The long-delayed criminal trial of RCMP Const. Lacy Browning was set to begin Monday afternoon in provincial court in Kelowna, B.C., but quickly ended in a guilty plea.
As the lone count of assault was read aloud in court at the beginning of what was to be a six-day trial, Browning replied, “Guilty, your honour” to the charge.
Browning initially pleaded not guilty in January 2022.
She was accused of striking and dragging nursing student Mona Wang during a wellness check at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in January 2020.
WATCH | Video captures Mona Wang being dragged:
The court heard Browning had signed an agreed statement of facts jointly submitted by the B.C. Prosecution Service and defence lawyers.
A sentencing hearing will be set at a later date, most likely in 2023.
Browning walked out of the courtroom at the end of the day’s hearing, free on bail. She was placed on RCMP administrative desk duty in June 2020.
Security camera recorded incident
A surveillance camera video captured the moments after Browning arrived at an apartment building. It shows the Kelowna RCMP officer dragging a woman down a hallway and stepping on her head.
The video was submitted in a civil lawsuit Wang filed in B.C. Supreme Court in March 2020 against Browning and the RCMP.
In the notice of claim, Wang says she was experiencing mental distress on the evening of Jan. 20, 2020, and her boyfriend called the RCMP requesting a wellness check.
“Browning proceeded to assault the plaintiff by stepping on the plaintiff’s arm,” the lawsuit states. “Browning kicked the plaintiff in the stomach while the plaintiff was lying on the bathroom floor semi-conscious.”
According to the lawsuit, Browning handcuffed Wang and then dragged her out of the suite, down a hallway toward the floor’s elevator while punching her in the face.
The officer took Wang into custody without telling her why she was being detained and transported her to the Kelowna General Hospital, according to the civil claim.
In Browning’s statement of defence, the officer disputed the claim, saying that only necessary force was used to subdue the student when she became violent. Browning claimed Wang had a box cutter in her hand and denied that she assaulted the student.
None of those claims have been tested in court.
The civil lawsuit was settled out of court in June 2021. The terms of the settlement are covered by a confidentiality clause.
Investigation into incident faced delays, criticism
The criminal investigation into Browning’s actions took almost two years, involving outside police forces and a public apology from the Kelowna RCMP.
In July 2020, RCMP southeast district Chief Supt. Brad Haugli held a news conference in response to the public outcry and protests over the video evidence.
“High public confidence is what we strive for and when we become aware of concerning behaviour, we need to assure the public that we are taking the necessary steps to gather all the facts,” said Haugli.
RCMP turned over their criminal investigation to Abbotsford police for external review. In an unusual move, the Abbotsford police returned the file to the RCMP, stating “further investigation [is] required.”
A final investigative report to the B.C. Crown Prosecution Service for consideration of criminal charges was submitted in April 2021. The Crown laid the single assault charge in August 2021.