BRITISH COLUMBIA

Irene Joseph's Takedown By Smithers RCMP Captured In Photo

12/13/2014 07:22 EST | Updated 02/15/2015 05:59 EST

irene joseph arrest

A 61-year-old Smithers Wet'suwet'en elder is filing a formal complaint claiming police used excessive force when an officer shoved her to the ground for refusing to answer questions about an alleged theft.

Irene Joseph said she visited a store last weekend where she talked to someone inside. Outside she said she was met by an RCMP officer who said he was investigating an alleged theft.

She said the police officer wanted to know her name and the name of the person to whom she had been talking.

"I forgot her name," she said. "And then he was asking me for my name. And I said, 'I'm not going to give it to you. Why should I give it to you? What did I do wrong? I never did anything wrong.'"

Joseph said she became upset and confused about why she was being questioned and tried to get away. She said she was knocked down while trying to reach for her walker. The incident, captured in a photograph that appeared in the Smithers Interior News, shows Joseph's walker to the right.​

"And he was just on my back," she said. "He had his leg on my back and he had the other leg in my side where he was trying to reach my arm."

Detained for ignoring verbal directions

Joseph said the officer eventually got her ID.

"He went into my bag, himself," she said, "and got my ID, wallet and cell phone, took out of my purse and got all of my ID off of that."

Smithers RCMP confirm an incident did take place and told CBC News they were called to the scene of a theft in progress.

"Police detained an individual who did not comply with verbal direction," said police in a statement. "The police officer restrained the person when they resisted and called for a second officer."

B.C. Civil Liberties Association Policy Director Micheal Vonn said as far as she can tell, there was no legal basis for an arrest.

"As far as we know there was no compulsion for her to remain," she said. "She herself was not under arrest. The statement by the RCMP seems to indicate an attempt to resist a kind of arrest. We cannot understand the legal basis for the arrest in the first place."

RCMP said no criminal charges have been laid, but its investigation is ongoing.

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