Current Problems

Justice (25-42)

Video shows VPD officers laughing after woman is shot with beanbag

May 31, 2024

Click on the following link to view the video:

Warning: This story includes details that readers may find disturbing.

The Tyee: CTV News: A retired judge is assessing whether any alleged police misconduct occurred following an incident involving the Vancouver Police Department and an Indigenous woman who lives in the Downtown Eastside.

On April 6, 2022, video obtained by CTV News shows the woman walking into an alley behind Hastings Street followed by three officers and a VPD vehicle.

The woman yells, “I didn’t even do nothing.” After telling her to stop, an officer can be seen shooting her with a beanbag projectile in the lower half of her body. She screams in pain and is told by officers to get on the ground. She throws the items in her hands to the floor. The same officer yells again, “get on the ground or you’re going to get hit in the face.”


Three other officers then get out of their vehicle. The woman yells “please,” but does not get on her stomach. All six officers approach her, pull her on her stomach, and she begins to cry.

As she lies face down on the pavement, officers stand above her, and begin to engage in conversation, audibly laughing – all of it captured on security video from a building.

In an audio recording obtained by CTV News, two individuals question police about the laughter.

A woman can be heard asking, “Why are you laughing?” A male officer responds, “Am I laughing? I’m talking to you. You seem to have a narrative going.”

The complaint

A member of the public submitted a complaint to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner on April 17, 2023, describing their concerns with the conduct of members of the VPD. The OPCC found the complaint admissible, pointing to the alleged use of force and the officers’ laughter.

The OPCC said the conduct could potentially be defined as abuse of authority and discourtesy, according to the Police Act, which defines discourtesy as failing to behave with courtesy due in the circumstances towards a member of the public in the performance of duties as a member.

The investigation

The VPD conducted an investigation into the complaint led by Sgt. Adam Donaldson. Donaldson interviewed the officers involved, the complainant and witnesses. Donaldson said he made multiple attempts to contact the woman at the centre of this incident but no interview was conducted.

As per the investigation, on April 6, police received numerous 911 calls just before noon. One of the callers said a woman pulled a box cutter on him. According to police radio broadcast audio, officers located a woman who fit the callers’ description near the Dollar Tree on East Pender Street. The dispatcher said she was not being co-operative and confirmed one beanbag was deployed. The woman was eventually arrested and charged with possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

The second part of the investigation centred around the officers’ laughter.

When asked why the officers were laughing, one of the officers involved, Const. Sophie Thompson, said she was engaged in a conversation on a matter that did not have anything to do with the arrest. Thompson said she did not consider how the laughter might be perceived. The other officers who are named in the complaint, constables Mohit Dogra and Daniel Ungvari, said they were also not laughing at the woman or the incident.

Donaldson found the use of force “appeared reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances,” ultimately concluding that allegations of Abuse of Authority and Discourtesy were unsubstantiated.

VPD’s response

When first asked about the video on April 26, 2023, Steve Addison, a media relations officer with the VPD, said the knife used in this offence was recovered, and that the woman was arrested and later convicted of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

He added that she was on probation for the offence.

In a subsequent email on May 30, Addison said, she pleaded guilty, was convicted, and was sentenced for possession of a weapon in relation to this incident.

‘I couldn’t walk’

Melody is 37 years old and originally from Northern B.C. She asked CTV News not to use her last name. She said that on the morning of April 6, she had purchased art supplies, such as a notebook and markers, from a dollar store. She said she had no idea the police were looking for her.

“I was walking and I glanced and when I saw the gun, I thought they were after someone else,” she said. “I thought something serious was going on in the alley. I turned and kept walking, and then they said, ‘Hey.’”

Melody said she disputes the police’s investigation, adding she did not have a box cutter, and that she did not threaten a security guard.

“I had only markers and a book,” she said.

The back of her legs have two scars from where the beanbag struck her. She said two years later, she still has trouble walking.

“For a while I couldn’t walk,” she said. “I had to learn how to walk all over again. Every time I woke up, it was really tight where they had shot me.”

Melody said after she was arrested, she was brought to jail on Main and Hastings streets. She said she was offered Advil from a nurse, but that she didn’t take it because she’s allergic. She said she stayed in a cell for nearly 10 hours until she was released at around 10:45 p.m. While she only lives a few blocks away, she said it took her 45 minutes to walk home due to the pain she was in.

“It stung,” she said. “It felt like I got hit with metal.”

Melody said she remembers the officers’ laughter, as they stood over her, and added she’s had run-ins with the police in the community before.

“We all don’t deserve this,” she said. “Especially from them.”

The appeal

Following the VPD’s finding that that the complaint was unsubstantiated, the complainant submitted a request to the OPCC on March 19, to have a retired judge review the investigation report and make his or her own decision on the matter.

Prabhu Rajan, the police complaint commissioner, agreed, stating there is a reasonable basis to believe that the initial investigation is in part incorrect with respect to the officers’ conduct not constituting discourtesy.

“Specifically, I note that the affected person was on the ground, handcuffed, recently shot by a beanbag shotgun and seemingly in distress while three police officers remained standing over and around her expressing their laughter while engaging in conversation,” Rajan said.

“This all occurred without an apparent concern for how the affected person or the public may perceive such conduct, or the wellbeing of the affected person.”

Rajan added the investigation improperly focused on the reason for the laughter, rather than considering all the circumstances, “including the members’ apparent lack of sensitivity for the person, noting the historic and ongoing systemic issues with the policing of Indigenous peoples.”

Therefore, pursuant to section 117 (4) of the Police Act and based on a recommendation from the associate chief justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Brian Neal, a retired provincial court judge, was appointed to review the matter and arrive at his own decision based on the evidence.

The adjudicator’s review

On April 5, 2024, the adjudicator published his decision summary after considering the evidence in the investigation report. As a result, he determined that the evidence appears sufficient to substantiate certain alleged misconduct concerning the officers, potentially requiring consideration of disciplinary or corrective measures on two disciplinary breaches of public trust. Those two disciplinary breaches are discourtesy with respect to the affected person, and neglect of duty with respect to the affected person.

Brian Neal wrote, “The apparent failure of the Members to interrupt their discussion and laughter to perform a basic wellness check on the Affected Person would appear to have been a breach of their common law duty to protect her life.”

A discipline hearing has been scheduled. Following the hearing, the adjudicator will determine whether such findings, if proven as facts, could potentially require the taking of disciplinary of corrective measures against the officers.

‘You cannot be disrespectful’

Kash Heed, a former VPD superintendent and former chief of the West Vancouver Police Department, said he wasn’t surprised by how the officers acted in the video.

“I’m very disappointed in the actions of the police officers but I’m not surprised, given the culture we still have in this day and age within our police,” he said. “When you apprehend that person, take that person into custody, you cannot be disrespectful to them.”

Heed added he doesn’t think there’s any justification for the laughter, regardless of what reasons the officers provided.

“What about care for the individual you’ve just bean bagged that’s on the ground, that’s yelling out in pain most likely because of that?,” he said. “I really think these officers – they really need to give their heads a shake and the sergeant that’s there needs to give his head a shake.”


A video provided to CTV News shows VPD officers laughing after a woman is shot with a beanbag.
A video provided to CTV News shows VPD officers laughing after a woman is shot with a beanbag.

Isabella Zavarise

CTV News Vancouver Journalist

Follow |Contact