Two seasonal farmworkers from Mexico are each seeking more than $35,000 in damages after an incident in Abbotsford last year resulted in one of them being attacked by a police dog and allegedly punched and kicked by an officer.
The incident took place July 20, 2020 at a farm near the Canada-U.S. border on Mt. Lehman Road, where the pair were working and living.
Police officers were searching for two suspects in a major drug-smuggling case near the border, and came across the two farmworkers on the Mt. Lehman property.
According to court documents, one of the men was talking on the phone to his wife in Mexico when he noticed three officers – one with the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) and two with the RCMP – running towards him.
He said one of the officers, a member of the APD, released his dog. The worker alleges that the officer “started kicking and punching him, while the dog continued to bite him.”
The lawsuit states that the man suffered bites and scratches from the dog and was in pain from allegedly being assaulted by the officer. His employer took him to hospital for treatment, the documents state.
The other man was also talking on the phone to his wife when he saw the officers on the property.
While the APD officer was dealing with the other man, the two RCMP officers took out their weapons, pointed them at the second man and asked him to lie on the ground, the documents state.
The man was then handcuffed and detained for “at least seven to 12 minutes,” according to the lawsuit.
Their employer confirmed with police that the two men worked for him and lived on the property. Neither one was arrested.
The men have since filed lawsuits in small claims court in Abbotsford, seeking special, general, punitive and aggravated damages from the City of Abbotsford, the APD officer involved, and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
They both say that the “psychological and emotional trauma” of the incident resulted in their returning to Mexico a month before their contract in Canada had ended.
They describe the actions of the officers as “grossly negligent, reckless, abusive and racist.”
No responses have yet been filed to the men’s lawsuits, and the allegations have not been proven in court.
Following the incident last year, the General Consulate of Mexico sent an email to APD Chief Mike Serr, questioning the actions of the officers involved.
The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner also got involved to determine if any disciplinary action should occur to the officers, but later concluded that no action was required.
The RCMP also issued a press release, but did not mention the incident with the farmworkers. The release indicated that one of two men suspected of using an ATV and a trailer to smuggle a large amount of methamphetamine over the border had been arrested.
Police seized 198 kilograms (440 pounds) of meth, and said it was one of the largest seizures of the drug in Canadian history.
Zacchary Hecock, an American, was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and importing/exporting a controlled substance. His case is still making its way through the local courts, with his next appearance scheduled for September.