‘I couldn’t control myself’: Man with epilepsy accused of assaulting police officer

The 52-year-old former plumber started suffering from seizures more than a decade ago

Edmonton Journal 2 minute read January 9, 2020

Gary Sampley, executive director of the Edmonton Epilepsy Association, left, stands with Neil Ryley, who faces two charges of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, outside of the Edmonton courthouse on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020. Jeff Labine / Postmedia

Epileptic seizures have cost Neil Ryley nearly everything.

The 52-year-old former plumber started suffering from seizures more than a decade ago and said the neurological condition has led to him losing his job, his house and nearly losing his wife. The two separated for a time but have since come back together.

“It was hard,” he said. “It was really, really hard. When this happened, I had a brand new house, I was working as a plumber, I was in the union and my life was going good. I was doing well.”

Ryley’s seizures are also at the centre of legal action against him.

He’s charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest related to an incident at his home in 2016. He said he was suffering from a seizure at the time when his wife tried to call for an ambulance.

Two police officers arrived instead.

The officers went into Ryley’s room to talk to him because he had been screaming out the window prior to their arrival. The three spoke but as the officers turned to leave, Ryley attempted to close the door behind them.

When one of the officers attempted to block the door from closing, Ryley said that just set him off.

“I grabbed both sides of the doorframe and I lunged forward and I headbutted him right in his face,” he said.

“I broke his nose. The emergency call goes out. My wife said they sent at least 10 cop cars there. They were trying to get a hold of me (but) they just couldn’t do it. They couldn’t control me because I couldn’t control myself.

“It’s hard to talk about. I was fighting with them and fighting with them. They couldn’t get a hold of me so they started thumping on me and stomping on me, twisting my arms. Finally, they got me out.”

After several delays, Ryley’s trail was supposed to get started on Monday but the court decided to hold off until Ryley could find a lawyer. Crown prosecutor Maxine Bond argued Ryley’s defence, which relies on him not being in a right state of mind, was legally complicated and, to ensure he has a fair trial, she suggested he find another lawyer.

The judge agreed on the condition Ryley waive his rights to ask to have the trial dismissed because it took too long. This is known as a Jordan application.

Ryley agreed. His next court appearance is on Jan. 24.

jlabine@postmedia.com | Twitter.com/jefflabine