Man needed resuscitation after being mauled by police dog: lawsuit

October 17, 2020


A civil lawsuit has revealed the near-fatal injuries a Kelowna man suffered at the teeth of a police dog during an arrest this summer, an incident already being investigated by B.C.’s police watchdog.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, Fernando Verde alleges he had to be resuscitated by staff at Kelowna General Hospital and underwent emergency surgery after being mauled by the dog on Aug. 1.

The RCMP and Independent Investigations Office of B.C. disclosed the incident the following day, but provided minimal details beyond a statement indicating police were investigating the theft of an e-bike when the suspect sustained a “serious dog-bite injury” after “an interaction” with a police dog and its handler.

The RCMP’s original statement said they were flagged down by a man who claimed his e-bike had been stolen and later encountered the suspect on the rail trail.

The civil lawsuit claims Verde was walking through Rutland when he saw a friend’s e-bike that was previously stolen and in the possession of a known bike thief “Bike Mike.” After “Bike Mike” left the e-bike outside a gas station, Verde claims he took the bike and rode away on the instruction of the legal owner.

Unbeknownst to Verde, police were nearby and started to follow him.

Verde rode the e-bike to the rail trail near Hardy Road where he was confronted by Const. Reginald Sahay and his dog. The lawsuit says the police dog was instructed to attack Verde, who fell off the bike.

“The dog mauled the plaintiff while he was on the ground,” the lawsuit alleges. “While the dog was mauling the plaintiff, Sahay was punching and kicking the plaintiff in his head and ribs at the same time.”

The lawsuit alleges other officers then arrived on scene, by which time Verde was “bleeding profusely and was badly in need of medical attention.”

Verde was brought to hospital with serious dog bite injuries and hypotension.

“The plaintiff’s injuries were so severe that he lost consciousness and had to be resuscitated at KGH and had emergency surgery to repair his left superficial femoral artery,” the civil claim says. “The plaintiff was kept at KGH for intravenous antibiotic therapy and aggressive wound care.”

The lawsuit goes onto claim Verde lost a “significant” amount of blood and had “palpable pedal pulses.”

While Verde has an active criminal record for property-related offences, the lawsuit says he was never criminally charged for the e-bike incident.

“[Const.] Sahay did not ask any questions of the plaintiff before instructing him of the reasons for his detention,” the lawsuit goes on to allege, claiming Verde’s Charter rights were breached when he was not informed of his reason for arrest.

A variety of damages are sought by the lawsuit, which also names a Const. Davidson over allegations that the officer stood by and let the attack occur, as well as the Attorney General of Canada and BC Minister of Public Safety.

“The dog was used as a weapon. Any dog owner who did what this officer did would lose their dog and potentially face criminal charges,” said Verde’s lawyer, Michael Patterson, in a statement to Castanet News.

None of the allegations from the lawsuit have been proven in court and the defendants have not filed a response yet.

The RCMP did not respond to request for comment.

The IIO’s mandate sees it investigate all officer-related incidents that result in serious harm or death, whether or not there is any allegation of wrongdoing.