Police wellness check leads to serious injuries for Nanaimo woman
NANAIMO, B.C. -- A mother of four is calling for changes to the way mental health checks are conducted in the city after she says she was knocked unconscious and then apprehended by RCMP officers one month ago.
Shanna Blanchard is a personal trainer and former volunteer fire fighter who says she sustained several injuries when police were called to her home after her son and daughter became concerned about her well-being.
Blanchard says after an emotional conversation with her oldest son, she had a crying session in her washroom, but was not suicidal. She says the fact that she had been depressed lately confused her children, and they called police for assistance not knowing what to do.
She says after a lengthy discussion, she agreed to come out to talk with police and noticed they all appeared to be ready to grab their weapons.
It wasn't until they told her they were apprehending her under the Mental Health Act that problems arose.
"I stood up very quickly and said, 'No, you're not,' and as soon as I stood, the officer on my left struck me so hard," she says.
Blanchard says she was knocked unconscious by the punch and lost two front teeth and had her nose broken. She awoke to discover her glasses were broken and she was in a pool of her blood on her floor.
She says as she was spitting out blood, officers put a spit-hood over her head, but she claims it was put on incorrectly and was causing her breathing problems.
"When I tried to inhale, I would inhale blood and I would choke and I told them I couldn't breathe, and I repeated it."
Two surveillance cameras recorded her being led out of her home in handcuffs and a transport hood.
According to Ron MacDonald, the chief civilian director of B.C.'s Independent Investigations Office (IIO), his team is now looking into the actions of the officers.
"Our investigation will look at issues surrounding the use of force and whether the use of force the police applied in this case was reasonable," he says.
MacDonald says police are justified under the Mental Health Act to apprehend anyone who they believe may be a danger to themselves and suffering from some mental health issue. He says they can use force if it's reasonable in the circumstances.
But Blanchard says the actions of the RCMP were inappropriate. She says she's calling on some of her own experiences as a former volunteer firefighter in Comox, during which she attended wellness checks. She believes changes are necessary.
"I'd like to see a pair of mental health workers go to the home or at least try to make phone contact. Second stage, if there are weapons, self-harm or anything like that, I'd like to see a team of mental health professionals accompanied by the RCMP."
MacDonald says there was a delay in his office becoming involved because there was some question as to whether Blanchard's injures met the definition of "serious harm."
"The definition of serious injury that brings the IIO's jurisdiction into play is it has to be a significant disfigurement or have significant impairment of the use of a limb or organ," he says.
MacDonald says it's not uncommon for there to be confusion as to whether an injury reaches that mark. He says Blanchard's case appears to have met the standard.
She says she's been told dental implants, facial reconstruction and other work will take at least a year.
She says she and her four children will also be requiring counselling over the incident.