Winnipeg police officer cleared of alleged assault on 12-year-old

Video that appeared to show a Winnipeg officer hitting a 12-year-old boy last year wasn't enough to clearly identify or convict policeman Christian Guyot of assault, a Manitoba judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge rules video of altercation not sufficient to ID Christian Guyot as officer

A judge couldn't determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer in the video was Christian Guyot. In this photo, only the boy's face has been blurred, to protect his identity under a publication ban. (Submitted)

Video that appeared to show a Winnipeg police officer hitting a 12-year-old boy last year wasn't enough to clearly identify or convict Const. Christian Guyot of assault, a Manitoba judge ruled Wednesday.

"We're very delighted with the verdict.… It's been a very stressful year for our client," Hymie Weinstein, one of Guyot's two lawyers, said outside court after the decision.

"Now the nightmare is over for him."

Provincial court Judge Ryan Rolston cleared Guyot of an assault charge the Independent Investigation Unit laid against the veteran member of the Winnipeg Police Service last fall.

Rolston said the officer in the video appeared to show a "shocking degree of lack of self-control." However, a direct view of his face only appeared for a brief moment, so Rolston said he couldn't be 100 per cent certain the officer in the recording was in fact Guyot.

Only one of Brandon Crown attorney Kaley Tschetter's witnesses testified during the trial — the boy and his mother failed to appear and a warrant was issued for the boy Tuesday.

That sole witness, the boy's sister, was unable to identify Guyot in the courtroom Wednesday.

The identity of the boy and other details that could identify him are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The video

The video shown in court and testimony from the boy's sister were key pieces of evidence in Tschetter's case against Guyot.

The Crown attorney walked the sister through the minute-long video in court.

I just think he should of been convicted.- text message from boy's mother

She said her mother had called police for help on Aug. 7, 2017, because her brother was acting out, tipping over a dresser and throwing garbage and other items around and damaging the house.

In the video, two uniformed officers arrive in the home: a woman with blond hair and a man who is bald. They begin talking to the boy in a hallway, where the boy curses at the male officer.

Watch the raw video reviewed at the trial (WARNING: contains offensive language):

This video sent to CBC by family shows a Winnipeg police officer allegedly slapping a 12-year-old boy after the teen swears at the officer. The officer will be charged with assault, according to Manitoba's police watchdog. 1:12

The boy then walks into his bedroom, followed by the male officer, and this exchange is heard:

  • Boy: "F--k you."
  • Officer: "F--k me?"
  • Boy: "What the f--k you looking at, man?"
  • Officer: "Well, we're here because of you so let's go outside, we've gotta talk to you."
  • Boy: 'No, f--ing suck d--k, you ugly f----t."

The officer's arm is raised in the air and then swings down and out of frame, followed by a loud slapping sound. 

The officer then says, "Show some f--king respect," followed by what Tschetter says is the boy saying something akin to "f--king slap me in the head."

It isn't clear in the video whether the officer ever made contact with the boy, argued Guyot's other defence lawyer, Lisa LaBossiere.

The sister testified that the officer did hit her brother and described the sound as a distinct "skin-on-skin" smacking sound.

"He just said what he said in the video, and he just smacked him over words," the sister said.

"That's your opinion," LaBossiere later said of the sister's description of the smack.

Unable to ID Guyot

After testifying that the officer in the video hit her brother, the sister was asked to identify Guyot, who is bald and was sitting behind her in court, as the bald officer in the video. She was unable to confidently do so.

The defence zeroed in on this failure to positively identify Guyot and suggested the boy's sister wasn't a credible witness. LaBossiere also suggested "the case is very thin" and asked Judge Rolston to acquit Guyot because there was no conclusive evidence putting him inside the home that day or that he struck the boy.

Tschetter argued the video was clear enough to convict Guyot.

But LaBossiere disagreed, claiming it was impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the uniformed officer in the video was Guyot. 

"Could it be the guy? It could be the guy," LaBossiere said. "A resemblance is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

LaBossiere's main issue with the video was that the face of the bald officer in question is only clear for one or two seconds in the video.

She also questioned whether it is possible to even say whether the officer in the video ever made contact with the boy, since that is not clear in the video.

Judge Rolston sided with the defence team. He said he couldn't be certain beyond a reasonable doubt the officer was Guyot and acquitted Guyot of the charge.

"We feel like he very carefully considered all of the evidence that was before him, all of the evidence that was not before him, and we are of the view that he certainly came to the right decision," LaBossiere told CBC News after the trial.

'So disappointed'

In a text message to CBC News, the boy's mother said she thought the video would be enough.

"I just think he should of been convicted," she said. "So disappointed."

In an interview late Wednesday, the boy's mother told CBC News she would have liked to see the officer go through an anger management program. She also thinks he should have faced a fine or been sentenced to do community work. 

She said she's lost trust in the police.

"Because he did hit my son," she said. "He shouldn't have done that."

Her son slept in and missed the court date, she said, and she regrets not forcing him to go, because she thinks it could have helped convict the officer.

She hopes the Crown appeals the decision.

"I just hope he doesn't do that to somebody else's kid."

The Independent Investigation Unit, which investigates all serious matters involving police in Manitoba, has reviewed about 100 cases since its inception in 2015, including this one. 

The police watchdog has laid charges in seven cases against eight officers, said an IIU spokesperson, adding the organization does not track convictions.

Provincial court judge Ryan Rolston cleared Christian Guyot of charges laid last year after he was accused of allegedly hitting a 12-year-old boy. 1:10

About the Author

Bryce Hoye

Reporter

Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology. Before joining CBC Manitoba, he worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service monitoring birds in Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Alberta. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.