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Kelowna RCMP officer stands trial in kicking incident

Buddy Tavares, the man kicked in face by a Kelowna RCMP officer in an arrest that was caught on video, describes the moment he was stopped at gunpoint by Const. Geoff Mantler as "most unnerving moment I've ever had."

Tavares was recounting the moments of his arrest on Jan. 7, 2011 in a Kelowna courtroom yesterday during the opening day of Mantler's trial on a charge of assault causing bodily harm to Tavares.

That January morning, Tavares, who had recently been released from hospital after a motorcycle accident he was not expected to survive, stopped by his former workplace.

Tavares stopped in at the Harvest Golf Club and chatted with an employee before going to the second fairway to fire off a shotgun to scare the geese away.

It is something Tavares had done many times before, he testified.

After completing the task, Tavares drove toward the courthouse to deal with an issue related to his marital separation when he noticed a police vehicle do a U-turn at Gordon Drive and KLO Road.

Soon after, as he neared Pandosy Street, he spotted police lights in his rear view mirror and pulled over to let the vehicle pass, Tavares testified.

"I thought he was going where the other cops were going," the now 53-year-old said.

Instead, he found himself staring at a police officer who had trained his gun on him.

The officer told him to keep his hands on the wheel. "If one comes off, I will shoot you," Tavares recalls the officer saying.

"I froze, I did not move," said Tavares.

"Had you ever had a gun pointed at you before?" asked Crown counsel William Burrows.

"Never," said Tavares. "[It was the] most unnerving moment I've ever had."

"I asked him, 'what did I do?'" testified Tavares.

The officer did not respond to the question and soon asked Tavares to take his right had off the wheel and unfasten his seat belt--a command Tavares found to be a "loaded statement" in light of the officer's earlier command to not move.

Tavares said he was "not quick" as he got out of the vehicle.

The officer told him to get on the ground and Tavares said he got on his knees before placing his hands on the ground.

"What's your next recollection?" asked Burrows.

"Being placed in the back of a police car."

Earlier, the court heard from video journalist Kelly Hayes, who captured video of Tavares' arrest.

Hayes testified that as Tavares was about to put his hands on the pavement, Mantler "took some steps toward him and then he kicked him in the face."

Prior to the kick, Hayes testified that he heard Mantler tell Tavares to "get on the ground...at least five times."

Hayes testified he couldn't recall the content of Mantler's commands to Tavares prior to him getting out of the truck.

Under cross examination, Hayes was also questioned about whether he saw Tavares raise or lower his hands at any point during the arrest.

Looking at still frames from the video, Hayes said Tavares' hands appear to come down a bit while while in the truck, and appear to rise for a moment when he is in the process of dropping to all fours, just prior to the kick.

Outside court, Tavares indicated he wasn't confident that the truth would come out during the trial.

"This is a dog and pony show," he said.

Mantler's trial is expected to last two weeks. He is currently suspended without pay.

 

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