An RCMP-led manhunt in downtown Yellowknife Friday ended with a dramatic citizen’s arrest at the hands of a shopper who says he just wanted to “make some peace.”
The search, initiated around 4:30 p.m. after a young male – improperly dressed for the weather and wearing only socks – was seen yelling and making obscene gestures as he walked along 49 Street. He eventually made his way into Centre Square Mall.
Mall security and two RCMP officers surrounded the male near the Tim Hortons restaurant. A crowd of onlookers grew as authorities circled in on the male, who suddenly escaped towards the building’s Franklin Avenue exit.
That’s when bystander Adam Scott sprang into action and initiated a citizen’s arrest.
“I saw him run by and thought I’d give the local authorities a hand, make sure the guy got home safe and got some warm clothes on,” Scott told Yellowknifer shortly after the takedown.
Scott, who had just eaten lunch in the mall, said the male had been causing a disturbance for about half an hour.
After escaping authorities, the male raced to the top of a flight of stairs, where he was met by Scott. He pulled him to the ground and held him there until the two officers, following close behind, handcuffed the individual.
A 23-year-old Yellowknife man is charged with assaulting a police officer, failing to comply with a probation order, mischief under $5,000 and disturbing the peace, Const. Heather Cosenzo stated in an email Tuesday. Police are not releasing the identity of the man.
While Scott, originally from New Brunswick, is new to the city, his desire to help law enforcement in times of need isn’t.
“This is probably my third citizen’s arrest,” said Scott. “I’ve never wanted to be the bad guy, never wanted to be the good guy … I just like keeping things positive.”
In Canada, citizen’s arrests can be legal, but the act carries a number of caveats, and would-be crimefighters must consider factors and laws before intervening.
For a citizen’s arrest to be carried out, a person must either be in the act of committing a crime or “escaping from and freshly pursued” by law enforcement, according to the federal department of justice’s website.
Arrests can only occur at the time the civilian witnesses it taking place.
It’s against the law to arrest a person if “any lapse in time” passes after the crime is committed – unless it’s related to one’s property.
In property-related offences, the owner of stolen property is legally able to make an arrest within a reasonable amount of time following the crime.
Const. Cosenzo told Yellowknifer that while the actions of Scott are appreciated, interventions from civilians pose too much of a risk.
“The Yellowknife RCMP do not encourage civilians to become involved physically in investigations or apprehensions of suspects, however the actions of a good Samaritan … at the Centre Square Mall supported the RCMP members to apprehend this individual prior to any further damage to property or injury to bystanders,” she stated.
“… The potential risk to their and the officer’s safety usually outweighs the intent to assist the police, unless directly requested by the police.”
Over a quarter of calls fielded by the RCMP in Yellowknife last month – 268 out of 700 – were related to public disturbances.
The RCMP’s attitude that we are all to passively stand by while crimes are committed is one of the reasons our crime rate is so high. Many citizens have self defense and other fighting skills. While citizens should evaluate whether they are able to handle a situation, the RCMP should welcome citizen’s help.