A Nelson man is suing two local police officers after he was allegedly assaulted during a traffic stop in 2021.
Ron Bendle’s Notice of Civil Claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on June 6, says he was injured by Sgt. Nathaniel Holt of the Nelson Police Department on June 10, 2021. Const. Lisa Schmidtke, who was on scene during the incident, is also named in the lawsuit as is the Nelson Police Department and the City of Nelson.
Mayor Janice Morrison and Chief Donovan Fisher both declined to comment during what they described as ongoing litigation.
The claim alleges the incident began with Schmidtke pulling Bendle over in a traffic stop, during which Bendle got out of his car to get his insurance papers from the trunk.
Holt, who was standing behind Bendle’s vehicle “with his firearm drawn, without reasonable grounds and using excessive force, struck the Plaintiff (Bendle) in the face with the butt of his firearm, causing the Plaintiff to fall to the ground.”
The claim further alleges that Holt then punched Bendle in the face several times before arresting and taking him to the hospital. Bendle was not charged following the arrest.
Bendle accuses the officers of negligently using “unreasonable, excessive, and unwarranted force,” causing him to suffer “visible and provable physical injuries.” It also alleges wrongful detention and the “intentional infliction of mental distress.”
Bendle’s injuries are listed as concussion, headaches, facial fractures, lacerations, arm fracture, and loss of consciousness, as well as the exacerbation of previously diagnosed PTSD, depression, anxiety and chronic pain.
None of the allegations contained in the Notice of Civil Claim have been tested in court, and the defendants have not yet filed a statement of defence.
Holt is also the subject of an internal disciplinary investigation by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to determine whether he used unwarranted force under the circumstances. The investigation is being conducted by the Vancouver Police Department. A spokesperson for the OPCC told the Nelson Star on June 13 that the investigation was still underway.
The Nelson department did not publicly disclose the OPCC investigation until November 2022 when Bendle posted a short video to Facebook that showed a bruised face with two black eyes and a cut above his left eyebrow he blamed on Holt.
Six unnamed officers have either resigned or retired this year from the department, which also in January lost Det. Wade Tittemore and Const. Mathieu Nolet after they were killed in an avalanche while backcountry skiing.
The OPCC has also confirmed a disciplinary review is underway for six officers who allegedly shared racist comments and memes in a private chat group between 2018 and 2020.
With files from editor-reporter Tyler Harper.