Prosecutors in Canada said Wednesday that they were dropping charges against an Indigenous leader accused of assaulting a police officer, after a video that showed the officer beating him prompted a national outcry.
In a further twist, the police confirmed Wednesday that the arresting officer is himself facing criminal charges, including assault, from an off-duty incident nearly a year ago.
The video, made public June 11, added fuel to an uproar in Canada over embedded racism in law enforcement, echoing protests in the United States over the police killings of African Americans. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the video, taken from a police car dashcam, as “shocking” and said, “I have serious questions about what happened.”
In a statement distributed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Crown Prosecutions Office said the charges against the Indigenous leader, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation of northern Alberta, “will be withdrawn.” The statement provided no explanation.
Adam was stopped by police in Fort McMurray, Alberta, in March over an expired license plate. After a sometimes heated 12-minute exchange, he was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. But many people concluded that the police video showed that Adam was the real victim.
The video shows the officer, who has since been identified as Constable Simon-Pierre Seguin, charging at Adam with his arm and elbow up as he tackles him. It also shows the officer on top of Adam, who was lying on the ground, punching the chief in the head and putting him in what appeared to be a chokehold. Images of Adam afterward showed him with a bloodied and swollen face.
At a news conference held via Zoom from Fort McMurray, Adam said that he was happy the charges had been dropped but that more needed to be done to address underlying racism against Indigenous people.
“If we are paying a police force to brutalize our people, maybe it’s time that we look at another police force to police our people,” he said. “We have to seriously open the eyes of every nonnative Canadian to the realities that we, as Indigenous people of the land, have had to live with for decades.”
During the news conference, Adam’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, also revealed that Seguin faces three criminal charges in Fort McMurray — mischief, entering a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime, and assault — from an off-duty episode last August. His trial is set for this September. An Alberta Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman, Fraser Logan, confirmed the charges in an email.
When Adam first heard about the arresting officer’s own pending criminal case, he said, “I was shocked.”
The dashcam video was released in court this month as part of an effort by Adam’s legal representatives to have the charges rescinded.
Initially, Alberta police said superiors who reviewed the dashcam video had deemed the police’s actions “reasonable” and decided it did not warrant an external investigation.
But after Adam held a news conference June 6, during which he released two bystander videos taken during the arrest, the independent Alberta agency that investigates police episodes involving death or potential misconduct announced it was looking into the case.
Canadian Indigenous leaders have long pressed for reform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the national police force, which also provides local policing in many provinces.