In a surprise move, the Kelowna RCMP officer caught on video kicking Buddy Tavares in the head during an arrest has pleaded guilty.
The change in plea came Wednesday afternoon, after a Kelowna courtroom had filled to hear the defence begin to call its case in the Const. Geoff Mantler trial.
Instead, defence lawyer Neville McDougall asked for Mantler’s plea of not guilty to be “expunged” and a plea of guilty entered to the charge of assault causing bodily harm.
The charge stems from a Jan. 7, 2011, arrest where Mantler kicked Tavares in the head after ordering him out of his truck while investigating a shots fired complaint.
The court heard that Tavares was complying with Mantler’s commands and was going down on all fours when the blow was delivered to his head. (Police were later told by Tavares that he had been firing shots to scare off geese at a local golf course).
For Tavares, 53, the guilty plea means he won’t hear from Mantler why the officer decided to kick him that day.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to hear why he did that. I’m not going to hear that,” said Tavares. “That’s why I’ve been hanging around.”
And while the guilty plea was surprising, Tavares didn’t see how the case could have ended without Mantler, now 29, being held responsible for the kick.
“How do you explain that? You can’t. You tread water as long as you can, but then you eventually drown,” Tavares said. “I think he was at the point he was drowning.”
What frustratesTavares more is Mantler’s potential sentence.
The Crown has indicated to the Tavares family that they will be seeking upwards of 18 months house arrest, said Tavares’ sister Pam Weiher.
The courts, said Tavares, have an opportunity to “make an example here.”
He says “nothing” ever happens to police found guilty of misconduct and hopes the judge will send a message with his sentence. “Let’s see if he takes the opportunity or if he says, ‘Go home and watch TV again.’”
Tavares also said it is “staggering” how much taxpayer money was spent on the case, which was in its eighth day of trial when the guilty plea came. Sentencing will happen at a later date, and when it happens, Tavares said he will not be there.
“I’ve had it with Mantler, I’ve had it with everything. I’m leaving,” said Tavares, who heads to Mexico Thursday.
His sister said Mantler finally did the “right thing” with his guilty plea and said she’d like to see Mantler resign from the RCMP.
He’s currently suspended without pay. A civil suit is pending, she added.
Mantler had no comment as he left court.