Edmonton·Video

Edmonton police officer says he repeatedly punched Indigenous man because he feared for safety 

An Edmonton police officer testified Tuesday he repeatedly punched an Indigenous man —who was lying face-first on the ground — as hard as he could because he feared for his safety. 

Indigenous man initially stopped because he had no bell on bike

VIdeo of part of the arrest is being used in court. (Name witheld)

An Edmonton police officer testified Tuesday he repeatedly punched an Indigenous man —who was lying face-first on the ground — as hard as he could because he feared for his safety. 

Const. Curtis McCargar was testifying in the second day of the assault trial of fellow squad member Const. Michael Partington. Provincial Court Judge Peter Ayotte is presiding.

Partington was charged in June 2020 after a citizen recorded him violently kneeing Eliot McLeod in the back as McCargar held him down.

McCargar told court that he was patrolling near 115 Avenue and 95 Street on Aug. 27, 2019, when he spotted McLeod riding on the sidewalk with a bike that did not appear to have a bell or horn, which is a bylaw infraction.

McCargar said it was a beautiful day and there were many people on the sidewalks. His main concern, he said, was ensuring the safety of the bike rider and pedestrians. 

He said he had reasonable cause to believe McLeod had committed an offence so he pulled up to him and asked his name.

"From the moment I dealt with Mr. McLeod, he was immediately argumentative," McCargar said. 

Watch | Bystander's video shows McLeod's violent arrest: 

Crown investigating Edmonton Police Service arrest video

1 year ago
1:41
A video circulating on social media shows an Edmonton police officer dropping his knee into the back of a man lying on the ground in August 2019. 1:41

McLeod eventually gave him a name, and McCargar ran it through the police computer systems but nothing came back, which McCargar said was extremely unusual. 

McLeod then took off on his bike. McCargar testified he believed he had reasonable and probable grounds that McLeod was obstructing his investigation.

The constable gave chase and drove his cruiser over the curb and onto the sidewalk in front of McLeod's bike. 

In testimony Monday, McLeod said he had to swerve to avoid the cruiser and flew off his bike. But McCargar testified he got out of the cruiser, sprinted and grabbed McLeod by the back of his shirt, pulled him off the bike and leapt on his back as he lay prone on the ground.

'I was hitting him to gain compliance': officer

A witness who recorded the incident from that moment forward testified on Monday that McLeod did not struggle or resist. McCargar however, said McLeod attempted to twist toward him and McCargar punched him on the right cheek. 

McLeod, he said, then put his hands in his front waistband. Fearing he may have a weapon, McCargar said he punched McLeod in the back of the head three or four times.

"I was hitting him to gain compliance," McCargar said. "So I was hitting him as hard as I could."

During testimony, McCargar characterized his interaction with McLeod as a desperate fight in which he feared he would be injured. After punching McLeod, he said he felt a burning in his right hand and realized he had injured it. 

He said he didn't know if he could deliver more strikes to McLeod or retrieve his pepper spray or gun, if necessary, to protect himself. He said he had no clue when the back up he had previously radioed for assistance would arrive.

In contrast, McLeod testified on Monday that once McCargar knocked him off his bike he immediately put his hands behind his back because he knew was caught, a version of events echoed by the civilian witness who recorded the incident with his cell phone. 

McCargar testified that when Partington arrived, he walked up quickly and delivered a knee strike to McLeod's back.

In the recording played in court, McLeod can be heard screaming in pain and begging for them to stop.

"Once constable Partington had delivered the knee strike we were able to get him secured with handcuffs," McCargar said. "Then I knew I was safe."

McCargar was the Crown's final witness. He was never charged in the incident. The defence will begin presenting its case on Wednesday. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Charles Rusnell

Investigative reporter

Charles Rusnell is a reporter with CBC Investigates, the award-winning investigative unit of CBC Edmonton. His journalism in the public interest is widely credited with forcing accountability, transparency and democratic change in Alberta. Send tips in confidence to cbcinvestigates@cbc.ca. and follow him on Twitter@charlesrusnell

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