Officer tells court he didn't intend to hurt Indigenous man he kneed in back

The screams of a man in terrible pain echoed through an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday as a Crown prosecutor played a bystander’s cellphone video of the violent arrest of Indigenous man Elliot McLeod.

Const. Michael Partington never filed use of force report

Const. Michael Partington of the Edmonton Police Service faces an assault charge in relation to a violent August 2019 arrest caught on video. (Submitted)

The screams of a man in terrible pain echoed through an Edmonton courtroom Wednesday as a Crown prosecutor played a bystander's cellphone video of the violent arrest of an Indigenous man.

The video shows Const. Michael Partington striding to where another officer is holding Elliot McLeod on the ground — face down, quiet, hands behind his back. 

Without warning, Partington abruptly drops, the weight of his body driving his knee between McLeod's shoulder blades. McLeod screams and begs for it to stop.

After the video ended, Partington denied the Crown prosecutor's suggestion that he'd intended to hurt McLeod and insisted he never realized he had caused McLeod pain.

"I did not think that what I had done could possibly hurt him," Partington testified on the third day of his assault trial before Provincial Court Judge Peter Ayotte.

WATCH | Cellphone video of arrest:

Crown investigating Edmonton Police Service arrest video

3 years ago
Duration 1:42
Featured VideoA 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.

"Now having watched a video of myself a year after, I can confidently say that it was much harder than I realized," he said, adding that at the time, he "didn't even feel an impact at all."

Partington told court he'd been asked by a superior officer at the scene if he needed to file a use-of-force report. He said no. 

"I could not think of what I had done that would constitute a Category 2 use-of-force report," Partington said.

Crown prosecutor Carla MacPhail questioned him about the police witness report he'd filed, in which the officer stated he had "placed" his knee on McLeod's back. 

Partington also acknowledged omitting information about the bystander who recorded the arrest, saying it hadn't occurred to him that the video might have evidentiary value.

Partington was on patrol on Aug. 27, 2019, when he heard Const. Curtis McCargar tell a police dispatcher that a man on a bike had fled from him near 95th Street and 115th Avenue.

In previous testimony, McCargar said he'd stopped McLeod for riding his bike on the sidewalk without a bell or horn, which is a bylaw infraction. McLeod gave a false name before fleeing.

Less than a minute later, McCargar caught McLeod. The officer pulled him off his bike, jumped on his back and repeatedly punched him in the face and the back of the head. McLeod was not complying, the officer said, and he feared for his safety.

McLeod, however, testified he immediately put his hands behind his back and did not resist, a recounting echoed by the witness who recorded the arrest from the front door of his family's house.   

In his testimony, Partington laid out the same narrative — that McLeod was motivated to resist arrest and would attempt to flee — and that McCargar was having problems.

He said McLeod was "writhing" underneath McCargar, who was holding McLeod's hands with such force that he could see the veins popping out in McCargar's arms.  

Partington said he had seconds to assess the situation.

Partington told court he didn't consider another control technique because he didn't have time and had to act.

"I determined the subject was still resisting and Const. McCargar needed my assistance," he said.

After McLeod was handcuffed, both officers lifted him off the ground. On the video, McCargar can be seen striking McLeod in the back of the head.

McLeod was charged with assaulting a police officer, uttering death threats and resisting arrest. The charges were dropped after the video was provided to police.

McCargar was not charged.

An internal investigation began in August 2019. The Crown charged Partington four days after the video was publicly released in June 2020, posted to social media by a friend of the person who had recorded it.

The trial continues Thursday.