Alistair Waters (Vernon Morning Star) – The case against a Kelowna RCMP officer accused of assaulting a Prince George man downtown two years ago wrapped up Tuesday without the Mountie’s lawyer presenting any evidence or calling his client to testify.
In a surprising move, Cont. Geoff Mantler’s lawyer, Neville McDougall, announced he would not be presenting any evidence when Crown counsel Will Burrows finished presenting the case for the prosecution.
Mantler, who grew up in Armstrong, is accused of assaulting Manjeet Bhatti in the early hours of August 2010, after Mantler and his partner, Const. Rick Goodwin, saw what Goodwin testified were two men conducting a drug deal in a parking lot behind the Toronto Dominion Bank on Ellis Street.
Bhatti, an admitted drug addict, said he was buying two rocks of crack cocaine at the time. He testified he fled on a bicycle when he felt he was going to be robbed by the men — he said there was more than one — and encountered Goodwin and Mantler in a marked police cruiser as he fled.
Goodwin testified that Bhatti was told to stop because he was not wearing a bike helmet but swore at the officer and pedalled away. He was located a short time later by the officers on Harvey Avenue.
Bhatti maintains he was hit in the head, either by Mantler’s fist or elbow, as he was handcuffed and waiting to be put into the back of the police cruiser.
The blow, he said, knocked him to the ground and broke his glasses.
On the stand Tuesday, Goodwin said he was the one who grabbed Bhatti and pushed him up against the car after Bhatti held up his hands, saying he was surrendering.
Within seconds, he said, Mantler jumped out of the cruiser and came around the car to help him cuff Bhatti. It was then that Bhatti claims he was hit.
But Goodwin, said he did not see Mantler hit Bhatti and, contrary to Bhatti’s claim, there was no blood pouring out of the arrested man’s nose when he talked to him in the back of the police car.
Goodwin testified his partner was calm on the night in question and he lost sight of Mantler and Bhatti just once, for less than a minute, as he picked up Bhatti’s bicycle and placed it in the trunk of the police car.
He said he found Bhatti’s broken glasses on the ground and tried to fix them before giving them back to arrested man in the back of the police car. He said it was then that Bhatti asked Goodwin why he beat him up.
“I told him I didn’t,” said Goodwin.
During his testimony, Goodwin said Bhatti’’s injury and broken glasses could have occurred when he pushed Bhatti up against the police car. Goodwin has not been charged with any crime.
In his summation, McDougall said the Crown had not proven Mantler hit Bhatti and Goodwin testified that he did not see Mantler hit Bhatti.
When Bhatti asked for medical assistance back at the police station, Goodwin told Mantler who, video shows, went into the cell to talk to Bhatti for about 30 seconds. He also passed on Bhatti’s accusation that he had been beaten by an officer to the watch commander, which is protocol.
However, despite a complaint launched against Mantler by Bhatti a short time later, the officer did not provide a written statement to police investigators for 65 days, and only after consulting with a lawyer, according to Cpl. Jason Arnold, the officer tasked with looking into the complaint.
“At the end of the day, if you’re not sure what to believe, the law is clear, you must acquit Const. Mantler,” McDougall told Judge Mark Takahashi.
Takahashi will render a decision in about 10 days time.
FG_AUTHORS: RCMP Watch