This story was originally published in the Meadow Lake Progress.
Claims officer said “I know a drunk Indian when I see one” as he suffered epileptic seizure
A Meadow Lake man is accusing the local RCMP of arresting and charging him with public intoxication when he claims he was actually having an epileptic seizure.
Darrell Runningaround believes the arrest and subsequent incarceration was racially motivated and that he was unfairly targeted because he is Aboriginal.
Runningaround has experienced epileptic seizures since a serious car accident in 2007 led to him having a metal plate inserted in his head. He says the seizure episodes have worsened over the years, and he currently takes Dilantin, Diazapam and Levofloxacin among other prescription drugs to manage his symptoms.
On Monday, June 3, Runningaround was walking on 3rd Street East when he says he started to experience a seizure. He claims he was attempting to make it to a nearby relative’s residence when the RCMP pulled him over.
By that time, Runningaround says he had fallen over several times as a result of his epilepsy and was covered in blood. After a short conversation with the officer, he was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication.
“I said ‘I’m not drunk, take out your breathalyzer and I’ll prove it to you,’” he said.
At that point, Runningaround alleges the officer responded “I don’t need a breathalyzer, I know a drunk Indian when I see one.”
Runningaround was subsequently taken to the hospital, but not before he claims the officer used excessive force in arresting him. Roughly 10 days after the incident, Runningaround still had visible bruises under his eyes and on his head, from what he says was his head banging on the police vehicle.
“He was kind of tossing me around, telling me to do this and that, and I said ‘hold on guys, I’m still not doing so well over here, I need some help,’” he said. “As I was getting in, he was still pushing me.”
At the hospital, Runningaround’s injuries were deemed non-life-threatening and he was released and taken to the local RCMP detachment.
Resident of 3rd Street East, Rose Mary Crouch, said that from her patio she witnessed Runningaround stumbling as well as his arrest.
“I seen him coming, kind of wobbling, from my patio,” she said. “I just sat there and looked at him, and then all of a sudden I seen him flip right over.
“I thought there must be something wrong with him.”
Crouch, who suffered convulsions as a side effect of a prior medical condition herself, said the jerking of Runningaround’s body seemed consistent with an epileptic seizure to her.
“I know what I was like during convulsions, and I would stagger just like I was drunk,” she said. “I thought what the hell, do something … he’s not drunk.”
Crouch wanted to intervene, but has a bad limp so shouted at the officer from her patio.
“The way they were pushing him, that’s not right,” she recalled. “I said ‘don’t treat him like that, that’s not a dog, that’s a human being.’”
Crouch says the officer did not respond to her shouts. She said she frequently sees Runningaround at the Door of Hope and has never seen him intoxicated.
Runningaround says he asked to use a breathalyzer several times, but was refused. The reason for this is because the police force is legally obligated to use a breathalyzer only in cases of impaired driving, said Meadow Lake RCMP Staff Sgt. Tim Korman.
“If all of a sudden we started as a police force going around and asking citizens to blow on the breathalyzer, then it comes down to Privacy Act issues,” Korman said. “It’s up to the individual member’s discretion, from the things he observes (to determine if the individual is intoxicated).”
In this instance, Korman says the arresting officer smelled alcohol on Runningaround’s breath. Runningaround claims he had not had anything to drink that evening and no longer drinks due to his condition.
The officer also had no way to determine the cause of Runningaround’s injuries.
“The member didn’t know whether or not his injuries were the result of being in a fight or falling down,” Korman said.
Korman also points out that Runningaround was inspected at the hospital and cleared to go to the RCMP cells.
“I can’t speak for the doctor, but if the doctor cleared him to be put in our cells, I would probably think the doctor felt he was impaired too,” Korman said.
Due to patient confidentiality, it cannot be determined if the doctor examined Runningaround for symptoms of epilepsy or just his injuries.
Initially, Runningaround told the Progress he couldn’t remember if he was held one night or two nights, but knows he received no food. Korman says he was held only overnight, for less than 12 hours.
Runningaround says his memory from the night is blurry.
“That same day I got out of the jail, they dropped me off to the clinic,” he said. “I don’t know if it was that Tuesday or Wednesday, I don’t remember.”
Runningaround has not yet filed an official complaint to the RCMP, so no official investigation is underway and the arresting officer is still serving.
However Runningaround did file a complaint to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), which has a special investigative body. The FSIN could not confirm or deny that an investigation is underway.
Runningaround said he is considering a lawsuit against the Meadow Lake RCMP.
“I’m considering suing, because it made me feel (angry),” he said. “They just treated me like any other alcoholic or drunk … They wouldn’t listen to me, they didn’t feed me any food, they just let me be.”
Crouch said the incident doesn’t change the way she sees the local RCMP, but that she does wish she could have helped Runningaround.
“I know the police are there to help people,” she said. “But when people need help, they should do it the right way. They should listen to people.”