Skip to main content

No charges to be laid against Mounties who mistook Alta. teen with autism for drug user during arrest

The Albert Lacombe Catholic Elementary School is pictured here on Oct. 5, 2022. (CTV News Edmonton/Darcy Seaton) The Albert Lacombe Catholic Elementary School is pictured here on Oct. 5, 2022. (CTV News Edmonton/Darcy Seaton)

Despite Alberta's police watchdog concluding charges could be laid against Mounties who arrested a teen with autism under the belief he was a drug user, no charges will be laid. 

The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) is the authority that decided charges would not be laid against three RCMP Members who arrested Ryley Bauman in St. Albert on Oct. 2, 2022. 

"The (affected person) was not intoxicated. He was a non-verbal autistic youth. Three of the four civilian witnesses who observed the (affected person) recognized that he could be or was likely neurodivergent," wrote Matthew Block, an assistant executive director at the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), in a report released on Wednesday. 

"The subject officers all seem to have thought they were dealing with specific known drug users... This appears to have affected how they treated the (affected person).

"There were therefore reasonable grounds to believe that an offence may have been committed by the subject officers," Block reasoned. 

Under Alberta's Police Act, when ASIRT finds an offence may have been committed by police, it refers the case to the provincial prosecution service. 

In his report, Block noted ASIRT and ACPS assess the viability of charges differently: ASIRT examines whether there are grounds to believe an offence was committed, while ACPS assesses whether conviction is likely based on the available evidence. 

In a statement, the ACPS told CTV News Edmonton, "While the officers were mistaken that Mr. Bauman was intoxicated by drugs, there was evidence that police acted on a good faith basis and had reasonable grounds to arrest Mr. Bauman."

It added, "Given the evidence provided, ACPS found that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction given the higher standard of proof required to proceed to trial."

CTV News Edmonton has requested comment from the Bauman family. 

911 call, police conversation reviewed by ASIRT

The ASIRT report confirms what the Bauman family told CTV News Edmonton after Ryley was arrested: He was mistaken for an intoxicated adult the night he was detained. 

That evening, the then-16-year-old boy was playing by himself at a playground near his grandparents' house when he was reported by a member of the public and later taken into police custody. 

Ryley's family said he sustained soft tissue damage to his wrists and head, in addition to emotional trauma, from the incident. 

ASIRT interviewed seven civilian witnesses and six police officers. It also reviewed Ryley's medical records, surveillance video from the school by the park, police vehicle video, and all police and 911 communications. 

ASIRT says Ryley's family told the agency an interview with him was not possible. While Ryley says some words, he is considered non verbal, the family told CTV News Edmonton in 2022. 

ASIRT found Ryley was first reported at 4:15 p.m. by a civilian who said there was someone at the playground who “either has a severe handicap and should not be left alone or is tripping on some drugs and should not be here alone.” He suggested police check for a missing person and told the 911 operator the person was not causing any harm and looked to be in their early 20s. 

When an officer arrived at the playground about 30 minutes later, Ryley was playing in the sand and on the swings. 

This officer told ASIRT he tried to get Ryley's name and address, but Ryley "either ignored him or repeated things."

A second civilian walking through the park around this time overheard the officer tell Ryley to go home. This person told ASIRT they recognized Ryley potentially had a mental disability because he was making sounds that were not words. 

Shortly before 5 p.m., Ryley left the park. While he was gone, the officer checked the licence plates in the parking lot and found one was "associated" to a local resident who was a known drug user. That led the officer to believing Ryley was the person known to police. 

The officer also called the owner of another licence plate, who was using the playground with his family. The officer told the man he was "looking for a man in the park who was high on drugs," Block wrote the ASIRT report. 

Ryley returned to the park around 5:30 p.m. The man with his family saw him "skipping and repeating unintelligible words" and called the officer, who called in two more officers. 

These officers believed they were helping arrest a person who was high on drugs and known to be combative with police, according to ASIRT.  

A fourth civilian witnessed the three officers converge on Ryley, who they said was behaving erratically. They heard the officers ask Ryley for his name and inform him he was under arrest for public intoxication. 

"(The witness) said that the officers were calm and measured, and said things such as, 'We are just trying to sort this out' and wanting to 'make sure everyone is safe,'" Block wrote. 

They also overheard the officers discuss the possibility that Ryley was not who they initially thought he was. 

The witness left when two officers grabbed Ryley's arms from behind and handcuffed him. Ryley was "yelping" and "yelling." 

The witness recalled thinking Ryley might have a mental disorder, rather than being intoxicated. 

"(The witness) found it difficult to watch, so he left," the ASIRT report reads. 

In the audio recording the officers started during the arrest, Ryley repeatedly calls for "help" and says, "It's OK." 

Block notes, "The officers’ tones shift at this point and become noticeably milder. They repeatedly tell the (the affected person) to relax."

The officers are also heard in the tape discussing their belief that Ryley is intoxicated and a nearby resident.

They continued to ask Ryley for his name and address as they loaded him into a police vehicle. They also asked him if he owned the car with the familiar licence plate, to which Ryley reportedly said "yes," and then when asked again, replied, "car" and "playground." 

When Ryley was asked for his last name, he responded, "police." 

At 5:46 p.m., an officer went to the home of the suspect he believed Ryley was. The resident was there, so the officers drove Ryley back to the detachment. 

The first officer would later tell ASIRT he did not arrest Ryley "only because" he thought he was the man known to police. 

"He said he would have arrested anyone who was acting in that way, who was intoxicated, and who was bothering other users of the park," Block wrote. 

During the drive to the detachment, Ryley "kicked the door and hit his head against the partition between the seats repeatedly," according to the ASIRT report. 

The teen was left uncuffed in a cell, where he pounded his fists on the door and hit his head on the cell door four times. 

Twenty minutes later, five officers and two paramedics entered the cell and kept Ryley on the ground by kneeling on him. 

Block reported the paramedics refused to speak to ASIRT, but medical records show Ryley was sedated then. 

He was taken to hospital at 7:26 p.m. and reunited a short while later with his family, who had reported him missing. 

The incident is also being examined by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.