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Defendants deny woman's claims of injuries during arrest

Shelly Lewis alleging December 2020 arrest was unlawful
justice-scales

The defendants in a lawsuit brought by a woman who claims she suffered injuries during an "unlawful" arrest near Burns Lake are painting a markedly different picture of what happened.

In a lawsuit filed in May, Shelly Lewis claims she suffered a fractured arm, chipped tooth, whiplash and a concussion when RCMP took her into custody on Dec. 6, 2020.

She also claims RCMP searched part of her home and garage without a warrant and that she complied fully with an officer's demand that she stop moving, only to be tackled from behind and slammed to the ground.

Lewis alleges she was arrested without cause and after she was taken to the community's RCMP detachment, she was humiliated during a strip search in front of male officers. 

Her complaints of injuries were ignored, Lewis also says.

In a response filed Oct. 7, the defendants - the B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Attorney General of Canada and the arresting officer. Cst. Duncan McDonald - are denying the allegations. 

They say McDonald and another officer were called to a complaint of a man with a large bottle of vodka riding an snowmobile along Tschesinkut Lake Road and Vollan Road south of Burns Lake.

RCMP located the snowmobile a driveway with fresh tracks leading to it from the front lawn of the property. When they knocked on the home's door, a man matching the description, wearing wet winter gear and showing signs of intoxication, answered the door.

As he was being escorted away, Lewis appeared at the front door and demanded to know what the officers were doing. Lewis also exhibited signs of intoxication, according to the response, including slurred speech, unsteady balance, glossy eyes, difficulty forming sentences and understanding the officers' responses.

Lewis approached the officers and "continued yelling at them" and asked what would happen if she backed her vehicle into the police vehicle. Told she would be arrested if she did so, Lewis moved back toward the home but continued to yell at the officer.

When the officers said they would process the snowmobile and have it towed, Lewis replied that the snowmobile was hers and police could not tow it.

The second officer left the scene to take the man back to the Burns Lake RCMP detachment and McDonald remained behind. 

When McDonald returned to his vehicle to complete paperwork, he noticed Lewis walk toward the snowmobile. McDonald got out and told Lewis to back away but instead saw her retrieve a large bottle of vodka from the snowmobile's back compartment and place it inside her jacket, then quickly walk toward the home.

When McDonald told her to stop  or be arrested, Lewis instead quickened her pace. McDonald placed both hands on Lewis' shoulders and pulled her towards him and the two fell onto the ground with McDonald on his knees beside Lewis.

Lying on her stomach, Lewis attempted to pull away from McDonald and tucked her arms under her body, the defendants allege. For reasons of personal safety, McDonald pulled her elbows off the ground, one at a time, to "apply pressure and create momentary discomfort only until he was able to control the Plaintiff's arms and place her in handcuffs." 

McDonald photographed the vodka bottle as it was lying on the ground and seized it as evidence, then took Lewis into custody.

During the trip to the detachment, Lewis complained of a broken arm but McDonald saw she was able to move her left arm freely and that Lewis changed her story to saying it was her shoulder instead. No deformations or signs that her arm was broken were noticed.

Once in cells and out of the view of anyone else in the detachment, the defendants say a female jail guard had Lewis remove her underwire bra from under her clothing because it was a safety hazard.

No signs of injury were observed during her time in custody and shortly before 6 p.m., roughly four hours after she was arrested, Lewis was released.

Lewis, who no longer lives in the area, had filed her lawsuit seven days after B.C.'s civilian-based police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, cleared RCMP of criminal wrongdoing in the matter.