Man accuses RCMP officer of punching him
Investigation partially absolves cop, faulting him for ‘improper attitude’
A Tilton resident is disappointed with the outcome of an investigation into his complaint concerning an RCMP officer that he claims punched him during a traffic stop.
Gary Dixon Jr. was driving on Veterans Memorial Highway on April 21 in the early afternoon when he passed an unmarked police vehicle on a stretch of the highway where that’s illegal.
There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. Dixon alleges the officer who came to his driver-side window dressed in plain clothes punched him twice in the face and screamed profanity at him. Dixon told The Compass he was reaching over to get his license, registration and vehicle insurance information when it happened.
“It all happened so quick. I pulled over, parked, hit the window, and just as I reach (down), I felt a hand come in, wrap up my hood and go bang, bang, bang,” Dixon said. “There was a bunch of cuss words.”
The previous month, Dixon had teeth removed at the hospital. He claims the officer hit him in the lower-left jaw.
“A couple of days prior (to the incident) everything was starting to heal up. Now he got me split right up.”
An RCMP officer from the Whitbourne detachment was tasked to investigate Dixon’s complaint — he contacted police later that same day. Dixon received a six-page letter last month from the RCMP detailing the investigation.
According to a prepared statement from the officer, he claimed he grabbed Dixon’s shoulder at one point because Dixon was smoking at the time and waving his hand around while also yelling and screaming. He said Dixon nearly hit him with the cigarette at one point, which compelled him to grab Dixon’s shoulder to keep it away from him.
Dixon considers that an unreasonable excuse.
“Why do he have the right, if I was smoking, to reach in my car and take that smoke? Shouldn’t he say, ‘Mr. Dixon, can you please put the smoke out, or throw it out the window or put in the ash tray?’ He got no right to touch me, really. It’s lies.”
Second officer’s account
A second officer was in the unmarked vehicle when the traffic stop occurred. He told the investigator he did not see his colleague hit Dixon, though he did hear Dixon accuse the officer of doing so. When they were initially getting out of the vehicle, he noticed the emergency lights had been turned off, so he got back in to turn them on again.
He also heard his co-worker swear and yell at Dixon. He did not notice any marks, redness, blood or bruising on Dixon. The officers did not issue a ticket for the driving infraction.
The investigator also spoke with Dixon’s father, who told police he saw a trickle of blood on the corner of his son’s mouth, failing to recall what side of the face it was on. He did not see any other marks on his face. Dixon did not seek medical treatment after the incident.
In the letter to Dixon, Supt. Jamie Zettler, eastern district director for the RCMP’s B division in Newfoundland and Labrador, offers an apology for the officer’s “improper attitude” through the use of foul language. He said the officer “will be provided operational direction in this matter.”
As for the allegation the officer punched Dixon, Zettler does not believe the details of the investigation support that accusation.
“Given your behaviour while driving, then during and after the traffic stop, I believe that (the officer) did not use inappropriate force and (managed) the incident without excessive use of force,” Zettler writes.
In a statement emailed to The Compass, Sgt. Greg Hicks from the Trinity Conception detachment said the force does not discuss individual complaints publicly.
“The RCMP thoroughly investigates all complaints from the public. Once completed the complainant is given the results of the investigation and action that resulted, if any. We do not discuss individual complaints or findings of these types of investigations as a matter of policy and for privacy reasons.”