Crown counsel has dropped the charge of obstructing a police officer against Lena Wilson.
The charge was laid following Wilson’s arrest by Constable Kevin Mack, New Hazelton RCMP, during Thanksgiving weekend 2012.
Wilson, who is attending the social worker program at Northwest Community College in Terrace, is still pursuing charges against Const. Mack.
Early Oct. 7, 2012, Wilson was walking home with a classmate from a wedding dance at Gitanmaax Hall, near Old Hazelton, when she was allegedly abruptly thrown to the ground by Const. Mack without warning.
Wilson was subsequently charged with obstruction of a police officer for allegedly struggling during the arrest, during which Mack allegedly struck Wilson while she was pinned face down resulting in one of Wilson’s teeth being broken after making contact with the asphalt road.
“I’m relieved the charges have been dropped,” Wilson said, explaining a criminal record would have prevented her from pursuing a career as a social worker.
“But I still feel violated and want to seek justice for what happened to me.”
For Wilson, justice would be a finding of guilt on the charge of excessive use of force and unlawful arrest against Const. Mack.
Crown counsel, Brett Weber shed light on the reason Wilson is no longer facing a criminal charge.
“Since the initial charge assessment we received additional information from the ongoing investigation,” Weber said.
“We concluded there was no substantial likelihood of conviction based on recently gathered witness statements and evidence.”
Now, two barriers prevent Wilson from pressing charges against the RCMP officer.
First, the New Hazelton RCMP detachment did not request the involvement of the Independent Investigation Office of B.C. (IIO), a civilian-led organization mandated to investigate police-involved incidents where death or harm occurred.
Any investigation involving the IIO happens at the request of the RCMP where the incident originated, Owen Court, IIO manager, said.
“This process doesn’t make sense at all,” Wilson said.
“How is it they get to decide if they are going to be investigated or not?”
The IIO officially opened on Sept. 10, 2012 and Wilson’s arrest occurred within 30 days.
On the same evening, as the Wilson arrest, a man in Cranbrook was arrested and the IIO was not immediately involved by the Cranbrook RCMP after an initial assessment determined “serious harm” didn’t happen.
The Delta Police Department took over the investigation and IIO reviewed its findings and it was determined the Cranbrook incident required IIO involvement.
IIO Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal stated, “It was in the public interest to assert [IIO] jurisdiction regardless of the ultimate determination of the level of injury.”
The Cranbrook man received immediate medical attention, whereas Wilson claims she was repeatedly denied medical attention despite multiple appeals to Const. Mack during the arrest.
Wilson missed two weeks of classes due to injuries, including, a bruised hip and swelling around the rib cage and spine, which she allegedly sustained during the arrest.
She has also recently undergone a root canal on her chipped front tooth.
The second major obstacle is the process for filing a charge against a RCMP officer requires an investigation, which in this case was conducted by the Smithers RCMP detachment.
The case has been closed by Staff Sargent Kirsten Marshall citing a lack of evidence against Const. Mack.
“They told me I didn’t submit my evidence in a timely manner,” said Wilson, who claims not all of the evidence was considered before her file was closed.
“I am a single mother, a full-time student and have been dealing with depression since that night.”
Staff Sgt. Marshall was unavailable for comment.