Karen Victim Drops Lawsuit Against Canadian Police

By Brennan O’Connor 28 May 2012

Po La Hay, a Karen man who sustained serious injuries from a Canadian police tactical squad when they mistakenly broke into his home, has agreed to drop his CAN $2.5 million (US $2.45 million) lawsuit against Hamilton Police Service’s Board and 16 officers.

On May 4, 2010, police broke down the door to his Hamilton apartment with a battering ram looking for a drug dealer who in fact lived next door.

The police pinned Hay to the ground. He suffered a head gash, broken nose, several broken ribs and a fractured vertebrae. His nephew Pa Nar Noo said he was handcuffed, dragged down the stairs and kicked several times. Hay’s son Say Blut was also handcuffed by the police and locked in a room during the ordeal.

Constable Ryan Tocher, one of the officers accused of stomping on Po La Hay’s chest and breaking his ribs in the botched drug bust, was charged with discreditable conduct and unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence.

But presiding Ontario Court Justice Paul Currie had strong words for all of the officers involved.

He found “the collective evidence of the witness officers to be troubling,” which “strains credulity and raises the spectre of a cover up.”

The decision to drop Hay’s lawsuit on Hamilton Police Service’s Board this month comes on the heels of a new SIU investigation of Tocher.

On Feb. 13, Tocher shot and killed Phonesay (Pun) Chanthachack, a 27-year-old from Laos, in his vehicle. Chanthachack had failed to turn up in court that day for criminal charges.

Former ice hockey professional Tocher is the first Hamilton officer to be under investigation by the SIU three times.

In April, 2007, he also shot and killed a Cambodian refugee, Soun Saing, who threatened police with a knife in a pool hall.

But neither the Hay family, their lawyer or the Police Service Board will say why the lawsuit was dropped.

Police spokesperson Catherine Martin sent an email to the Hamilton Spectator saying the lawsuit was dismissed to “the mutual satisfaction of all the parties.”

She said, “Resolutions of litigation involving the police service are confidential. We will not be commenting any further out of respect [for] the ongoing OPP investigation.”

Po La Hay’s lawyer told the same newspaper the situation “has been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties to the litigation.

“That’s all I am able to say,” he added.