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Kelowna kicking cop trial to focus on officer’s beliefs

Don Plant, Kelowna, B.C. (Kelowna Daily Courier) – What RCMP Const. Geoff Mantler knew and believed before he kicked Buddy Tavares in the head will be the keystone of his defence when his case goes to trial next year.

The Kelowna officer, who was suspended without pay after the Jan. 7 arrest, is expected to argue his actions were reasonable considering his impression of Tavares before he attacked him that morning.

Police weren’t just reacting to a complaint that a man was shooting geese at a golf course, said Mantler’s lawyer Neville McDougall.

“They were responding to much more than that,” he said in court Thursday. “(If) it was reasonable, Const. Mantler was protected under the (Criminal) Code.”

Dozens of witnesses saw Mantler order Tavares out of his truck at gunpoint and boot him in the head as he knelt on all fours. A Kelowna reporter recorded the incident on a video phone. The footage was widely viewed online across Canada.

“It’s a notorious case. We’ve all seen the video ad nauseam,” McDougall told Judge Ellen Burdett in a pre-trial conference. “What I want to know is, ‘What were you knowing? What were you thinking?’ . . . Then you go to reasonableness.”

The Crown is trying to find a specialist on appropriate use of force in an arrest. Prosecutor Will Burrows has asked Abbotsford police, who investigated the incident, to provide an expert from any police agency in B.C. They’ve yet to recommend anyone, he said.

The chatter among officers on the police radio that morning will also play a role at the trial. RCMP were chasing Tavares for 10 minutes before the arrest, court heard.

Investigators never asked Mantler for an interview. He wrote a police report outlining his role in the arrest.

“He thought he needed to control (Tavares) and he did,” Burrows said.

Mantler has said he didn’t know Tavares was recovering from a brain injury after a motorcycle crash last summer. The blow on Jan. 7 set him back so he couldn’t play piano or work, Tavares said.

Mantler is charged with assault causing bodily harm.

The Crown is expected to call five officers and up to 40 civilians to testify at trial. Eleven people at a nearby bank branch ran to a window and watched the arrest. Burrows wants to pare them down to four.

Instead of calling a doctor, the Crown will ask Tavares to testify about his injuries.

McDougall plans to call six witnesses, all RCMP officers. He has yet to see the original, unedited version of the video footage, but said he won’t contest its authenticity.

Burdett set the trial for three weeks. An out-of-town judge will hear the case because a local judge may know police witnesses, causing a possible conflict.

Lawyers must now set a date for the trial, which may happen next fall.

Mantler is already scheduled for a two-day trial in June on a charge of causing bodily harm to Manjit Singh Bhatti on Aug. 30 last year.

Bhatti was riding his bicycle downtown when police arrested him. Five witnesses will testify for the Crown.

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Categories: Excessive use of Force, Mounties Breaking The Law, Mounties Charged.

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