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Violent police 'home invasion' leads to $66K bill for victims

10/13/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 12/12/2014 05:59 EST
Two siblings are speaking out for the first time about how Halifax police "invaded" one of their homes in the middle of the night, then assaulted him as he tried to protect his sister from getting seriously hurt.

"It was just like Cops. Or like a movie. The house was dark. The house was quiet … then bang-bang-bang! on my upstairs door," said Tyler Bishop, 36, recalling the 2008 encounter.

"It was a home invasion. They invaded my home."

Within seconds, it escalated to one of the officers shooting Bishop with a Taser stun gun when he tried to stop police from hitting his sister in the face.

"I was fearful for her life," said Bishop, a GM salesman. "I was watching them pick her up and drop her face on the floor. She was crying."

"Absolutely unreal," said Cirbie Bishop, 31. "Under no circumstances would anyone ever believe that two police officers could just enter your home illegally and do that to you."

Officer broke the law

One of the officers, Const. Jordan Gilbert, was later sanctioned for illegal entry and assault, after a decision by a police complaint review board. But he was never criminally charged and he kept his job.

The Bishops, who had never been in trouble with the law before, said they are left with $66,000 in legal costs, which the municipality refuses to cover.

"They came into the house without a warrant. They came into the house with absolutely no right to. And we are left to pay for that," said Cirbie Bishop, an insurance claims representative.

On that night six years ago, the siblings had a Halloween party at Tyson Bishop's townhouse. They said it was a normal party, with costumes, decorations, drinks and music. Police were called twice over noise complaints by a neighbour.

By the time Const. Gilbert and Const. Mathew Poole arrived to answer the second call at 3 a.m., however, the party was over and the townhouse was dark. Six people, including the Bishop siblings, were sitting around quietly in an upstairs bedroom.

When the officers got no answer at the front door, they entered anyway, then went upstairs and pounded on the bedroom door, ordering anyone who didn’t live there to leave.

"They were just screaming and yelling and swearing and forcing people out of the house," Cirbie Bishop said, as everyone scrambled. "We had no idea we were there doing anything wrong. We just had a private party."

She banged into Gilbert while going through the bedroom doorway. He considered that assault, so he and Poole grabbed and detained her. Gilbert later admitted he hit her in the face while pinning her on the bathroom floor.

"They picked me up and they threw me on my face," she said.

When Tyson Bishop tried to step in and protect his sister, Gilbert Tasered him — in the face — at close range. "You just collapse. You fall so fast and so hard. It’s such a jolt to your head," Bishop recalled. 

Gilbert also admitted hitting him twice.

'Two cops...beating our friends'

In a 911 call, obtained by Go Public, Tyson Bishop's roommate is heard frantically calling for help.

"What is your emergency?" the dispatcher says.

"We have two cops.... They are beating everyone here!" says roommate Christian Copeland, clearly frightened. "They won’t let anyone get up and get out. We just need someone here to pull them off everyone."

"Two police officers?" asks the dispatcher.

"Two police officers!" he answers. "They are beating our friends."

Later testimony said Tyson Bishop was "bleeding profusely" when taken away by ambulance.

The Bishops were both charged with several counts of assaulting and obstructing police, which meant they had to hire a lawyer. The charges were later dropped. However, Cirbie Bishop said the blow to her reputation meant she lost her licence to sell insurance.

"It’s completely turned my life upside down. I lost my job. I had to move provinces. I am in therapy. I have an enormous amount of debt," she said, in tears. "It’s a really sad feeling to know that you were once a really outgoing fun person that really enjoyed life to someone who just doesn’t trust anything anymore."

"There's still two little holes in the side of my jaw where those two prongs went in that night," Tyson Bishop said. "For months… I would have the TV so low that you could barely hear it across the room, because I was so afraid somebody might call the police."

Years spent seeking justice

The Bishops' complaint against the officers took three years to resolve. Gilbert was eventually disciplined by the Nova Scotia Police Review Board in early 2012.

"This was not a mob scene outside a bar, and it is difficult to comprehend how things went wrong so quickly," the board said.

"This incident is serious. It involves both an unlawful entry into a home and an excessive use of force, including the firing of a Taser. It has also had serious consequences for Mr. Bishop and his family."

The board suspended Gilbert for two weeks, put him under temporary supervision and recommended anger management. He was never criminally charged, though, and still has his job.

The Bishops called the penalty unbelievable.

"If I went into his home, Tasered him, beat his wife or girlfriend or sister or anybody, I am sure we would not be sitting here today," Tyson Bishop said. "I would be in a cell.  I would have lost my job. I would be in a whole different world if I had done half of what they did to us that night."

$66K for legal bills and debt

Gilbert was also made to pay $1,000 toward the Bishops' costs. That infuriated the siblings, because their legal bill alone is 66 times that.

"It was a slap in the face," Cirbie Bishop said. "It didn’t put a dent in any of the bills that we had spent. It wouldn’t even have put a dent in the gas money."

The Bishops’ said their debt from their legal bills is spread out over several credit cards. Their father cashed in his life insurance to pay some of the bills.

They are suing, even though that will cost still more, and say all they want is to break even. The Halifax Regional Municipality offered them $17,500, which they refused — so the municipality continues to spend public money fighting them.

Police and municipality won't comment

A judge already ruled the Bishops’ legal fees aren’t recoverable, because of legal precedents, which leaves them only able to claim for damages.

"I didn’t want to spend six years of my life fighting this. I just wanted my money back because it was proven that they entered that house illegally, meaning I should have never had to put that money out to begin with," Cirbie said.

The police and the city both wouldn't talk about the case.

"Neither Halifax Regional Police or the officers involved will comment as there are still on-going civil litigation in relation to this case," police spokesperson Pierre Bourdages said.

"The municipality doesn’t comment on ongoing legal matters," municipal spokesperson Tiffany Chase said.

Go Public then asked how much public money the municipality has spent on the case, but received no reply.

hen asked by Go Public why Gilbert wasn’t charged, Bourdages replied, "The Police Act investigation did not recommend charges against the officers. Neither did the review board decision."

However, the police complaint commissioner indicated that's police's decision to make. 

"The decision to lay or recommend a criminal charge … is made by municipal police," Nadine Cooper Mont said. "This is normally done long before a complaint reaches the review board." 

Tyson Bishop said the whole ordeal has left his family exhausted, with their faith in the system gone.

"[Halifax police] broke the law knowing they were breaking the law … and there is nobody around or nobody in that end of the system that seems to care."

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