Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bear-spray use by dad in spotlight at trial

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The actions of a Wolseley-area dad are under legal scrutiny after he wound up stabbed for bear-spraying a stranger he believed was "out of control" and trying to attack his son.

While David Roberts, 39, is accused of aggravated assault for knifing Christopher Pate, 48, in the chest on Ruby Street on April 22, 2011, it's Pate's conduct that went under the microscope Tuesday in the Court of Queen's Bench.

Roberts has pleaded not guilty and is being tried by a jury of six men and six women.

The tenor and direction of defence lawyer Jay Prober's questioning of several Crown witnesses so far suggests Roberts may argue he acted in self-defence in the unusual case.

Pate's teenage son and a friend testified they were out for an evening walk when a car approached and someone inside yelled at them. They said the vehicle chased them up a back lane where they split up to go find assistance.

Pate quickly responded to his son's call for help by coming to meet him outside the home he telephoned from. Prior to leaving the house, Pate said he pocketed what he believed was an expired can of bear spray by his front door.

Seconds after meeting up with his son and friend on the street, Pate testified a vehicle pulled up and its male driver hopped out, enraged. He was "foaming at the mouth" and yelling he was going to "get" the two youths, Pate testified.

He said he stopped the charging man and they jostled with each other. No punches or kicks were thrown.

The boys ran off to call police. Pate said he identified himself as the father to one of the teens.

But the driver became "increasingly angry" after the youths left the scene, said Pate. "I was stuck. I was scared. He was ranting and raving... I got mad after a while," Pate said. "I didn't know how to extract myself."

Pate produced the bear spray, held it forward and pulled the trigger down. The driver responded by quickly pulling his coat over his face.

Pate says he turned to leave and had already walked away a few feet but the driver called out: "You bear-sprayed me." How did he know it was bear spray? Pate said he wondered.

Within two or three seconds of turning around to face the man, he was stabbed, Pate said.

"I was stabbed instantly -- he was right behind me," Pate told court. "I thought he punched me."

Pate says he lurched to a nearby corner store on Wolseley Avenue to try and use an outdoor pay phone. Police and paramedics found him there soon after, covered in blood.

He spent six days in hospital and underwent emergency surgery for a stab wound to the left chest followed by five weeks at home recuperating.

Prober questioned why Pate brought the bear spray with him in the first place. "Did you mistake Mr. Roberts for a bear?," he asked. "No," Pate replied.

Pate said he wasn't aware the mace was a prohibited weapon in Canada, and confirmed he was never charged in relation to the incident.

The trial continues.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2014 B5


Updated on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 11:22 AM CDT: Corrects date of incident.

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