021.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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