CALGARY — Physically accosting a sick and deaf Red Deer, Alta., man was an "unjustified" and "excessive" use of force, an investigation into a sheriff's actions has found.
Bill Berry, a 52-year-old cancer survivor who is deaf, mute and breathes through his neck with a tube, was paying a traffic ticket at Red Deer court Dec. 9 when a sheriff approached him advising he didn't go through required security screening when he entered the courthouse through an open exit door.
Berry, who had a total laryngectomy and has a feeding tube in his nose, gestured that he could not hear or speak, at which point the sheriff became more forceful and placed the man in a bear hug him to carry him to the door, where he collapsed to the ground.
The details of the event are revealed in an investigation report obtained by QMI Agency.
Berry's stoma tube fell out and he was unable to breathe, until other sheriffs noticed and reinserted it.
The probe, conducted by the Solicitor General Office's Law Enforcement and Oversight Branch in Alberta, found the sheriff, identified as Thomas Bounds, was lawful in advising Berry of his error, but unlawful in physically confronting the man "without hesitation."
"Mr. Berry's general appearance is frail and consistent with a person who has endured a serious medical condition and any form of physical force used against him should be measured," the report says.
"Sheriff Bounds use and level of force against Mr. Berry was unjustified, excessive, led directly to Mr. Berry's stoma tube being dislodged, and the resulting serious medical emergency."
In an interview included in the report, Bounds told investigators he tried telling Berry he had to go through security and he responded "non verbally, by aggressively waving his arms, at which time I took control of him."
"I attempted a transport wristlock that was ineffective, and I ended up carrying Mr. Berry to the exit door," he said in the report.
He said he believed Berry's actions posed a potentially dangerous risk to the court occupants and that he was required to use force.
But the probe found Berry should have received a full explanation of his error and given a chance to leave, and video showed his actions were not aggressive.
"I simply made an error in walking in a fully open door and was brutally assaulted because I looked like an easy mark," Berry said through email.
"I will live the nightmare til I die."
While thankful for the help from the other sheriffs, he plans to launch a civil suit.
"I still find it appalling a 118 lb. disabled hear(ing) impaired mute grandfather with a feeding tube in his nose and a breathing tube was treated in this manner," he wrote.
"What type of man does such a thing?"
Solicitor General's Office spokesman Dan Laville said the findings will be sent to the head sheriff to determine the next course of action, which can include leave with pay, dismissal, or termination.
He would not say what actions have been taken against the sheriff.
In general, a subject of such complaints can be placed on administrative duty.
Red Deer is 145 km north of Calgary.