A university employee who suffered from mental-health issues has been given a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to biting the finger of a police officer and assaulting two other officers.
The decision of provincial court Judge Reginald Harris means that Frank Pacella, 50, will have no criminal record.
Court heard that after being employed at the local university for 25 years, Pacella took a two-month leave from work in May 2018 when he began having difficulty with his concentration and focus. Pacella started to believe he was receiving spiritual messages from God, began performing unusual rituals involving movements and came to believe he was a shaman.
His family intervened and he was taken to see a doctor, and was ultimately diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and put on disability leave.
Around the same time, in September 2018, he entered a Maple Ridge store and started to eat some food that was on sale. When the manager tried to get him to pay for the items, he said that he was a famous YouTube star and had saved the world.
The manager tried to escort Pacella out of the store but he pushed the manager and threatened to kill him. Pacella left the store and headed for an adjacent mall but a police officer confronted him. Pacella grabbed the shoulder straps of the officer’s ballistic vest and tried to kick the female cop. After a protracted struggle, he was taken into custody.
Pacella was taken to hospital in Maple Ridge and later released with a referral to a mental-health team in Vancouver’s West End. Initially he attended the West End clinic on a weekly visit but his visits began to drop as he stabilized and began to have difficulty accepting his diagnosis. He stopped taking his medications and his mental-health problems resurfaced.
In August 2019, he assaulted two Vancouver police officers who had responded to a call of a man dancing in the street with an umbrella. Arriving at the scene, the two female officers found Pacella to be incoherent, yelling and dancing, and talking to non-existent individuals.
Pacella reached for the umbrella on the ground and one of the officers, fearing he might use the umbrella as a weapon, grabbed his arm, resulting in a lengthy struggle involving both cops during which he bit the finger of one of them.
The sentencing hearing was told that Pacella’s family and co-workers were shocked and surprised at the criminal charges.
“Based on the evidence, I am satisfied that Mr. Pacella’s offences were completely out of character and that he was in an acute mental-health crisis when he assaulted the officers,” said Harris.
“I am also satisfied that Mr. Pacella has taken significant steps to address and maintain his mental health, that he has the support of those who are close to him and that they are committed to helping him.”
Pacella, who had no prior criminal record, received a conditional discharge and 24 months of probation. His conditions of probation include that he undergo mental-health treatments as directed.
Source: VANCOUVER SUN