A man who bit a Vancouver police officer while being arrested has been jailed for six months on charges of assaulting a peace officer and wilfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer.
Damion Dean Lye appeared before Vancouver provincial court Judge Jennifer Oulton March 23 for sentencing. Crown prosecutor Curtis Johnson sought an eight- to 12-month global sentence on both counts but said that should be stepped down due to the fact Lye is Indigenous, meaning a six-month sentence.
Johnson asked Oulton that the sentence be served consecutive to another sentence for which Lye is currently in jail.
Oulton, however, opted for four months on the resisting count and two months on the assault — to be served consecutive to the current sentence for possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.
She said police were called Sept. 5, 2020 to a report of someone being punched. They found Lye roaming the building and threatening to pull fire alarms.
When the two officers tried to subdue him, Lye dropped to the ground and began fighting. More officers soon arrived.
“In the course of the struggle, Mr. Lye was kicked and punched and Tasered twice in the back,” Oulton said.
Johnson told Oulton Lye bit the officer, who was wearing latex gloves, and broke the skin in three places. He said the situation left the officer with anxiety, particularly around have to go “hands-on” in future arrest cases.
Defence lawyer Pamela Smith-Gander said any injuries the officer received paled in comparison to those received by Lye, who was sent to St. Paul’s Hospital for examination.
Lye told the court that examination was cursory and no record of his injures was made.
Johnson also said there had been delays in getting disease testing from Lye so the officer could be sure she had not contracted anything from the bite. Smith-Gander said those tests came back negative.
She cast some of the blame onto police.
“He, in his intoxicated state, perceived that he was being attacked,” Smith-Gander said, adding she was concerned “about “the level of violence police exerted on Mr. Lye.”
Johnson said Lye has 53 convictions, seven for violent offences, including aggravated assault and assault causing bodily harm.
The Crown asked for a ban on Lye possessing knives or any bladed weapons. He added the latter is becoming more common, with people carrying half a pair of scissors and claiming it is not a knife.
Smith-Gander asked Oulton to seriously consider the Gladue report — a look at the Indigenous factors in an accused’s background — as a factor in sentencing.
She said Lye has a “horrific” background, including intergenerational homelessness and addiction.
Smith-Gander said he has been unable to access programs throughout his life while dealing with legal issues. The lawyer told the court her client has been “cast to the wolves.”
“He is a product of his environment and a lack of opportunities he has had in his life over and over and over again,” Smith-Gander said.
She said any further detention was akin to “warehousing” Lye.
Oulton was sympathetic to Lye’s situation, saying he has been unable to get proper assistance to move forward in life.
“Mr. Lye continues to express willingness to address the underlying problems,” Oulton said.
Smith-Gander dismissed the officer’s anxieties about police work and future “hands-on” arrests.
“That’s part of police work,” she said. “That’s reality.”