June 24, 2020 / 6:15 PM / 15 days ago

Charges dropped against indigenous chief punched by Canadian police

FILE PHOTO - Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is walked to the police vehicle during his violent arrest by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers, in a still from police dashcam video obtained during legal discovery, in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada March 10, 2020. Video taken March 10, 2020. RCMP via REUTERS

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian prosecutors dropped charges against an indigenous chief who was tackled and punched by police during an incident over an expired license plate, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation alleged this month that Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) beat him in March outside a casino in Fort McMurray, Alberta. He was then charged with resisting arrest and assaulting police, charges that the prosecution dropped in court earlier in the day, Adam’s lawyer Brian Beresh said.

RCMP dashboard video released publicly showed Adam being tackled to the ground and punched once in the face. Earlier, Adam had accused police of harassment, refused orders to stay in his truck multiple times, and at one point, assumed a fighting stance toward police.

“I’m overwhelmed that the charges have been withdrawn,” Adam said at a news conference, where he called for Canadian policing reforms. “My wife and I knew we didn’t do nothing wrong. It was just for an expired license plate.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the video “shocking” and said police discrimination must end.

Beresh said that the officer who arrested Adam remains on duty. The officer faces a trial on separate charges including assault and mischief from a 2019 incident, he said.

The RCMP, which previously reviewed the video, has said the use of force was reasonable. An independent Alberta agency has begun an investigation.

In a statement, RCMP’s Alberta division said that it fulfilled its role of gathering evidence to support charges. It said police comments are limited due to the ongoing independent investigation.

There have been global protests since the death in Minneapolis of a Black man in police custody last month. Two recent deaths in New Brunswick involving police have amplified allegations by indigenous people of mistreatment by Canadian police.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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