Two men injured by police in violent mistaken identity arrest at Circle K convenience store
A complaint of police brutality and misconduct has been filed against city officers by a man who says his wrongful arrest felt more like a kidnapping. In a formal complaint to the Edmonton Police Service’s Professional Standards Branch, Jamie-Dean Sauter recounts being arrested in a Circle K at 116 Street and 104 Avenue on May 14 (2020) around 8:15 p.m.
By Sauter’s account, he was approached by six EPS members, told he was under arrest for stealing a vehicle, and – as he was offering to show them his ID, license, registration and insurance – slammed to the ground. “I was still calm enough at the point, if I just present my driver’s license, my insurance, my registration, this will clearly be cleared up,” he remembers thinking. But on the ground, Sauter says he was punched, had the boot of one officer wiped across his face, effectively blindfolded by a covering over his face, and taken to a station whose location he would not learn until later. “It was one of the most dehumanizing, delegitimatizing things I’ve experienced because I felt it was done to let me know I’m dirt beneath your boot.”
Sauter wrote to the EPS Professional Standards Branch on May 20, “This all to me did not appear to be an arrest but rather a kidnapping.” The 37-year-old says he manages several health conditions, and worried the confrontation would end in a heart attack or suffocation. “It was reckless, thoughtless, and degrading… How quickly they escalated to use violence was baffling and bewildering to me, especially given I was willing to cooperate, engage, and comply with the six officers,” his complaint reads. Sauter identifies as being of Black/Indigenous/Latin/European/East Asian descent. In the letter, he also writes he believes his ethnicity was a “determining factor in how this arrest was conducted” and recalls being mocked for his assumed sexuality.
Twenty-four-year-old Joshua Powell was at the Circle K’s check-out counter when he says “about six cops bust through the door and just seemed to tackle this man without even asking for identification—anything, like any sort of explanation.” With his phone already in hand as he had waited to pay, Powell started recording. “I just had a gut feeling that, ‘Hey, something’s not right here and I should probably be recording this,” he recalled. At least three officers are seen in the video taking Sauter to the ground as Powell’s video starts. Sauter can be heard yelling, “Ow,” and asking, “What are you doing?” Powell tells Sauter, “If you stop moving, they won’t hurt you,” and moves to find a better camera angle – but as he does, an officer appears to attempt to block his view. “I couldn’t really capture it on film due to the way officers were blocking my footage,” he told CTV News Edmonton. On camera, he tells the police, “That was a bit excessive from an outside perspective.” Powell ended up being arrested for obstruction of justice. In the video, as his camera is shaken around, he’s heard saying: “I’m just filming. What are you doing to me?” “This guy’s trying to get my phone. I gotta save this video and lock my phone,” he recalled thinking. Minutes later, he says he was he was carried out, also hooded, and put in a police vehicle in front of his clueless girlfriend. “We had no power. I was called a little b*tch. I was called a f*ggot. They wouldn’t let me speak to my girlfriend to tell her what was going on.”
Both men allege the treatment continued at the downtown EPS station, where the men were held in custody. “I just know from movies and stuff, you get a phone call, right?” Powell asked, saying he wasn’t afforded one. Sauter said he was allowed to make calls to his brother, who is a detective with EPS, and Legal Aid. However, he says he received no medical attention for the bruising, cuts, swelling or shock he was experiencing. He experienced pain for days afterward, and still has neck and back issues, he told CTV News Edmonton. The 24-year-old witness also says he sustained abrasions on his wrists from too-tight handcuffs, forehead and facial bruising, and a cut on his shin from the ordeal. Both were released around 12:30 a.m. By then, officers had verified Sauter’s insurance and ownership of the vehicle, whose plate, police discovered, had been replaced with a stolen one. As he left, Sauter says he was told he needed “to learn how to conduct yourself around officers." Sauter was never charged. The charge against Powell was stayed July 8.
Both men have filed official complaints and obtained lawyers, but none of their accusations have been tested or proven in court. EPS confirmed two Professional Standards Branch investigations are open, related to the complaints filed by Sauter and Powell. Spokesperson Cheryl Voordenhout said there are eight officers who are subject to the investigations. “At this time, it is too early to determine any changes to the duty status of the officers. As per standard procedure, duty status is evaluated on an ongoing basis as the investigation unfolds,” she wrote to media. The response has left Sauter unsatisfied, and he reiterated a sentiment he first expressed in the letter to the Professional Standards Branch, Edmonton Police Commission, and Chief Dale McFee: “I don’t feel safe with them out.” Sauter repeatedly told CTV News Edmonton his experiences with police had previously been positive, but after his own “traumatizing” arrest and hearing Minneapolis man George Floyd uttered the same words he did beneath the knee of a policeman — “I can’t breathe” — also said he’s come to believe law enforcement need to be held more accountable. Widespread use of body cams, he said, could help others in the same way a stranger helped him. “Had this video not been available, it would’ve left my credibility tarnished… I would have to be up against six to seven officers, and I would have no actual proof of what occurred,” Sauter told CTV News Edmonton, speaking of Powell’s short clip in the Circle K. “He’s my hero. He’s incredibly brave. He has incredible integrity and moral character. He’s not a coward. His intuition was correct and he did the right thing.”
(Text from CTV News article, July 9, 2020)
Both Sauter and Powell are represented by lawyers. In his complaint to the Professional Standards Branch, Sauter stated "This all to me did not appear to be an arrest but rather a kidnapping.” He believes he sustained injuries that caused a curve in his spine, along with ongoing pain, migranes, and possible PTSD. The Archive team is seeking the results of the Professional Standards Branch investigations and will update this entry when more information is available.