Manitoba

Family assaulted by Winnipeg police officers awarded additional damages

A family who won a lawsuit against the City of Winnipeg and one of its police officers has been awarded additional damages and legal costs — another damning decision following what a judge called "malicious" conduct by four city police officers.

Family will receive more than $100K in damages after 2014 incident involving police at Winnipeg hotel

Members of the Beaulieu family, including Kyra, left, and Ola, right, have been awarded more than $100,000 by a judge after he found they had been assaulted by Winnipeg police officers in 2014. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

A family who won a lawsuit against the City of Winnipeg and one of its police officers has been awarded additional damages and legal costs — another damning decision following what a judge called "malicious" conduct by four city police officers.

The Beaulieu family sued the City of Winnipeg and one of the four officers involved in a 2014 incident at a Winnipeg hotel, during which they said they were assaulted by the officers.

In a ruling delivered last May, a Manitoba judge found the four police officers unlawfully entered the hotel room, assaulted three members of the family, and then covered up their actions — conduct he called "high-handed" and "egregious" in his ruling. He awarded more than $90,000 in damages at that point.

Now, Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jeffrey Harris has awarded thousands of dollars in additional damages, saying the family's privacy was violated and one family member, Kyra, was falsely imprisoned after the incident.

Harris also ruled the city will have to pay the family's legal fees, citing the police officers' behaviour during the initial trial as the reason for his decision.

"The conduct of the [police officers] during this litigation was reprehensible," Justice Harris wrote in his decision, delivered on Sept. 11, saying the officers lied about what had happened that night in order to put the blame on the Beaulieu family.

With these additional costs, the family will, in total, be awarded more than $100,000 — an amount the city's lawyer said will be one of the largest the City of Winnipeg has ever had to pay because of police conduct.

Officers lied about events: judge

The case dates back to Dec. 26, 2014, when Ola and Andrew Beaulieu took their two children — Kyra, 18, and Kyuss, 16 — along with Kyra's 18-year-old friend for a stay at a Winnipeg Clarion hotel as a late Christmas present.

Police arrived after staff and a hotel patron called 911, saying the family — and in particular Andrew, who had been drinking — was causing a disturbance.

Cellphone video recorded by the family showed the four officers arriving at the door of the hotel room.

In his ruling, the judge said the four officers — Const. Gary Douglas Powell, Const. James William Macumber, Patrol Sgt. Darren Cote and Const. Michelle Degroot — unlawfully entered the room, without a proper reason or warrant to do so.

Kyra Beaulieu recorded video when four Winnipeg officers entered her family's hotel room on Dec. 26, 2014. The footage shows that the lead-up to police officers assaulting three family members was very different from what officers described and led a Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench justice to find the actions by the officers "egregious." 0:10

The judge found the officers then proceeded to remove the family's phones so their actions couldn't be recorded.

Justice Harris said the officers used excessive force when they threw Kyra, who was pregnant, onto a table, and hit both Ola and Andrew.

The incident left Ola with a concussion, a fractured nose and swelling so severe she couldn't open her mouth for a week.

Lawyer Ian Histed provided this photo of Ola Beaulieu, who was hit several times by a Winnipeg police officer in Dec. 26, 2014 incident. The judge ruled the officer used an unreasonable amount of force on her. (Submitted by Ian Histed)

"It is clear from the evidence that the plaintiffs were traumatized by the events that unfolded after the police officers entered their hotel room. Indeed, it is difficult to consider a more egregious invasion of privacy," Harris wrote.

Harris also ruled the police officers lied about what happened, fabricating a story and laying charges to justify their actions.

"The police officer relied upon and repeated that fabrication when they testified under oath in court. It is difficult to consider conduct which could be more reprehensible," Harris wrote.

"The city has to pay the full bill," the family's lawyer, Ian Histed, said Wednesday. "They showed up in court, and in the face of video evidence, lied."

Histed said most civil cases involving police misconduct settle out of court.

Following the lawsuit decision from May, the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba — the civilian oversight agency which investigates incidents involving police — announced it would look into the case.

In an email, a spokesperson for Winnipeg Police Service said three of the officers remain employed, while the fourth has since retired. Police would not respond to a request about whether the three officers are on active duty. 

The City of Winnipeg would not comment on the case, citing the fact that the matter is before the court.

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca