WARNING: This story discusses suicide.
Sophia Koehler was having a terrible Tuesday two weeks ago when her spouse dialed 911 looking for help, concerned she would hurt herself.
Koehler has four daughters but suffers from anxiety and depression, and a recent suicide attempt led to her children being apprehended earlier that day, June 23.
Koehler was harming herself, according to her partner Cory Burger who called for help.
What Burger hoped for, and Koehler expected looking back in hindsight, was help and compassion and safety. What the 34-year-old instead received was a facial injury and bruising all over her body in the driveway in front of her house, injuries she says were inflicted by an impatient RCMP officer.
|Sophia Koehler on June 23, 2020 at Chilliwack General Hospital after she was apprehended by Mounties after a mental health wellness check. An RCMP spokesperson said Koehler did not co-operate with police, something she denies. (Submitted to The Chilliwack Progress)|
“Look at what they do as their way of helping me,” Koehler told The Progress in an interview two days after the incident, as she pointed to a large scab next to her eye.
Incidents of violence alleged against RCMP officers during mental health wellness checks have been prominent in the news lately. Most recently, last week, Kelowna RCMP commander Chief Supt. Brad Haugli called for more nurses during wellness checks.
Haugli’s response came after a video was released of a student being dragged down a hall by an RCMP officer.
With three police officers at her Carleton Street residence on June 23, Koehler admits she was arguing with the officers about going with them, an apprehension police decided was needed under the Mental Health Act.
She said she was in the passenger seat of her minivan, and asked one officer if she could look for a cigarette. He said OK, she reached to grab her purse when a different officer became impatient, according to her version of events, grabbed her “and smashed my head into the pavement in front of my house.”
Chilliwack RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Krista Vrolyk confirmed the police responded to a complaint of a woman in a vehicle harming herself, in distress.
“Our members did attend and determined that she needed to be apprehended under the Mental Health Act and taken to the hospital to be assessed,” Vrolyk said in a statement. “The individual did not co-operate and resisted, but was eventually apprehended, placed into the back of a police vehicle and immediately taken to the local hospital.”
Vrolyk said that after a medical assessment it was determined that none of her injuries met the threshold for notifying the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of B.C.
IIO is the civilian-led police oversight agency responsible for investigating incidents of “death or serious harm” that may have been the result of police actions or inactions.
Told by The Progress that IIO was not involved, Koehler was dismayed.
“What the f—- do the injuries have to be? A broken arm?” she asked. “I have a concussion.”
She added that she already suffered from severe depression and anxiety, which is related to why her children were taken away on June 23. After the incident with police, she said her anxiety is worse, and the sight of police gets her very upset leading to the need for medication.
Koehler has filed a public complaint against the RCMP hoping, she says, to hold the police accountable for her injuries.
“Being as it was a mental health check, I don’t think it was appropriate,” she said. “I have scar on my face forever. I wasn’t resisting at all. I got mad when they slammed me down on the ground.”
She said she has her spouse Cory and a neighbour who corroborate what happened that day.
In response, Chilliwack Mounties expressed confidence that a public complaint investigation involving evidence from the complainant, officers, witnesses, police radio recording and video recordings will get to the truth of what took place.
”We are confident that the totality of information will provide a clearer picture of what actually occurred,” Sgt. Vrolyk said. “We welcome this process in order to ensure the facts are gathered and any concerns are addressed as soon as possible. Once a public complaint investigation is completed, the complainant is provided with a copy of the results.”
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