Infamous Kelowna cop Geoff Mantler was in court Monday to face one of the men who accused him of assault.
Manjeet Singh Bhatti, 36, alleges he was the victim of a surprise attack from Const. Mantler Aug. 30 2010, over the course of an arrest. Charges were officially laid the following March, but until this week few details of the conflict were made public.
According to testimony offered in court, the Prince George resident, who was in Kelowna several times that summer to help a friend move to the city, had ridden a broken-down, borrowed bike downtown late that night to get the lay of the land.
In short order, Bhatti said he was buying two crack rocks for a grand total of $40 and smoking them with a woman he’d met earlier.
The last rock was smoked at about midnight, and within an hour the high had passed, and Bhatti was on the hunt for more.
“Up near the TD bank there were three people and I tried to buy some dope,” he said.
They lingered around the parking lot for a while, and then two of the group walked with Bhatti down an alleyway to make the transaction.
It was just after 1 a.m., when things went awry.
“I saw something suspicious … I thought I’d get robbed,” he said, noting he turned around on his bike and high-tailed it out of the alley.
Head down, pedalling as fast as he could, Bhatti said he passed a car and heard someone yell; “hey, stop.”
He testified that he didn’t want to stop while he was evading a potential robbery, and replied, “no, I’m driving to the store.”
He then hung a left and was on Harvey Avenue driving against traffic.
“Then I saw the red and blue lights,” he said. “I was using my feet on the ground to slow down… so I stopped.”
Mid road, Bhatti got the bike to stop, it dropped to the ground between his legs and he lifted his arms into the air.
A police officer—who he identified as Mantler’s partner—put his hands behind his back and brought him to the car in a “normal” fashion.
Bhatti, who is five-foot-11 and at that time under 120 lbs, was then cuffed and that police officer went to the bike from the road.
“About 10 to 15 seconds after the first cop left, I heard, ‘stomp, stomp, stomp,” Bhatti said, noting that’s how he became aware of Mantler.
“From the back of the car, he was moving fast… running. I turned my head to the right and I was hit with something.. a fist or an elbow.”
The hit was hard enough to shatter his glasses, and knock him to the ground.
Blood, he testified, was running down his nose and onto the ground. He claims the knock caused his eye to swell shut for the following four weeks, causing headaches and impacting his vision.
“I said nothing at the time, I was lying on the ground,” he said, noting he was “obeying orders.”
The other officer appeared, and helped Bhatti into the car and found him his glasses.
“The one who hit me (left) to see if I’d thrown something,” he said, noting that they claimed he’d ditched something during the pursuit, despite his assertions otherwise.
In the back of the car, Bhatti asked Mantler’s partner why he’d hit him and was told to ask Mantler when he got back.
“So I did ask him,” he said. “He said, ‘because you’re a stupid crack-head Hindu’ and he kept calling me a goof. ‘Goof’ this and ‘goof’ that.”
Mantler, Bhatti testified, was noticeably angry.
And he was in pain. Bhatti said he requested medical intervention for his injury, but it wasn’t forthcoming.
“I kept complaining,” he said.
Despite the arrest and brief stay in custody, no charges were laid. He left the detachment with $600 in fines, for things like not wearing a helmet.
The next day, he went for medical help at a local clinic, then returned to the detachment to make a statement about his injury.
RCMP Sgt. Wade Severson works for the branch of the local police detachment that deals with such issues, and took Bhatti’s complaint that day.
Severson testified the impact of the hit to Bhatti’s eye was evident. He was clearly getting the early stages of a shiner by the time they met up nine hours later.
Although he took Bhatti’s statement, Severson left the file for 30 days and it didn’t become a criminal matter until three months later.
Not long after that, Mantler made national headlines for allegedly booting a prone Buddy Tavares’ head on video, during the course of an arrest.
That matter will be in court in November. In the interim, Tavares is keeping up with Mantler’s other legal woes, even going so far as to sit in on Monday’s testimony.
He said he’s been in contact with Bhatti, and they’ve talked about their respective “brutal” beatings.
The trial is expected to continue for one more day.