'Was this level of force necessary?': Man hospitalized after police-dog takedown in Nanaimo

Warning: Some readers may find the video and descriptions in this story disturbing.

VICTORIA -- An unarmed man was sent to hospital after he was taken down by a police dog in Nanaimo, B.C., on Monday morning.

An off-duty officer was out with his police dog at around 9:20 a.m., when he saw a man walking into traffic and yelling at people, Nanaimo RCMP said.

The officer called for backup, then tried speaking with the man, who police believe was under the influence of drugs.

“[The officer] tried to enter into a dialogue to de-escalate the situation and it wasn’t working,” Const. Gary O’Brien told CTV News.

“He made terrible [death] threats towards the police officer and his dog.”

A video posted to Facebook shows the takedown near the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Esplanade.

The video, taken after backup arrived, shows two officers and the dog standing in front of the man and another officer standing behind him, as several vehicles pass close by.

The man appears to be empty-handed when the dog lunges at him and tackles him to the ground. O’Brien confirmed the man was not armed.

The dog has the man’s arm in its jaws for roughly 17 seconds before its handler pulls it away and three other officers arrest him.

“Sometimes de-escalation does not work. And there has to be an intervention to take somebody under control because they pose a risk to not only the public, the police officers and the dog, but to themselves,” O’Brien said.

“This officer believed that if some intervention was not used, there would’ve been a significant altercation with this person. He was fully justified in deploying the police dog at that point.”

A Vancouver-based criminal defence lawyer isn’t so sure.

'WAS THIS LEVEL OF FORCE NECESSARY?'

Attorney Michael Mines questions whether the use of force displayed in the video was excessive.

“If an officer is saying that they were threatened, that in and of itself doesn’t give them the justification to use the level of force that they did,” Mines told CTV News.

Mines acknowledged the video only shows a portion of what happened, leaving some questions unanswered.

“My question would be, ‘Why is it that these four officers had to use a fifth police officer... that’s the police dog, when presumably they’re all trained in effecting arrests in a less violent way?” Mines said.

The continuum of force is comprised of many tactics, including verbal commands, hand controls and tools such as Tasers. Tasers were not used during the interaction, police said.

“Using a police dog just to arrest somebody who’s not fleeing ought to be considered after all of these less intrusive types of methods are used,” Mines said.

“Was this level of force necessary and proportional to the situation?”

A Victoria-based defence lawyer agreed that’s the key question.

“It doesn’t seem unreasonable that some level of force would be used in order to stop the man from either getting into traffic and being hit or winding up in a confrontation with somebody else who’s on the street,” lawyer Michael Mulligan said.

“Bear in mind that there are often circumstances not captured by a one-minute video.”

Man treated for puncture wounds

The 47-year-old man who was arrested was treated for puncture wounds in hospital. O’Brien said a mental health assessment “was not necessary as his behaviour normalized throughout the day.”

The man has been released from police custody. RCMP are recommending one count of uttering threats.

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C., the province's police watchdog, said it is not investigating as of Monday.

Meanwhile, the IIO is investigating the death of Jared Lowndes in Campbell River, B.C. RCMP shot and killed Lowndes in July, after boxing in his vehicle and sending a dog after him, which he fatally stabbed.