Burnaby woman wins lawsuit against mall cop for 'false arrest'

A 60-year-old Burnaby woman has been awarded $37,450 in damages for “assault, battery, false arrest and imprisonment” by a local mall cop eight years ago.

Man Qiao (who also goes by the name of Caren Qiao) had, in fact, tried to sue the security guard and his employer for more than $11 million dollars.

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The lawsuit dates back to an incident at Crystal Mall on March 30, 2012.

It began when Qiao entered the mall just after 11 a.m. that day and ended a short time later with an RCMP officer cuffing her outside, according to court documents.

She said

Qiao testified that she had been outside the mall with her two small dogs when a man approached the canines carrying a large stick.

She said he had threatened the dogs and she intervened, yelling at him to stop.

After quickly taking her pets home, she said she then followed the man into the mall and began repeatedly shouting in Mandarin for the “man who hit the dogs outside to come forward.”

“Ms. Qiao explained that she wanted to talk to the man because, as a long-time member of the SPCA, she felt it was her responsibility to make him understand that he should not ‘take out his problems on the small and weak, especially not animals,’” stated a B.C. Supreme Court ruling on the case Tuesday.

Qiao continued shouting as she made her way through the busy marketplace, up the escalator, through the food court on the upper level and then back down to the ground level, the ruling said.

crystal mall burnaby
The food court at Crystal Mall in Burnaby. File photo

She said she was then confronted by a security guard, Satvir Gill, who told her she wasn’t allowed to yell in the area.

Qiao said she told Gill she was leaving and made her way through the mall toward an exit.

Gill followed her, but she said she was unaware of that.

Just outside the building, she stopped briefly in an outdoor corridor, she said, when Gill approached her from behind.

She said Gill told her she wasn’t allowed to re-enter the mall and she told him she was leaving.

As she turned to go, however, she said Gill grabbed her from behind suddenly and without warning.

He then dragged her by her jacket through a mall entrance door and back into the mall, she said.

Back inside the mall, Qiao said a struggle between the two ensued, during which she lost a shoe and grabbed Gill’s collar and shirt and didn’t let go.

A bystander’s cell phone video showed Qiao up against a wall and then being maneuvered to the ground.

When RCMP officers arrived, Qiao said she was brought to her feet and handcuffed.

She said another officer who’d been talking to Gill then came over to her and told her to sign a document promising never to enter the mall again. She refused.

After being released, she said she went to the community policing station nearby to make her own report.

He said

According to Gill’s version of events, Qiao had yelled at him to mind his own business when he asked her what the problem was as she walked through the mall screaming for the man who threatened her dogs.

Gill said he had pointed to an exit for Qiao to leave through, but that she had walked past him further into the mall.

When she stopped in the outside corridor and looked as though she might re-enter the mall, he said he approached her and asked her to move forward and get off the property.

He said she refused.

“Mr. Gill testified that they were having some communication issues and he did not understand some of the things that Ms. Qiao said, so he decided to ‘get a hold of her and take her into the management office’ to have someone interpret, and then take her off the property via the loading bay,” stated the ruling.

Gill said Qiao was cooperative until they got inside the mall and he took one of his hands off her to get his radio.

He said Qiao then grabbed him by his collar and would not let go, so he put her against the wall and then to the ground to get her to release her grip.

“I would not characterize his taking her to the ground as particularly aggressive or rough, nor would I describe it as particularly gentle,” said B.C. Supreme Justice Sheri Ann Donegan after seeing video footage of the incident.

After pinning Qiao to the ground, Gill said he was able to use his phone to call 911.

Damages

Donegan concluded Gill was the more reliable witness because Qiao’s testimony was at times inconsistent with other evidence, including video footage, and that her memory was demonstrably poor.

But Donegan noted Gill’s testimony was less reliable on one crucial point – the moment he grabbed Qiao and took her back inside the mall.

He testified Qiao had pointed toward the mall and said “check there.”

But Donegan said the mall security video showed no such gesture and instead showed Qiao trying to pull away from Gill toward the street.

Earlier in the court process, Gill had said he thought he had arrested Qiao for trespassing, but Donegan ruled Qiao had not been trespassing but trying to leave at the time he grabbed her.

“From the time Mr. Gill directed her to leave until the time he approached her in the exterior corridor, only one minute and 18 seconds had elapsed,” Donegan said. “Had Ms. Qiao not been stopped, I am satisfied that she would have been off mall property in under two minutes. This is a reasonable time in the circumstances. Therefore, I find that, at the time Mr. Gill stopped Ms. Qiao, she was not trespassing.”

Because she wasn’t trespassing, Donegan said Gill had no legal authority to detain her or forcibly remove her from the premises.

Donegan ruled Gill and his employer, Alltek Patrol Corp., were therefore liable for unlawful detention, false imprisonment, assault and battery.

Qiao’s claims of defamation and intentional infliction of mental suffering, however, were dismissed.

Donegan awarded Qiao $36,000 for emotional distress and minor injuries to her left arm and lower back pain and $1,450.00 for massage and acupuncture Qiao paid for after the incident.


 

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