The RCMP officer charged with assault causing bodily harm for kicking a suspect in the face in Kelowna, B.C., has pleaded guilty in the midst of his trial.

Const. Geoff Mantler's lawyer entered the plea in a Kelowna courtroom Wednesday, the same day Mantler was scheduled to testify. As the day's proceedings began, Mantler's lawyer told the court his client had decided to enter a guilty plea.

Mantler kicked weapons suspect Buddy Tavares in the face while the man was on his knees in a January 2011 incident caught on video, which immediately went viral on the internet.

The video showed Tavares on his knees, as instructed by Mantler, and moving to get down on his hands when Mantler kicked him, causing Tavares to collapse to the pavement, his face bleeding.

The central issue of the trial was whether the kick was justified under the circumstances or constituted an assault.

Police had been seeking Tavares following reports of a man firing a rifle at a golf course, and the court had been told police were warned the suspect might be dangerous.

The court was adjourned after the sudden change in plea and a sentencing hearing is expected to begin in the new year.

Outside the court, Tavares said he was disappointed but philosophical about Mantler's change of plea.

"I've been waiting a long time man, years, to hear why he did that. I'm not going to hear it. Well, let 'er go. Move on."

Tavares also said he believed Mantler had run out of options.

"You tread water as long you can. But then you eventually drown. I think he was at that point. He was drowning. I don't think he wanted to get on the stand and explain say what happened. Well, how the hell do you say that? You can't."

 

 

With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan