Prosecutors in Canada said Wednesday that they were dropping charges against an Indigenous leader accused of assaulting a police officer, after a video that showed the officer beating him prompted a national outcry.
In a further twist, the police confirmed on Wednesday that the arresting officer is himself facing criminal charges, including assault, from an off-duty incident nearly a year ago.
The video, made public on June 11, added fuel to an uproar in Canada over embedded racism in law enforcement, echoing protests in the United States over the police killings of African Americans. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the video, taken from a police car dash cam, as “shocking,” and said, “I have serious questions about what happened.”
In a statement distributed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Crown Prosecutions Office said the charges against the Indigenous leader, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation of northern Alberta, “will be withdrawn.” The statement provided no explanation.
Mr. Adam was stopped by the police in Fort McMurray, Alberta, in March over an expired license plate. After a sometimes-heated 12-minute exchange, he was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. But many people concluded that the police video showed that Mr. Adam was the real victim.
The video shows the officer, who has since been identified as Constable Simon-Pierre Seguin, charging at Mr. Adam with his arm and elbow up as he tackles him. It also shows the officer on top of Mr. Adam, who was lying on the ground, punching the chief in the head and putting him in what appeared to be a chokehold. Images of Mr. Adam afterward showed him with a bloodied and swollen face.
At a news conference held via Zoom from Fort McMurray, Mr. Adam said that he was happy the charges had been dropped but that more needed to be done to address underlying racism against Indigenous people.
“If we are paying a police force to brutalize our people, maybe it’s time that we look at another police force to police our people,” he said. “We have to seriously open the eyes of every nonnative Canadian to the realities that we, as Indigenous people of the land, have had to live with for decades.”
During the news conference, Mr. Adam’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, also revealed that Mr. Seguin faces three criminal charges in Fort McMurray — mischief, entering a dwelling with the intent to commit a crime, and assault — from an off-duty episode last August. His trial is set for this September. An Alberta Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman, Fraser Logan, confirmed the charges in an email.
When Mr. Adam first heard about the arresting officer’s own pending criminal case, he said, “I was shocked.”
The dash cam video was released in court this month as part of an effort by Mr. Adam’s legal representatives to have the charges rescinded.
Initially, the Alberta police said superiors who had reviewed the dash cam video had deemed the police actions “reasonable” and decided it did not warrant an external investigation.
But after Mr. Adam held a news conference on June 6, during which he released two bystander videos taken during the arrest, the independent Alberta agency that investigates police episodes involving death or potential misconduct announced it was looking into the case.
Canadian Indigenous leaders have long pressed for reform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the national police force, which also provides local policing in many provinces.
Lex Harvey and Catherine Porter contributed reporting.