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Casino security guard saves Nanaimo RCMP officer

 Warni Fernando, a casino security guard in Nanaimo, is being credited with saving a Nanaimo RCMP officer. - TOBY GORMAN/The News Bulletin
Warni Fernando, a casino security guard in Nanaimo, is being credited with saving a Nanaimo RCMP officer.
— image credit: TOBY GORMAN/The News Bulletin

Ten seconds.

That's the amount of time Great Canadian Casinos security guard Warni Fernando estimates it could have taken for an RCMP officer to be overtaken by her attacker and seriously injured or even killed after he lost sight of them.

Fernando, 28, was on duty at the front of the Great Canadian Casino in Nanaimo at around 7 p.m. Thursday when an altercation broke out between the female RCMP officer and a 'victim' she had been called to help.

The RCMP received a phone call just moments earlier about an assault at 620 Terminal Ave. Upon her arrival, the officer was attacked in the police car by the 'victim'. The battle continued outside the police cruiser, where the attacker punched her several times in the stomach and head and, according to police, tried to remove her firearm from its holster.

When the pair fell to the ground out of Fernando's sight behind parked cars, he took action.

"I was able to see what was taking place inside the cruiser," said Fernando, who has been with the casino as a security guard for 18 months. "After the struggle continued they both fell down to the ground out of my sight. When I lost that visual,  I had to assess the situation before I made any move."

Protocol for casino security mandates that a security guard can only leave his post once a replacement arrives. Casino security had already called police for assistance.

Sonja Mandic, a spokeswoman for the casino company, said once the situation unfolded, Fernando was on the radio and a replacement was there in seconds so he could assist the officer.

"The replacement was instantaneous," she said. "It was a team effort."

Fernando said he had no idea what the situation would be or if any weapons were in use.

He quickly approached the attacker, put him in an arm bar, and held him in the handcuff position until more police arrived on the scene, which he says was "very fast."

Nobody else assisted in subduing the attacker, who police say may have lured the officer to the scene with a false assault complaint.

Fernando didn't want to speculate on the attacker's position regarding the gun, but he did say the police officer was left vulnerable trying to keep her gun in its holster during the assault.

He called the attack extremely violent.

"Things could have gone really wrong," said Fernando. "If he was able to grab the weapon, it could have been much worse. Those 10 or 15 seconds could have changed a life. But when a person is in need you help them."

Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong, Nanaimo RCMP spokeswoman, told the News Bulletin Fernando's actions likely saved the officer's life.

"If it wasn't for him, she thinks she could have lost her life," said Armstrong. "Without his intervention we don't know what the result would have been because he was really attached to her gun."

Fernando said the police officer did not ask him to stand clear once the situation was under control because the RCMP is aware of the training casino security guards have, which includes handcuff use and take-down methods.

He said he has never been involved in a situation like this.

"We try to avoid these kinds of situations but when you have to you step in and let your training take over."

The 13-year RCMP veteran was treated and released from Nanaimo Regional General Hospital with minor cuts and bruising to her face and hands.

Charged with assaulting a police officer and attempting to disarm a police officer is Jason Joseph Speare, 39. He remains in police custody.

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