Police officer's alleged assault on Indigenous man sparks fears

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Alleged assault of Indigenous man by police officer raises fears

An Indigenous organization in Hamilton says the Indigenous community is very concerned about an alleged assault of an Indigenous man by a local police officer during an arrest in late May.

An Indigenous organization in Hamilton says the Indigenous community is very concerned about an alleged assault of an Indigenous man by a local police officer during an arrest in late May.

Deputy Police Chief Ryan Diodati says the incident happened at a gas station on the evening of May 26 while police were investigating a stolen vehicle.

He explains that the police saw a video of the arrest, which led to the immediate suspension of Constable Brian Wren.

Mr. Diodati added that the police contacted the Special Investigations Unit, but the police watchdog decided not to investigate since the injuries were not serious enough.

This prompted Hamilton police to conduct their own criminal investigation and ultimately charge the officer with assault on June 16.

Mr. Wren has worked as a police officer for 10 years, according to police. Court documents show he lives in Welland and is 45 years old.

The Hamilton Regional Indian Center (HRIC) and the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (HCLC) have released a joint statement Thursday in connection with the alleged assault.

Members of the Indigenous community are very concerned that it does not appear this incident was an isolated incident, the statement said.

According to the Deputy Chief, police are not was unaware of previous complaints against Constable Brian Wren, but was nonetheless concerned after reading the joint statement.

He adds that the police department had contacted HRIC proactively about the Aboriginal man's arrest.

HRIC and HCLC did not respond to CBC's inquiries, but the joint statement says this is the second time the Indigenous man has been assaulted by a police officer.

Jennifer Steenbeek is the lawyer for the man, Patrick Tomchuk. She says she is not aware of any other cases involving Constable Brian Wren, but Mr. Tomchuk has been assaulted by police on at least one other occasion.

She adds that Patrick Tomchuk was also charged with assault after he allegedly resisted arrest during the incident with Mr. Wren.

He is also the subject of three sets of charges related to theft of property over $5,000, three vehicle thefts, driving a vehicle without a license and other offences, the lawyer shares.

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According to Ms. Steenbeek, her client's bail hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. Constable Brian Wren's next court date is August 18.

Joint statement from HRIC and HCLC says incident should be taken seriously and calls for major changes to protect marginalized people. The two agencies will hold a press conference outside Hamilton Police Headquarters on Tuesday.

Mr. Diodati, for his part, indicates that the chief of police, Frank Bergen, has contacted the indigenous community and said he is ready to meet with their leaders.

With information from CBC

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