'He didn't look good': Police officer who kneed Jordan Lafond testifies at coroner's inquest

A police officer who kneed Jordan Lafond in the head became emotional during testimony at a coroner's inquest on Tuesday. He says he regrets ever responding to the call.

Officer says he realized Lafond was in medical distress after kneeing him in the head multiple times

A coroner's inquest is being held for 22-year-old Jordan Lafond, who died after being arrested by police in 2016. (Submitted by Charmaine Dreaver)

A police officer who admitted kneeing Jordan Lafond in the head became emotional during testimony Tuesday at a coroner's inquest into Lafond's death.

Lafond, 22, died the day after a stolen truck he was riding in crashed on the outskirts of Saskatoon in 2016.

Sgt. Thomas Gresty testified he kneed Lafond in the head as many as four times after the crash. Gresty said he believed Lafond was resisting arrest.

Gresty said that he only saw Lafond's face when he was walking away after the kneeing. Lafond's face had been turned toward the ground when he was trying to arrest him, Gresty testified.

"I recognized right away he was in medical distress," Gresty told the jury. "He looked terrible."

Lafond died the next day in hospital.

Police pursuit

Gresty was the supervisor on shift the night of the crash and heard that a truck that was believed stolen was seen racing through the city. At one point, an eyewitness said they spotted a person inside the truck sawing off the barrel of a shotgun.

As a longtime member of the Tactical Support Unit, Gresty travelled to the area and was one of the first people at the scene when the truck crashed.

Gresty said he saw Lafond lying on the ground underneath the driver's side door, with another officer kneeling beside him. 

It didn't add up to me.- Sgt. Thomas Gresty

He said he believed Lafond was resisting after officers tried to put handcuffs on him. Gresty said he hit Lafond in the head with his knee as many as four times, shouting, "Stop resisting" between strikes.

Gresty said he was concerned the second person in the truck, Reece Fiddler, was roaming about the dark area, possibly armed. He said that after handcuffing Lafond, he saw other officers had already arrested Fiddler.

After he took a close look at Lafond, Gresty saw that he was in serious trouble.

"I was confused and I was worried," he said. "It didn't add up to me. A minute ago this guy was fighting to get away and I used force on him based on what I saw."

During his testimony, Gresty said that Lafond weighed about 135 lbs. The man on top of him, Cst. Kelly Olafson, was "about 220 lbs," according to Gresty.

He said he realized after that Olafson was moving Lafond's body and limbs, trying to get his arms close to handcuff him.

"I'm pretty confident now I was looking at it wrong and saw it wrong," he said on the stand.

He testified that Lafond's handcuffs were taken off and he was put in the recovery position. Someone called an ambulance.

It was eight days after Lafond's death before an autopsy was ordered. In that time, the body had already been embalmed.

Doctors were unable to determine whether Lafond died due to injuries sustained in the crash or from being hit in the head. 

Second passenger says he was cuffed and punched

Reece Fiddler testified at the coroner's inquest into Jordan Lafond's death in Saskatoon Tuesday. (Facebook)

Reece Fiddler entered the court room in an orange sweatshirt and chains. He was questioned by coroner's council, Alma Wiebe.

He told the jury he and Lafond were going for a joyride in the early hours of Oct. 22. Fiddler was driving.

He said he knew the beige Ford F1-50 was stolen, but that he didn't know there were guns in the vehicle. They were also using cocaine that night, Fiddler testified.

When the men spotted police, Fiddler said he started driving fast and left the city via Highway 7, then circled back to the Shaw Centre, where Fiddler attempted to clear several steel barriers in the concrete, near a ditch.

He lost consciousness, he said, as the truck took a nosedive and crashed through a chain-link fence.

Fiddler said when he came to Lafond wasn't in the vehicle anymore. Fiddler said he climbed through the passenger window.

He said once he was out of the vehicle, he complied with police as they told him to get on the ground and identify himself. Fiddler said that once he was handcuffed, police punched him in the head and the ribs.

Fiddler said he had trouble recalling if he heard Jordan Lafond speak while he was being arrested, but told the jury he thought his friend was calling for help.

A coroner's inquest is designed to look into how a person died and make recommendations as to how a similar death might be avoided in the future. Inquests are not designed to assign blame or lay criminal charges.

The inquest is expected to run all week at Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench.