A trial is underway this week in Kelowna court for a man accused of assaulting a police officer and injuring a police service dog. But the accused claims the police used excessive force against him during his arrest, after he suffered near-fatal injuries from the police service dog.
Fernando Verde was arrested on the evening of Aug. 1, 2020 after police observed him riding what they believed to be stolen e-bike on the Rail Trail near Dilworth Drive.
During the arrest, Kelowna RCMP service dog Ice bit Verde in the leg, damaging his femoral artery. Verde lost a significant amount of blood and was treated at Kelowna General Hospital. A few months later, Verde sued the RCMP for the injuries he suffered, noting in the suit that he hadn't been charged in the incident.
Three months after Verde sued the RCMP, criminal charges were laid against Verde, including assaulting a police officer with a weapon, willfully injure a law enforcement animal, resist arrest, theft under $5,000 and possession of stolen property under $5,000.
Verde's trial began Monday and it's scheduled to continue through to next week.
On Wednesday, Cpl. Ryan Shaw testified at the trial about what he witnessed during the arrest of Verde.
He said after a call went out over the radio at about 10:20 p.m. about a suspect with a stolen e-bike, he drove his police SUV onto the Rail Trail from Leckie Place.
He testified he saw the suspect up ahead of him and knew that Const. Reginald Sahay and his dog Ice were up ahead of the suspect, near Hardy Street. Cpl. Shaw said the suspect, who turned out to be Verde, was pedalling very fast and rode directly into Ice.
“I remember saying some expletives to myself, it was shocking. I was expecting him to move around, to swerve, but he just rode right into the dog,” Cpl. Shaw said.
“The dog went flying ... I saw the dog tumble, like get knocked a decent distance back and tumble.”
Cpl. Shaw said there was “a lot of movement” amongst Verde, Ice, Const. Sahay and another officer after the collision, but Verde ended up being taken into custody.
“I remember the police dog was on the suspect, and by that I mean it had bit the suspect,” Cpl. Shaw said.
“I saw the police dog dripping in blood. At the same time, [the other officer] said something about the suspect bleeding ... said that he was bleeding a lot.”
Verde's defence counsel Michael Patterson has filed a Charter challenge in the case, arguing police used excessive force in the arrest, breaching Verde's Section 12 Charter protections from “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.” Patterson also claims Verde's Section 10 rights were breached when police allegedly did not informing Verde of the reason for his arrest.
Patterson is also seeking the RCMP service records of Ice, and the details of the 14 other incidents where the dog has bitten a suspect – something the Crown opposes.
Verde's civil suit against the RCMP remains ongoing. In that suit, Verde claims he had come upon his friend's previously stolen e-bike in Rutland, and had taken it back from known bike thief “Bike Mike.”
In October 2021, B.C.'s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, ruled there were no reasonable grounds to believe any of the officers involved in Verde's arrest had committed an an offence.