A Kelowna man who sued police over injuries sustained during a 2020 arrest is now in criminal court himself and facing charges relating to the same incident.
Fernando Verde is charged with assaulting a peace officer with a weapon, wilfully maiming a law enforcement animal, wilfully resisting or obstructing a peace officer, theft of $5,000 or under and possession of stolen property under $5,000.
On August 1, 2020, Kelowna RCMP officers were pursuing a report of a stolen e-bike when Verde was spotted riding a bike matching its description along the Okanagan Rail Trail.
Verde claimed in a civil lawsuit that he had not stolen the bike and instead was simply retrieving it for a friend after it had been stolen by a notorious bike thief known on the streets of Kelowna as “Bike Mike.”
Const. Reginald Sahay, one of the arresting officers and handler of police service dog Ice, took the stand as a witness in Kelowna court on Tuesday (Dec. 5), the second day of the seven-day criminal trial.
Sahay said that he and Ice were positioned on Kelowna’s Rail Trail as Verde was approaching on the bike.
Sahay alleged that he told Verde to stop and said that he was under arrest multiple times, but that the accused continued to bike towards him and Ice. Sahay told the court that he did not tell Verde the reason for his arrest.
Sahay testified that Verde hit both him and Ice with the bike and the three of them fell down.
Verde has not testified in the criminal trial, but claimed in his own civil suit that Sahay instructed Ice to attack him causing him to crash.
Once Verde was on the ground, Sahay said he attempted to place him in handcuffs.
Sahay told the court on Wednesday that Verde resisted arrest and hit Sahay multiple times. The Mountie said that he also struck Verde numerous times. Sahay said that when Verde continued to resist arrest, Ice was dispatched again.
The dog bit and held onto Verde’s thigh. Sahay said Verde began to comply when he was being bitten. Then, more police came onto the scene and placed Verde in handcuffs. Sahay testified that Ice was called off and released his bite as soon as Verde was in handcuffs.
After the arrest, Sahay said that he immediately took Ice to the emergency vet. He said that Ice was covered in blood and he wanted to ensure that the dog had not suffered any injuries.
The court heard that the blood covering Ice had come from the wound on Verde’s leg, and was not from any injuries to the police dog. Sahay also said that Ice did not sustain any injuries beyond some muscular bruising that did not cause lasting damage. The injuries did not impact the dog’s ability to walk or run, but the vet suggested that Ice take a few days off of work to recover, said Sahay.
After the arrest, an ambulance was called to take Verde to the Kelowna General Hospital where he received emergency surgery on his leg to repair his femoral artery. His lawsuit filed in 2020 claimed that Verde suffered multiple dog bites, lost consciousness and lost a significant amount of blood during the arrest.
The Independent Investigations Office also launched an investigation into police conduct as the arrest resulted in injuries to Verde. In 2021, the investigations office concluded that no charges would be recommended against Sahay.
The trial will continue daily from Dec. 6, until Dec. 12. Verde’s civil claim is ongoing.