Assault charges against Ont were dropped. A man was tasered while suffering from an epileptic seizure.

Assault charges were laid against a Hamilton, Ont. man after police shot him with a Taser while suffering an epileptic seizure in 2022 have been removed.

In October 2022, Marcus Charles was working at Canadian Tire on Main Street and Victoria Avenue when he suffered a seizure. His colleagues, who were waiting for paramedics, called 9-1-1. Instead, police arrived, tried to restrain Charles, and then shot him with a Taser. After the fight, police filed three counts of assault against the 19-year-old.

“We were clear from day one: prosecuting this case was not in the public interest; it was a medical emergency, not a legal issue,” Charles’ lawyer, Chris Rudnicki, told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday. “It took the Crown only 15 months to reach the same conclusion.”

Video of the incident was captured by a Canadian Tire colleague and obtained by CTV News Toronto. In it, Charles is seen lying on the sidewalk. His body appears to be convulsing as officers surround him and hold him down as he screams repeatedly.

“I cry every time I watch the video,” Charles said in an interview with CTV News in 2022.

Arrest

Later, after waking up in a local hospital, Charles said he discovered that police had shot him with a Taser and that barbed darts had to be removed from his body.

“That was the scariest call for help of my life,” he said at the time of the incident.

Charles

More than a year later, Rudnicki said he has no idea why police Tasered his client.

“I cannot understand why a subject on a medical call, when his back was turned, was Tasered, causing him to fall to the ground only for police to pounce on him,” Rudnicki said. “This is a child with no record.”

When contacted for comment, an HPS spokesperson confirmed the Crown had dropped the charges and told CTV News Toronto the service respects their decision.

“Our officers are called upon to respond to dynamic and rapidly evolving situations every day,” the spokesperson said. “While this was an unfortunate incident, the Crown recognized that our officers responded lawfully and reasonably to the situation.”

Situations like Charles’s are not uncommon for people with epilepsy, Trevor Gordon, with the Canadian Epilepsy Alliancehe told CTV News Toronto. Lack of education and awareness can put them at greater risk when interacting with police, she said.

“Usually when someone has a seizure, the last thing you do is obstruct them or hold them back in any way,” Gordon told CTV News on Tuesday. “If the police hadn’t done anything, everything would have been 100 percent better.”

As someone who works closely in the epilepsy community, he says those who experience seizures can become physical, but are often not in control of their actions.

“Marcus did not intend to attack a police officer in any way – there have been many occasions where I have been accidentally kicked or punched while trying to help someone having a seizure, but we have never fought back,” she said.

Gordon believes the incident highlights the need for better training within the police services, training to which he and Rudnicki say the service already has access to.

“Currently, there is an elective 40-minute seizure first aid training course that police officers can choose to take,” Gordon said. “But did you pay attention in your high school electives?”

In response to Charles’ accusations, Gordon and the Epilepsy Alliance began a petition to change existing police training from elective to mandatory. At the time of publication, it had garnered just over 4,000 signatures.

“We believe this course should be mandatory for all agents,” he said.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Hannah Alberga


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