A Toronto man says he was left in excruciating pain after Vancouver police shot him twice with less-lethal rounds in a case of mistaken identity.
On Wednesday, around 5:20 p.m., 40-year-old Elijah Barnett was in downtown Vancouver on Richards Street walking his friend’s dog.
In a written complaint to the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, he said he was surrounded by a number of VPD officers.
They accused him of being a man wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for home invasion.
Before he could explain he was not that man, police shot him twice with less-lethal rounds in the stomach and buttocks “at point blank range.” Barnett’s complaint describes the rounds as bean bags. Police referred to them as rubber bullets.
It also references significant bruising and an impact wound “so severe that there is a flap of skin hanging off.”
“I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck and have mobility issues due to injuries,” Barnett told CBC News in a text.
“I’m traumatized from the whole experience,” he wrote. “I’m terrified to be outside alone.”
On Monday afternoon, police issued a statement confirming the incident and said it was a case of mistaken identity.
Barnett, in his complaint, said he wants reprimands and suspensions for the officers involved. He doesn’t want them to be permitted to carry weapons anymore.
“This is an incredible misjustice and is not due diligence or due process,” he wrote.
Couldn’t explain himself
Barnett said he was in town visiting friends and family. He is staying at a Yaletown apartment, not far from where the incident took place.
In his complaint, Barnett said he had no time to explain who he was. Police accused him of covering up his tattoos to avoid being identified as the other man. Barnett said they wouldn’t explain who they were actually looking for.
He believes he or his friend’s dog could have been killed if officers miscalculated their aim.
The complaint goes on to say that police made him get on the ground with a German shepherd barking in his face.
He didn’t have his wallet on him when he went dog walking, and police wouldn’t believe him when he tried to explain who he was.
“Mr. Barnett told the officers that he was gay and that they were abusing him,” the complaint read. “The officers taunted him, stating ‘You think that being gay makes you different from anybody else?'”
Police thought they had ‘high-risk’ suspect
Vancouver police, in a statement, said their officers had “reliable information” about a man wanted across the country for a violent home invasion in Calgary who was in the area of Richards Street and Pacific Boulevard.
VPD says the suspect was considered armed and dangerous, possibly carrying a gun. An emergency response worked the “high-risk arrest” and shot Barnett twice with an ARWEN gun, which fires less-lethal rounds.
“Shortly after the arrest, police determined the person arrested was not the suspect from the Calgary home invasion and that the arrest was a case of mistaken identity,” the statement said.
“Senior VPD officials have apologized to the man for the mistaken arrest and support an independent review of the circumstances by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.”
Vancouver police said Monday night that the suspect they were searching for when Barnett was mistakenly arrested is 47-year-old Dean Patrick Gallant. He was arrested near B.C. Children’s Hospital around 9 p.m. Wednesday after allegedly fleeing from police in a stolen vehicle.
Police went on to say they arrested 35-year-old Tinesha Lee Redwood — also wanted Canada-wide for a Calgary home invasion — on Sunday morning near Seymour and Helmcken streets.
CBC News reached out to the VPD to inquire about the status of the officers involved.
CBC has also asked the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner whether its office is involved.