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Wife seeks truth behind brain injury

On the night Robert Wright was arrested for suspected drunk driving, police at a northern British Columbia jail assured his wife the man was sleeping and not to come by until morning.

When Heather Prisk showed up, she was informed her husband was in the intensive care unit of a Terrace hospital and about to be airlifted to the Vancouver area for emergency brain surgery.

The 47-year-old First Nations man had suffered an aneurysm, leaving him with an irreparable condition that will require care for the remainder of his life.

Prisk was never told what went on in the cell overnight, and on Friday she again pleaded for answers.

A six-month police investigation into the incident that left Wright with permanent brain damage recommended a charge of assault against a Mountie, she said. But just under two weeks after the report was submitted, Crown lawyers decided against approving the charge.

"As far as I understand the officer is still on active duty," Prisk said from Terrace.

"The public has a right to know the details of this case. I still have no answers about how my husband was injured and who was responsible for his injury."

Hours after Prisk called on the Crown to explain its rationale for the decision, which eliminates any possibility the case will go to trial, the media received a detailed statement from the Criminal Justice Branch. Prisk still hadn't received an explanation.

The woman, who was also urging various police departments to make surveillance footage from the incident available, had pushed for the information since Oct. 23.

The Criminal Justice Branch laid out the reasons the Crown concluded there was not a substantial likelihood of any conviction in a five-page statement, and said there was video and audio recordings to corroborate.

Police used force on several occasions during the arrest, but the available evidence did not establish it was unlawful, the Crown said. Further, a neurosurgeon could not conclude trauma the man suffered during the incident caused the bleeding in his brain, suggesting instead it was caused by a medical condition.

"Even if it had been the result of police action, it would not render those actions unlawful in the circumstances of this case," the statement said.

Prisk has the support of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, who earlier in the day were demanding a special prosecutor be appointed to review the charge decision.

"I think this is everything that's wrong with police accountability in B.C. and why the Independent Investigation Office was established," David Eby, executive director of the civil liberties association, said later in the day referring to a new watchdog that has begun operating since the incident.

"I really do have a sense that the office is dealing with families differently. ... The fact that we had to call a press conference to get this document is inexcusable."

He said the association will review the statement thoroughly, and focus further efforts on getting the recordings released to the family.

The Canadian Press


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