A police officer who claims he was assaulted by an Indigenous man during an encampment protest in Edmonton on Tuesday was actually the aggressor, according to several people who were there.
Teyen Bohnsack, a volunteer with the Bear Claw, was arrested near the camp at Rowland Road and 95 Street on Tuesday in an altercation captured in several videos.
Edmonton Police Service said Wednesday that charges, including assaulting a police officer, were pending against Bohnsack.
But Bohnsack, his wife Kiya Tailleur, and two independent witnesses claim it was Const. Michael Zacharuk who assaulted the couple.
“[He] assaulted me, pushed me to the ground, and proceeded to punch my husband Teyen in the face. And police surrounded and tackled him to the concrete,” Tailleur said during a Wednesday evening press conference organized by lawyer Eric Crowther.
“There is video evidence of us both being assaulted so it’s just frustrating to hear the police put out statements that are false.”
Several videos from the scene were provided to journalists, including CTV News Edmonton.
In one filmed by Bohnsack, Tailleur is seen hitting the ground before yelling to her husband that the officer pushed her.
The shot of that interaction is obstructed by another police officer and a vehicle.
Bohnsack and the officer are then seen coming together as Bohnsack says, “Hey buddy. Did you just touch my f–cking wife?”
A scuffle appeared to ensue between the two men as Zacharuk is heard saying, “You’re under arrest for assault…You grabbed me.”
Bohnsack was then taken to the ground by several officers and arrested. A crowd of citizens and residents of the camp erupted as police pushed people back.
One officer pulled out a stun gun and activated it, but Crowther confirmed police assertions that it was not actually used to his shock client.
After Bohnsack was put into a police van, Tailleur approached Zacharuk with her camera rolling.
“Are you going to put that in your report, that you assaulted me?” she said.
“How about when you obstructed me? You had no idea what I was investigating,” he responded.
“Oh, but you were allowed to push me on the ground?” she asked.
“Yeah, because you were obstructing me,” the officer said.
Police said both Bohnsack and Zacharuk were treated for minor injuries.
In 2022, Const. Zacharuk was charged with assaulting a man in police custody in 2019. Those charges were stayed eight months later.
‘SHOVED HER TO THE GROUND’
Bohnsack’s arrest happened around 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Officers delivered eviction notices at the Rowland Road encampment around 9 a.m.
Kelty Pelechytik, a resident of the area, spent much of the day supporting camp residents who refused police orders to vacate the site.
Pelechytik admitted to teasing officers and standing in front of them as they were trying to take photos, but says police were fair, even joking with her, throughout the day.
When a man stopped at the camp to yell at police, officers followed him to his vehicle to get a photo of his licence plate, Pelechytik said.
She and Tailleur, who she says had not previously met, followed the officers in an attempt to block them from getting a photo of the man’s licence plate.
“All of a sudden, Michael Zacharuk, who I had several interactions with the entire day, pushed Kiya, like hard. [He] pushed her hard to the ground,” Pelechytik told CTV News Edmonton.
“There was absolutely no warning. It was totally out of left field.”
Paul Fischer, Pelechytik’s husband, was sitting in his car close by. He says he also saw the officer shove Tailleur.
“There was no time for an interaction, a verbal warning, nothing. He grabbed her by the chest, what seemed like the chest or the throat, shoved her to the ground,” he recalled.
Fischer said he got out of his vehicle out of fear his wife would also be assaulted.
Pelechytik pulled out her phone and started recording as Bohnsack and the officer came together.
“What I saw was the same officer run up to him, grab him, start complaining Teyen was assaulting him while he was punching Teyen,” Fischer said.
“It was unprovoked. There was no threatening behaviour. This was a man who was coming to see why his wife was screaming on the ground.”
‘EXCESSIVE FORCE AND RACISM’
CTV News Edmonton contacted EPS about these allegations. The police service responded with the same statement from Wednesday claiming Bohnsack assaulted the officer and resisted arrest.
Bohnsack did not speak to reporters but was present at the virtual press conference on Wednesday night. Crowther said his client couldn’t speak publicly because of the charges.
Tailleur called the case one of “excessive force and racism.” Bohnsack has both Dene and Blackfoot heritage.
“Once media left the police presence went from agitated to aggressive,” she said of the scene on Rowland Road.
Crowther said he was not sure if the interaction meets the threshold for the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, but he would like investigators assigned to the case.
He and Bohnsack plan to fight the charges in court and are considering filing a complaint about Zacharuk.
“The priority is to deal with these criminal charges and ensure that Teyen doesn’t end up with a criminal record that would be exceedingly harmful to him for the rest of his life,” he told CTV News Edmonton.
“Beyond that there may be complaints about what I suggest is obvious police misconduct, evidenced in the videos that have been taken.”
Rowland Road was the last of eight encampments deemed “high risk” by the City of Edmonton and police to be closed.
It was cleared Wednesday afternoon and three other people were arrested at the site.
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