The Lethbridge Police Service is investigating the actions of officers who responded an incident involving an 18-year-old female in a Stormtrooper costume on May the 4th, or Star Wars Day.
In a news release, LPS said police responded to two 911 calls just after 11 a.m., reporting a person in a Stormtrooper costume was carrying a firearm along 13 Street North.
“Upon police arrival the subject dropped the weapon but did not initially comply with further police directions to get down on the ground,” the news release said.
“The weapon was ultimately confirmed to be a fake firearm and the female subject, who indicated she was an employee promoting a local business, was not charged.”
The owner of Coco Vanilla Galactic Cantina, Bradley Whalen, said the young woman is one of his employees, and she was promoting his Star Wars-themed business on May the 4th, or Star Wars Day.
“The decor inside, that’s what our signs have Star Wars, [we are] the Galactic Cantina, so we use a lot of references from Star Wars,” said Whalen.
Whalen’s restaurant opened in January, and he said Star Wars Day provided an opportunity to promote the young business.
“We wanted to do something different… just something to let people know that we are here,” he said. “She was kind of walking out back-and-forth in front of the property by the sidewalk, just waving at people, and a couple people stopped by and got a picture with her.”
Whalen said his employee had been outside for about an hour when he heard a commotion.
“A number of police squad cars had showed up, the police say that they tried to get her to comply and she didn’t comply,” he said, “[but] wearing the helmet for the Stormtrooper — I’ve had it on myself — it’s hard for anybody to hear you and it’s hard for you to hear other people.”
The business owner said he headed outside, and witnessed a number of police officers with guns drawn.
“She had, at that point, been down on her knees, her blaster — the plastic blaster she was using — had been over by the corner of the parking lot, the police had already looked at it. They picked it up and had seen that it was just a plastic prop.”
In the release from police, LPS said the employee sustained a minor injury but did not require medical attention. Whalen said when police made her get down on her stomach on the ground, she got a bloody nose.
“My concern isn’t that police responded to someone who called and reported. My problem is that after they determined that it was a fake prop, police still continued to yell at her with the guns pointed, telling her to, ‘get down on her face, get down on her face,’ and then proceeded to handcuff her after they knew that it was a plastic prop toy,” said Whalen.
LPS Chief Scott Woods has directed the service investigation under the Alberta Police Act following the reviewing of the file and additional information, including a video circulating on social media.
Video of the altercation was recorded and posted on YouTube here. (WARNING: the video has explicit language.)
The review will look into whether the officers acted appropriately within the scope of their training and LPS policies.
LPS intends to provide a public update following the completion of the investigation.
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