FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — Charges were dropped against a prominent northern Alberta First Nations chief Wednesday as it was revealed that one of the officers involved in his violent arrest had been charged in an off-duty assault seven months earlier.
The case of Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation was in front of a Fort McMurray provincial court judge Wednesday when charges of resisting arrest and assaulting an RCMP officer were withdrawn by the Crown.
The move came after RCMP dash-cam footage of Adam’s March arrest, which started as a stop for an expired licence plate, was made public earlier this month as part of a court application to clear Adam’s name.
“The Crown reassessed the prosecution standard based on an examination of the available evidence including the disclosure of additional relevant material and withdrew the two charges,” Alberta Justice spokeswoman Carla Jones said in a statement.
“The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service has no comment on the actions of the police.”
Adam, who was left bruised and bloodied during the arrest, welcomed the news.
“I’m overwhelmed at the fact that the charges have been dropped because, you know, we knew — my wife and I knew — that we didn’t do nothing wrong,” he said on a video call after the hearing.
“You know, it was just for an expired licence plate. We don’t understand the reasons why it had to escalate.”
Adam’s lawyer Brian Beresh called the decision a win.
“The withdrawal of these charges at this stage in the law, for our purposes, is a finding of not guilty,” Beresh said. ”It is a true victory, not only for Allan Adam and his family, other Indigenous accused, but for our society generally.”
Beresh said he learned through a court check that one of the officers, Const. Simon Seguin, has a trial set before a provincial court judge in September on separate charges of assault, mischief and unlawfully being in a dwelling house.
“Those events, which led to charges against him, occurred on Aug. 5, 2019,” he said. “As of this date, that police officer remains on full duty, not suspended, not fired.”
Alberta RCMP confirmed it was aware of the charge.
“His duty status would have been the result of an assessment made by his managers on his suitability to remain on duty,” spokesman Fraser Logan said in a statement. “These internal processes are independent of any pending criminal trial.”
Logan added the decision to drop the charges against Adam was up to the Crown.
“The role of the police is to investigate and gather evidence in support of a charge and the RCMP fulfilled that role on this file,” he said. “The Crown’s role is to assess the elements of the offence and to determine if they prosecute.”
The 12-minute dash-cam video from early on March 10 shows a black truck idling outside the Boomtown Casino in downtown Fort McMurray in the glow of flashing police lights.
Adam can be seen walking back and forth between the truck and a RCMP cruiser, shouting profanities at an officer out of view. The chief tells the officer to tell his sergeant: “I’m tired of being harassed by the RCMP.’”
“Sir, just return to your vehicle. I’ll come talk to you in a minute,’” the Mountie replies.
A few minutes later, Adam again gets out of the truck and takes off his jacket as he strides toward the officer. A woman in the driver’s seat gets out and Adam crouches as though bracing for a fight.
At one point, the officer is seen pushing the woman against the truck and yanking her by the shoulder as she shouts, “‘Ow!”
“‘Hey! Leave my wife alone! You come for me,’” Adam says, before swatting the officer’s hands away from the woman.
About seven minutes into the video, a second officer — who has been identified as Seguin — runs at Adam, tackles him to the ground and punches him in the head. Adam is then cuffed and put in the back of the cruiser, blood streaming from his face.
The RCMP had initially stated that the officers’ actions were reasonable.
Politicians, however, have demanded answers after the video was released.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province’s police watchdog, is investigating the arrest. They did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but posted on Twitter that the independent investigation will continue.
Speaking in Edmonton, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Police Act is under review by the province and there will be a focus on racism and abuse of authority.
“We know, like in any walk of life, there are some bad apples. And police services, especially because of the extraordinary powers that they exercise, must be particularly careful.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 24, 2020
— By Colette Derworiz and Tim Cook in Edmonton, with files from Dean Bennett.
The Canadian Press