Canada’s hysteria about guns was on full display as shocking footage showed police officers swarm and handcuff a 19-year-old woman who was holding a plastic gun as part of a “Star Wars” Stormtrooper character costume.
The costumed teen was outside the Coco Vanilla Galactic Cantina in Lethbridge, Alberta, as part of the themed eatery’s promotion on Monday, May 4, a day of celebration among “Star Wars” fans because it’s a play on words with one of the franchise’s catchphrases, “May the force be with you.”
The restaurant’s owner, Bradley Whalen, told Lethbridge News Now that he asked his employee to wear the costume, which video showed included a helmet, full body suit and toy gun, while walking outside to drum up business.
He said they “had people stopping by and getting pictures with the Stormtrooper” and that they “put a couple of promotions on in the restaurant to entice people to come.”
Things turned sour, however, when police officers suddenly descended upon the woman.
“Police officers had guns drawn, pointed at my employee,” Whalen said. “They were yelling at her to put the gun down so she threw the plastic gun on the ground.”
“At that point in time when I came out, she was on her knees kneeling down on the ground,” he said. “The police had already checked and seen that the gun was plastic so they already knew that there wasn’t an issue or a risk there.”
Whalen said she had trouble complying with their orders because of the costume. “She kept yelling at them that she couldn’t kneel down because, in that Stormtrooper costume, you can’t even sit down in it, like it’s impossible to sit down.”
Officers instead pushed her to the ground, causing her to have a bloody nose and leaving a crimson stain on the concrete as proof.
YouTube user Deiby Corleoni posted the incident caught on camera, apparently taken from a vehicle beginning just before the incident.
The clip initially showed the woman milling around a concrete area in front of the restaurant, even doing a “march” for the videographer.
The video then cut to a more sinister scene from the other side of the street, possibly on a return trip, this time with the teen dressed as a Stormtrooper putting her empty hands up in surrender as officers pointed their weapons at her.
Officers yelled at the teen to get on the ground until she eventually got onto her knees, but still an officer shouted, “Get down on the ground! Get on your belly!”
The clip panned to Whalen, who emerged from the restaurant and shouted, “It’s a plastic gun!”
When the camera focused back on the Stormtrooper, she was on her belly crying out in pain, surrounded by three police officers and being handcuffed. Whalen again protested, “It’s a prop!”
An officer approached the person filming and told him to stay back.
“This is Canada,” the person with the camera said. “We don’t have guns in Canada. That’s a plastic gun. I could buy it at the dollar store.”
The full footage of the incident can be seen below.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.
The Lethbridge Police Service responded to outrage over police conduct with an official statement Tuesday and announced an investigation into the matter.
“Upon reviewing the file and additional information, including video circulating on social media, Chief Scott Woods has directed a service investigation under the Alberta Police Act that will look into whether the officers acted appropriately within the scope of their training and LPS policies and procedures,” the department said.
Jason Walper, inspector for the Lethbridge Police Service, told Lethbridge News Now that officers were responding to “multiple” 911 calls about the fake firearm.
“Any time our officers are responding to something that’s very spontaneous where there’s a weapon involved, our first responsibility is to ensure we can create a safe environment for the officers, for the public, and the individual itself,” Walper said.
“So certainly, their first response is to deal with that weapon and remove the weapon from the person, take the person into custody, and then allow us to follow up with that investigation to determine exactly what occurred.”
Walper admitted that officers “pushed the individual down to the ground” after she was already disarmed and on her knees, causing the woman’s bloody nose.
Although she was taken into custody, the 19-year-old was not charged with any crime.
Canada has been hostile toward gun ownership, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently upped the ante as he banned an additional 1,500 types of firearms.
Still, this incident could have been avoided with a little common sense once officers confirmed they were dealing with a prop that was part of a “Star Wars” costume.
Instead, this young woman was left bloodied and terrified by their overreaction.
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