Edmonton

Security guard 'stomped' man in stomach, Edmonton manslaughter trial told

A manslaughter and robbery trial is underway in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench into the July, 2016 death of Donald Doucette. Former private security guard Sheldon Bentley is accused of stomping on the 51-year-old's stomach, causing blunt abdominal trauma and internal bleeding.

‘It’s probably because of my kick that he died,' witness says accused told him

Private security guards Sheldon Bentley and Muhammad Sharma captured on surveillance video in the alley behind Lucky 97 on July 31, 2016. (Court exhibit )

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in July, 2016, Donald Doucette was losing a lifetime battle with addiction. He was drunk and looking for a quiet place to sleep it off.

The 51-year-old died that day from internal bleeding caused by blunt abdominal trauma after he was allegedly stomped in the stomach.

Former security guard Sheldon Bentley has pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and robbery in connection with the attack. His trial began Monday in Edmonton before Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paul Belzil.

Many of the events of the day Doucette died were captured on surveillance video that was entered as evidence on Monday.

Doucette is shown in the video weaving back and forth as he walks down the alley behind the Lucky 97 grocery store at 107th Avenue and 97th Street in central Edmonton.

"He was intoxicated, minding his business," prosecutor Kristen Logan told court. "He rested on a sunny day in an alcove."

Less than a half-hour later, one of Lucky 97's private security guards spotted Doucette sleeping in the alcove and said he tried to wake him up.

Donald Doucette in a 2003 photo supplied by his family. (Supplied)

"I just tapped him a little bit with my foot," Muhammad Sharma testified. "He was sleeping."

When Sharma failed to wake up Doucette, he used his walkie-talkie to call Bentley, his patrol partner, for assistance. Sharma was speaking to a friend on his cell phone when Bentley entered the alley.

Sharma said Bentley smiled at him and asked if anyone was looking.

Before Sharma could answer, Bentley "took his feet and then he stomped on the man's stomach," Sharma testified.

Doucette inhaled loudly and grabbed his stomach, Sharma told court.

The surveillance camera did not capture what happened in the alcove, but Sharma is clearly shown in the middle of the alley recoiling in reaction to the alleged attack.

"I was still on the phone," Sharma said. "I was in shock at what happened."

Muhammad Sharma outside the Edmonton courthouse Monday before testifying at Sheldon Bentley's manslaughter trial. (Janice Johnston/CBC News )

Sharma said he approached Doucette to see if he was OK and was surprised when Bentley took a $20 bill Doucette was clutching in his hand. When Sharma asked him why, Bentley allegedly replied, "He doesn't need it."

'The man that you kicked — he's dead'

Sharma said Bentley told Doucette, "Get up. Come on. I don't have all day," then kicked him in the knee.

According to Sharma, Doucette looked at Bentley and asked, "Why are you so mean?"

"He'd already kicked him once in the stomach. Then he kicked him in the knee," Sharma testified.

"Then he said, 'Now I'm going to kick him in a place where it hurts.' "

Sheldon Bentley eats his lunch outside the Edmonton courthouse Monday during a break in his manslaughter trial. (Janice Johnston/CBC News )

The guards managed to get Doucette to his feet and propped him up as they led him out of the alley to a nearby shady spot. Sharma said Doucette needed help to sit down, but his eyes were open and he didn't appear to be in medical distress.

Sharma said he and Bentley walked away from Doucette and resumed their patrols.

Surveillance video captured Bentley moments later, inside a liquor store.

The prosecutor told court Bentley handed the stolen $20 bill to an employee and asked him to clean it for him, then returned later to pick it up.

Doucette had been lying in the shade for almost an hour when ambulances rushed to the scene.

"I heard sirens then when I looked, I saw them at the exact location where the man was," Sharma said. He immediately let Bentley know.

"I said, 'The man that you kicked — he's dead,' " Sharma testified.

According to Sharma, Bentley responded, "Don't tell them that I kicked him. Because it's probably because of my kick that he died."

Sharma said he was too afraid for his own safety and the safety of his children to go to police immediately.

"He used to carry a whip that he kept in his locker," Sharma testified about Bentley. "He used to have these boots he said he got from a corrections officer. His handcuffs. He did carry a knife with him. I think he had a baton. He had bear spray."

Sharma called his supervisor for advice.

He said the supervisor told him they'd discuss it the next day and commented, "I think I'm probably going to have to fire Sheldon."

Witness called police next day

Sharma told the judge his conscience got the better of him the next morning.

"I was scared, but I consider myself to be a very spiritual person, a man of faith," Sharma said. "So I guess you could say my faith was telling me to do this. Or my conscience."

The trial is expected to last through June 13.

Bentley is free on bail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston was an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father.

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