WINNIPEG – A man who has accused a Winnipeg police officer of beating him says he almost died from choking on his own blood.
Henry Lavallee, 45, spoke Wednesday for the first time about his arrest for attempted theft last November. The encounter has led to aggravated assault charges against Const. Ryan Law, a nephew of Winnipeg police chief Keith McCaskill.
“Blood was coming out from my throat, my rectum, my nose. I was bleeding all over,” Lavallee said.
Lavallee admits he’s a chronic thief and estimates he has been charged 45 times. He was only able to speak to reporters because he was recently released from jail.
Despite his past, Lavallee suggested he did not deserve what happened to him last fall. He said he was walking in the city’s north end with a friend when he noticed a case of beer in a car, smashed the window and tried to make off with it.
Police arrested him and put him in a holding cell, he said, and one of the arresting officers came back and kicked him.
“The door opens up. I look up at him. He walks in (and) kicks me right in the stomach.”
Lavallee was rushed to hospital and underwent surgery for a ruptured intestine, according to both Lavallee and Kerry Unruh, the prosecutor in the case against Law. Lavallee still bears a scar from the surgery, and says he is unable to bend over or lift heavy objects.
Lavallee, an aboriginal man, is being supported by the Southern Chiefs Organization, which represents dozens of First Nations in southern Manitoba.
“Nobody deserves to be kicked around like a dog,” Grand Chief Morris Swan-Shannacappo said.
“Henry did come right out and admit that he was alcoholic, and a lot of our people fall into this trap because of poverty, because of homelessness.”
Swan-Shannacappo said he is glad that charges have been laid against the officer, and that the police chief removed himself from the investigation.
Lavallee’s family is suing the police service and the City of Winnipeg.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Police Service said there will be not comment on the matter as it is before the courts.