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Outrage over arrest

Dramatic cell phone footage of Abbotsford police firing non-lethal rounds at a homeless man is raising questions about whether officers used excessive force.

Officers were called to a food bank in the 33900-block of Essendene Avenue April 16 with reports of a man carrying a knife, according to Abbotsford police.

The department said police tried to talk to the 57-year-old man, but he wouldn’t follow their commands. “Less lethal force options were ultimately deployed by officers,” Const. Ian MacDonald said in a statement.

The man was subdued and taken into custody, then transported to hospital to undergo treatment and receive a mental health assessment, police said.

A video of the arrest surfaced online Tuesday appearing to show the suspect surrounded by several police officers telling him to stay on the ground.

Shots can be heard throughout the video followed by screams from the suspect. Witnesses said he was shot with rubber bullets and beanbag rounds.

Homeless advocate Ward Draper of the 5 and 2 Ministries, who posted the video on his Facebook page, claimed that the man, who he called Roy, did not have a weapon in his hand while he was surrounded.

“It was inside a backpack three to four feet away. They also were not calling him by his name they were calling him John,” Draper wrote in a Facebook post.

A number of commenters on the post criticize the Abbotsford Police Department for what they perceived as excessive use of force.

“Well something has to be done, cause this is really getting out of hand,” Margert Tomkinson wrote.

Abbotsford police acknowledged that a number of people recorded the takedown with their smartphones and are asking for witnesses to send in any other images or video to make sure their investigation is complete and comprehensive.

It’s the latest tension between homeless and the City of Abbotsford.

In December 2013, the city evicted a homeless camp at Jubilee Park after being granted a B.C. Supreme Court injunction.

A lawsuit spearheaded by Pivot Legal Society has been launched against the city, alleging bylaws and tactics used to harass homeless people breached their charter rights.

The society says in a news release that homeless people have suffered for years, have had their tents and structures destroyed, chicken manure spread where they have lived and been pushed from relatively safe places to more "dangerous conditions."

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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