A man suing a Kelowna Mountie over allegations of police brutality says he wrote an apology to the officer after the incident in response to the threat of prison and the high financial toll of taking the charges to trial.
Cole Charles Vasko, 37, filed a civil lawsuit last week in B.C. Supreme Court claiming he was assaulted by Const. Lacey Browning — the same officer involved in the now-infamous “wellness check” on Mona Wang — during an arrest last year.
In response to media reports on the lawsuit, commanding officer of the Southeast District RCMP Chief Supt. Brad Haugli told reporters to ask Vasko about a letter he wrote to Const. Browning as a part of the alternative measures program that saw the charges against him dropped.
Vasko was charged months after the March 9, 2019 incident with assaulting a police officer, wilfully resisting arrest and causing a disturbance. In his lawsuit, Vasko claims he was charged to cover up the assault on him.
“My previous lawyer, because they were charging me with assault on a police officer — pretty serious charges — he said it would be in my best interest if I wrote an apology letter as a part of my promissory peace agreement,” Vasko told Castanet on Monday.
He said his previous lawyer suggested writing the apology letter and taking the mandated anger management course was the easiest, and cheapest, way to make the charges disappear.
“With the charges that they were charging me with, I was pretty much willing to do or say anything to avoid jail — supporting a family, having a house and a full-time job.”
Dueling narratives for the March 9, 2019 incident between Vasko and Const. Lacey Browning emerged last week.
Vasko alleges he was walking home at about midnight with his five-year-old son when he was nearly hit by a car while crossing the street. After a verbal altercation with the driver, he went on his way, not aware that the driver had called the police.
Vasko claims in his lawsuit that he was assaulted without warning by responding officer Const. Lacey Browning, sustaining a broken nose and injured arm.
Chief Supt. Haugli, in what was an unusual and rare comment on something before the courts, said police were called for a report of a very intoxicated man carrying a child.
“The accused resisted arrest, assaulted the police officer and was ultimately taken into custody and transported to cells,” Haugli said.
Vasko was charged four months after the incident, served by police officers with his court summons on his birthday.
“I wanted to get off those charges and then I wanted to basically sue them afterwards. My lawyer, at that time, told me it would be impossible to sue the RCMP and they could run me through court for years and cost me a lot of money,” Vasko told Castanet.
Once he read about the other two lawsuits filed against Const. Browning, Vasko said he decided to push ahead with his lawsuit and came into contact with Michael Patterson, the lawyer representing the other two plaintiffs.
“I figured this is definitely a pattern and I wasn’t the only one that this happened to,” he said.
Vasko is still before the courts on charges of assault and careless storage of a firearm for an alleged incident in February that is unrelated to his encounter with Const. Browning. Vasko said those charges have barely progressed since they were sworn, "probably because they don't have the evidence."
In his statement last week, C/Supt. Haugli said the new allegations have already been “subject to judicial oversight and process.”
He said RCMP lawyers will be responding to the allegations in court “in due time.”
“As I have stated before, high public confidence is what we strive for and when we become aware of concerning behaviour, we need to assure the public that we are taking the necessary steps to gather all the facts, using legislated processes to make a determination on what occurred, and to hold our members accountable,” Haugli said.
Haugli said the previous allegations involving Const. Browning and the wellness check involving UBCO student Mona Wang are “subject to a criminal and internal investigation and I monitor the progress daily.”