Abbotsford police are recommending that an assault charge be laid against a B.C. RCMP officer who was videotaped kicking a seemingly co-operative suspect in the face during an arrest, the force said Sunday.
Investigators haven’t submitted their report to the Crown but they are already revealing they will recommend that the arresting officer be charged with assault for his involvement in the Jan. 7 arrest of Buddy Tavares in Kelowna, B.C.
The Crown, however, still has to review the file and make the final decision on whether to pursue charges against the officer.
The announcement occurred shortly before roughly 300 people participated in a protest in Kelowna against alleged “police brutality,” which officials originally feared could get out of hand.
During a brief appearance at the rally, Tavares said he’s fortunate his arrest was caught on tape. He called the experience “mindboggling.”
The protest, meanwhile, didn’t contain the type of revolt that police were worried about. The event lasted about 40 minutes and was peaceful.
Concerns about civil disobedience were raised on Saturday when the head of the Kelowna RCMP detachment, Supt. Bill McKinnon, appealed for calm at the protest.
McKinnon said comments he had read online made him fear that the peaceful march from a city park to the RCMP detachment would turn violent.
The encounter between Tavares and police unfolded in public when two RCMP officers pulled over his pickup truck.
Video shot by a bystander across the street shows Tavares getting out of his truck with his hands in the air. Both officers have their guns drawn and one officer kicks the man in the face as he is getting on the ground.
Abbotsford police spokesman Const. Ian MacDonald said investigators spoke to about 40 witnesses and examined the video that was viewed thousands of times on YouTube.
“That video was a very compelling piece of evidence, we used it regularly,” MacDonald said. “But I don’t want to discount the eye witnesses, either. We were pleasantly surprised that we had the full support of residents of Kelowna.”
To avoid a conflict of interest, the RCMP asked members of the Abbotsford Police Service to investigate the matter. But Mounties are conducting their own internal code of conduct investigation, which is separate from the criminal probe.
Police stopped Tavares after gunshots were fired at a Kelowna-area golf course. The 51-year-old man is on leave from his job at the golf course while recovering from a brain injury suffered in a recent motorcycle crash.
Tavares said he was asked by his employer to use a shotgun to scare geese off the greens.
The RCMP later charged Tavares with careless use of a firearm. When he was released from police custody, he had a black eye and several scrapes on his face.
The officer involved in the arrest, Const. Geoff Mantler, has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.
Residents have been demanding action against the officer.
Speaking at a press conference, McKinnon made it clear that he understands the public’s concern over the incident.
“I want to assure the public that senior members of the RCMP hear loud and clear what the general public’s views are in relation to the video that has been shown across the country and is readily accessible on the Internet,” McKinnon said as he read from a prepared statement.
McKinnon urged everyone to allow the legal process to continue.
This isn’t the first time Mounties’ actions caught on tape have spurred public anger.
In October 2007, four Mounties were caught on video jolting Robert Dziekanski with a police Taser.
Dziekanski died on the floor of the arrivals area at Vancouver International Airport.
With files from The Canadian Press