‘It was very degrading’: UBCO student speaks about video showing RCMP officer drag her down hallway

June 23, 2020

‘IT WAS VERY DEGRADING’

The UBCO student behind a lawsuit alleging a Kelowna RCMP officer assaulted her during a wellness check is speaking publicly about the incident.

Mona Wang is a nursing student training to become a psychiatric nurse and volunteers within the neuropsychiatry healthcare field. She tells Castanet RCMP were called to check on her health during a suicide attempt on the evening of January 20.

Surveillance footage of the aftermath of the wellness check was released this week as a part of Wang’s civil lawsuit filed against the RCMP officer involved, showing Wang being dragged, face down, down the carpeted hallway of her apartment building. In the lobby of the building, Const. Lacey Browning is seen pushing Wang’s head into the ground with the bottom of her foot and picking her head up by her hair.

“Feeling so powerless, you know, like feeling like who do you go to when the person you’re supposed to go to is the one that’s causing the harm?” Wang told Castanet.

In her response to the civil lawsuit, Const. Browning claims she entered Wang’s bathroom and found her on the ground semi-conscious. Browning says Wang had a boxcutter in her hand, but Wang maintains it was on the other side of the room, where she left it after self harming.

Wang also disputes Const. Browning’s claim that she carried out a sternum rub to determine the student’s “true level of consciousness.”

“I know what a sternum rub is. Instead, she used her boot to step on my arm as hard as she can, I had bruises from that just to show how excessive the force was to arouse me,” Wang said. “That kind of took me out of my unconsciousness. Obviously I was not happy. When someone comes and they’re supposed to be helping you and they’re calling you names and saying you’re an idiot and those kinds of things, it’s definitely hurtful.”

Const. Browning claims she used open palm strikes to subdue Wang after she started flailing after waking up, believing that she could have had a weapon. Browning also said Wang’s dog attacked her, something Wang didn’t deny, but noted her dog is a 10-pound miniature poodle.

Wang doesn’t believe she was a danger to Browning and said she lost consciousness after being beaten by the officer in her suite.

“I don’t remember her dragging me down the hall very much. I remember waking up in the elevator and then she dragged me into the lobby, and that was quite embarrassing. So many of the people who lived in my building were walking past and I was screaming for help,” Wang said.

In a court filing, Browning says she dragged Wang to the lobby because she was uncertain if other first responders would be able to enter the building when they arrived. The officer claimed she also felt unsafe staying in Wang’s suite with her alone due to her suicidal and alleged violent behaviour.

Once in the lobby, Const. Browning is seen on video pushing Wang’s head into the ground and picking her up by her hair. There is no audio attached to the video supplied to Castanet by Wang’s lawyer, Michael Patterson.

“It was very degrading, to already be down and then have her take it one step further and to assault me even more. I was in handcuffs, I was on the floor, I was no harm to her in that moment, yet she felt it was necessary to kick my head down,” Wang told Castanet.

Wang says she had one previous suicide attempt that was attended by paramedics rather than police, something she wishes happened in this situation.

“They would have had a stretcher, been able to transport me safely,” Wang said, suggesting police are trained to rely on force more than they should.

“As a nurse working in a psychiatric facility we get a lot of verbally abusive and combative patients and we can do it without physically assaulting them, I don’t see why the police isn’t able to handle that in such a way,” Wang said, calling it a “flaw” in police training.

Wang says she was somewhat shocked another woman could treat her so violently, claiming she was begging the officer “what if this was your child?”

“I was hoping for some motherly compassion, but none of that was shown. I was pleading, I was begging for her to show a little compassion, to call for help or something and there was just nothing.”

Wang said Const. Browning was completely silent during their drive to the hospital, despite her pleas for information as to where they were going. “I was asking her all these things in the car and she did not say a single word to me.”

Wang hopes Browning receives some sort of reprimand or punishment for the incident.

“If you did something like this, I don’t think you should be able to walk away while the other person has to live a life where they are constantly reliving this trauma,” Wang said, explaining she now deals with significant anxiety around police.

“I think they definitely need to be accountable for their actions and hopefully this will breed a little bit of change or influence them.”

BC RCMP spokesperson S/Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said Tuesday an internal Code of Conduct and statutory criminal investigation has been launched into the actions of Const. Browning. In the meantime, she’s been placed on desk duty.

Wang says she is sharing her story in an effort to inspire others who have been through similar situations, adding her current goal is to finish nursing school and “become a psychiatric nurse so that way I can help more people.”

“There’s so much stigma especially around mental illness, that people who are schizophrenic, that are bipolar, that they’re dangerous and that they’re out to hurt you when in reality they’re more of a harm to themselves,” Wang said, adding she is also hoping police start to take allegations like these seriously.

“I’ve spoken to people who have reached out to me and said similar things have happened to them in Kelowna even and that when they file a report, nothing was done about it.”

“We as a society especially in 2020 – we can do better, and hopefully my story will encourage people who have also faced these issues to come out and speak on what happened with them,” Wang continued, admitting that it is difficult to talk about the situation.

“But I think that the good definitely trumps the bad and if you don’t talk about it, if you keep it inside, no-one knows what happened and there’s no way that the system can improve.”

Wang says she currently has a strong support network around her and she is working to improve her own mental health. She immigrated to Vancouver from China with her family when she was just four years old and says she was nervous about telling her parents about what happened.

“I was terrified to tell them because I didn’t want to break their hearts and let them know what’s going on, I thought it would be best if I kept it to myself, but I’m so glad that I told them because now I have even more people who are close to me that can offer me the support that I need.”

The RCMP and government’s response to the civil lawsuit claims Const. Browning’s actions and “the investigation, arrest and brief detention of the plaintiff were reasonable, lawful and executed in good faith,” adding the student ignored instructions of the officer and “resisted lawful arrest.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court.