Retrial ordered in case where Winnipeg police officers found to have assaulted family in hotel room
Manitoba Court of Appeal says trial judge overlooked evidence in 2019 decision against city, police officer
WARNING: This story contains graphic images.
The Manitoba Court of Appeal is ordering a retrial of a case after finding a judge overlooked police evidence in awarding $100,000 to a family who accused officers assaulting them in their hotel room eight years ago.
In their Oct. 11 decision, the appeal court justices found a judge with what was then Court of Queen's Bench made a "palpable and overriding error" in his 2019 decision, which ruled police unlawfully entered the hotel room of the Beaulieu family in 2014.
Justice Jeffrey Harris awarded the Beaulieu family more than $100,000 in damages in their civil lawsuit against the City of Winnipeg and a police officer, saying they were victims of "malicious" conduct by Winnipeg police officers.
The city appealed.
"[Harris's] finding that the entry was unlawful grounded each of his conclusions," says the appeal court decision from justices Freda M. Steel, Diana M. Cameron and Janice L. leMaistre.
"Therefore his findings regarding the officers' credibility and the lawfulness of the entry materially affected the result of the trial and resulted in a substantial wrong."
The Beaulieu family sued the City of Winnipeg and Const. James William Macumber, one of the four officers they said was involved in an incident at the Clarion hotel in Winnipeg on Dec. 26, 2014.
- Winnipeg police officers tried to cover up actions after family assaulted in hotel room, judge rules
Ola and Andrew Beaulieu took their children Kyra, 18, and Kyuss, 16, along with Kyra's 18-year-old friend, for a stay at the hotel as a late Christmas present.
Court heard that police arrived after a guest and hotel staff called 911, claiming the family was causing a disturbance — particularly Andrew, who had been drinking.
The officers there that day — Macumber, Patrol Sgt. Darren Cote, Const. Michelle Degroot and Const. Gary Douglas Powell — said at trial they were initially called about a disturbance, but became concerned for the well-being of minors in the room after they arrived.
Two short videos were considered during trial, including one Kyra recorded that showed police entering the hotel room, alleging people there were smoking marijuana. Someone is heard saying "don't touch my camera" and the video then ends.
Questioning police credibility
In May 2019, Justice Harris questioned why police didn't seem to check on the well-being of the children as soon as they entered, saying that "seriously undermines the credibility" of their accounts.
He ruled police entered the room unlawfully and used excessive force.
Kyra was thrown onto a table and police hit Andrew and Ola, leaving Ola with a concussion, a broken nose and other injuries, court heard at the civil trial.
Harris also found police lied about what happened and laid charges against the family members to cover their actions. In his May 2019 decision, he ordered more than $97,000 in damages be paid to the three family members for "malicious and high-handed" actions by the officers.
In September 2019, he ordered the city to pay thousands more in damages for privacy violations and false imprisonment. He also ruled the city would have to cover the family's legal fees.
Between the two rulings, the family was awarded more than $100,000.
But the appeal court justices suggested Harris missed "crucial evidence" supporting information known to officers, and that he was "erroneously led to believe" the officers fabricated testimony about their concerns for the well-being of the minors.
Evidence 'misconstrued': appeal court
The justices suggested notes from Const. Powell, and a use of force summary, could have provided more context at trial for assessing officer credibility.
"The evidence supports the position that [Harris] misconstrued material evidence when he concluded the entry [of police into the hotel room] was unlawful," the judges state.
They suggested Harris "disregarded, without any analysis," other evidence, including call history and testimony on Andrew Beaulieu's conduct.
Call history suggests officers were told about an intoxicated man causing a disturbance who was let into a room by his children, which was followed by yelling, court documents state.
At trial, Kyra Beaulieu testified Andrew was intoxicated and her friend said he was "rowdy" and "upset." Andrew said he got into a "heated" exchange with hotel staff.
Powell had an exchange with Andrew in the hall before entering. Powell testified that he repeated to Andrew that officers had concerns about marijuana use and the well-being of children they believed were inside the suite.
Patrol Sgt. Cote and Const. De Groot reiterated concerns about minors before entering, the judges say, and one officer said they could see young people in the room through the door.
WATCH | Video recorded during the Dec. 26, 2014, incident:
The appeal court judges said the two videos at trial, totalling 30 seconds, didn't start until after police entered the room and weren't sufficient for Harris to fairly conclude they contradicted police testimony.
Harris also found the videos suggested family members "were calm" — something the appeal judges disagreed with.
"The videos clearly depict both Andrew and the daughter yelling at the police. They also show Andrew's aggression, the friend approaching Macumber and becoming increasingly insistent with him, and Ola yelling at Macumber and grabbing his arm," the appeals judges wrote.
They argued a "miscarriage of justice" occurred and said a new trial is needed that includes a review of police notes, a use of force report and other details from officers.
Lawyer Ian Histed, who represented the Beaulieus at trial, said Wednesday he was disappointed and declined to comment further.
A spokesperson said the City of Winnipeg is reviewing the decision before determining next steps.