WATCH: Exclusive ‘Grossly Excessive’ Force But No Charges For Police Involved in Violent Arrest

Late on a Tuesday night in July 2017, 21-year-old Ronnie James Mickasko raced around north Edmonton in a stolen truck. For more than an hour, he was surreptitiously pursued by an Edmonton police helicopter.

“He’s absolutely flying,” the Air1 officer observed at one point, a video recording revealed.

Mickasko was a danger to himself, the public and police, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) later found.

He drove through red lights, on the wrong side of the road, with lights out and at speeds in excess of 170 kilometres per hour.

The chase finally ended in Strathcona County after Mickasko’s tire was shredded by a police spike belt.
More than a dozen police vehicles quickly moved in — all under the watchful eye of the Air1 camera.
Mickasko flung himself out of the truck, walked a few feet, then laid on his stomach with his hands behind his back.

“He was clearly surrendering,” said Mickasko’s lawyer, Heather Steinke-Attia. “He was giving up. He didn’t anticipate when he was laying on the ground that he was about to receive a brutal beating to his head and face.”
Mickasko was swarmed by at least 15 officers.

The attack lasted 38 seconds.

The video shows repeated kicks to Mickasko’s head and body, as well as punches and knee stuns.

His right orbital bone was fractured. He had to be taken to hospital for surgery. He also suffered nerve damage and a scratched retina. When Mickasko was transferred to the Edmonton Remand Centre, he spent nine weeks recovering in the infirmary.
‘Grossly excessive’ use of force: ASIRT
Three days after the arrest, ASIRT was directed to investigate the incident. On May 2 of this year, ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson sent her findings and final report to Mickasko. CBC News obtained a copy of Hughson’s letter.

“In my opinion, a reasonable person would view your conduct as nothing less than egregiously dangerous,” Hughson wrote in her letter to Mickasko. “Your behaviour was so dangerous that you presented a risk of grievous bodily harm or death to anyone in your path, civilian or police.”

Despite that, Hughson, who declined an interview request from CBC News, found “there were reasonable grounds to believe an offence was committed” by police. Hughson determined that, in her opinion, the force used by police was “excessive and could support prosecution,” according to the letter she sent Mickasko.

She recommended criminal charges be laid against an RCMP constable and one or two Edmonton police officers.
Those charges were never laid because a Calgary Crown prosecutor reviewed all the evidence, including witness statements and audio and video recordings, and determined there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction.

A Mountie who was suspended three days after the incident remains off the job.

A former senior Crown prosecutor herself, Hughson said she viewed the video repeatedly, both before and after the officers involved were interviewed. She ultimately recommended that criminal charges be laid against the RCMP member who was the first officer to approach Mickasko.

“He went directly to you and more importantly, it would appear that he went towards your head area and delivered a single, what appears to be high force kick to your head,” Hughson wrote to Mickasko. “It is of sufficient force that it causes your head to snap significantly to the opposite side.

“Based on the scene as it presented itself, in my opinion it was not tactically sound and there was no observable necessity for the level of force used.” (In a follow-up email to Mickasko’s lawyer, Hughson characterized the first kick as “grossly excessive.”)

In her letter to Mickasko, Hughson said members of the Edmonton Police Service tactical team “used various forms of force, including knee stuns, kicks and strikes to the torso to attempt to subdue you so that you could be handcuffed.”

Hughson took particular exception to one kick toward the end of the melee that “seemed unnecessary,” she said in her letter to Mickasko.

“It was not as forceful as the initial kick,” she wrote, “but it appeared to me that you had been contained … I believe that the use of force was questionable.”

The Crown did not agree.

Mickasko’s lawyer, Heather Steinke-Attia, remembered hearing the news from Hughson.

“The director of ASIRT said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ She was shocked. She couldn’t believe it.”

Steinke-Attia called the Crown’s decision not to lay charges “indefensible.”

“The concern for me and the concern there should be for members of the public is that we have police officers who think they’re above the law,” Steinke-Attia said. “To my mind, that [decision] sends an unfortunate message to the police officers that you are beyond prosecution: Continue your behaviour.”

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