Kelowna officer allegedly broke man's hand during traffic stop

Another local cop sued

Yet another Kelowna RCMP officer is facing a lawsuit after the officer allegedly broke a man's hand during a traffic stop earlier this month.

On Thursday, Dustin Blondin, 27, filed a civil suit against Const. Julius Prommer, stemming from an altercation on Sept. 11 in Lake Country that left Blondin with a broken hand and facing criminal charges.

Blondin says he was pulled over by Const. Prommer after he passed a vehicle on Highway 97, south of the Turtle Bay Pub, reaching speeds of about 120 km/h in the 70 km/h zone. As a result, the officer told Blondin his car was being impounded, but things escalated from there.

Blondin began recording the traffic stop on his phone after he says the officer asked him if he had “mental health problems.”

“As soon as I started recording, his demeanour changed; he got more upset than he already was,” Blondin said, adding the officer wouldn't provide his name.

The light on Blondin's camera came on while he was filming, and in retaliation, Blondin says the officer turned on his own flashlight and “pushed his flashlight into [Blondin's] eyeball.” Blondin's video shows the officer shining his flashlight at Blondin in retaliation.

Blondin says the officer called for back-up and told him the car was being impounded. Blondin says the officer told him to take anything out of the car that he needed, before it was towed away. But as Blondin was removing things from his trunk, he says it appears Const. Prommer and the other officer who'd arrived on scene became impatient with him trying to take too many things.

“They told me, 'you're resisting arrest,' but I was never arrested for anything,” Blondin said. “The two of them take me down to the ground and smash my face into the pavement ... I'm in pain, screaming at the tow-truck guy to help me.”

The officers put Blondin into the back of the RCMP cruiser, where Blondin began to use his Apple Watch to voice-text a friend to pick him up at the Kelowna RCMP station. Blondin says the officers took exception to this.

“The other cop at the other door grabs my legs, and [Prommer] is pulling on my hands and rifling through my pockets for my phone,” Blondin said. “He twisted it so hard that he snapped my hand, so I was screaming in even more pain at this point ... I'm face down on the seat of the cop car.”

During the struggle, Blondin says the officer's arm grazed his mouth, and as a result, the officer claims Blondin bit him. Blondin now faces criminal charges of obstruction, assault of a police officer and resisting arrest.

But despite the struggle in the car, the officers never realized Blondin had been using his watch, and not his phone. As he was driven to the Kelowna detachment in the back of the police cruiser, Blondin actually called 911 using his Apple Watch and spoke to dispatch.

“I asked her what is a reasonable amount of force to be used because I just had my face smashed to the ground and my hand probably broken,” Blondin said.

When he arrived at the RCMP detachment, his left hand had become swollen and throughout his entire time at the detachment, Blondin says he repeatedly told the officers he needed medical attention. But no medical assistance was offered.

“They start letting me go and I tell him again 'you've definitely broken my hand,' and [Prommer] responds and says, 'I didn't even f***ing touch that hand,'” Blondin said. “Well this plate and 10 screws in my hand tell me that you touched my hand.”

But Blondin, overwhelmed by the traumatic experience, didn't go to the hospital when he was released from custody that night.

“I went home and cried and crawled into bed,” he said. Blondin, who runs his own bartending company, struggled through a bartending commitment the next day with his purple and swollen hand, before he went to the hospital. He had emergency surgery on Sept. 13, and his entire forearm remains in a cast. 

Blondin, who's 5-foot-10 and weighs 118 pounds, says he's still shocked by Const. Prommer's aggressive attitude from the beginning of their encounter.

“I'm not big and intimidating, I'm not someone who needs two cops to put them in cuffs,” he said. “I felt extremely bullied by this man. He seemed to absolutely have a superiority complex and an ego bigger than Okanagan Lake. He seemed like a frustrated, power-tripping guy.”

Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet of the RCMP's E Division tells Castanet “a preliminary review of the situation as outlined in the civil claim varies greatly from the account previously provided by our officers.”

She says the RCMP has “initiated a review to determine next steps,” and a formal response will be issued through the court process. None of Blondin's allegations has been proven in court. 

Blondin is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on his criminal charges in November, but he adamantly denies the allegations against him. In his civil suit, Blondin says the charges were laid against him “in an attempt to cover for [Prommer's] reckless and unlawful actions.”

Prommer is not the only local officer who's facing a lawsuit. Const. Lacey Browning is facing three civil suits for separate alleged assaults while on duty, in addition to a criminal investigation that's underway for her treatment of UBC Okanagan student Mona Wang. Brian Burkett, who resigned in 2017, is facing four separate lawsuits for alleged sexual harassment, while criminal charges were laid against him in the summer of 2019. Const. Siggy Pietrzak has also been sued for an arrest in downtown Kelowna in late June, while Chad Vance faces a criminal charge for an alleged 2015 sexual assault.

“I don't understand it seems to be a culture in the RCMP here, that yup, Kelowna is the place to go for the bad cops who want to be jerks to people,” Blondin said. “[Prommer] did not seem like a kind of person who got into policing to help people. It's become far too common in this city and something needs to be done.”

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