Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Officer denies suspect's assault claim

'Never happened,' constable says

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Henry Lavallee claims an officer kicked him in the stomach.

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Henry Lavallee claims an officer kicked him in the stomach. Photo Store

It's an accusation that threatens to end his policing career.

But despite the huge stakes at play, it was a calm, cool and collected Winnipeg Police Service Const. Ryan Law who took the witness stand at Court of Queen's Bench Wednesday and denied assaulting an intoxicated suspect in a holding room at the Public Safety Building.

"That never happened," Law, 30, told Justice Joan McKelvey when asked if he kicked Henry Lavallee, 49, in the stomach. "I didn't assault him in any way."

An aggravated assault charge has been hanging over Law's head since 2009, when he was arrested following an internal investigation related to his conduct on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2008. He has pleaded not guilty and is presumed innocent.

The Crown alleges Law was responsible for kicking and severely injuring Lavallee -- an injury for which Lavallee required emergency bowel surgery.

Law and his partner arrested Lavallee and another man near the Exchange District after responding to a call of a car being broken into. An intoxicated Lavallee complied with police commands but hurled a steady stream of insults and disparagement at the officers, Law said.

"Telling us, 'he would have our jobs,' things like that," Law testified. He said he took none of what Lavallee said seriously, as it's common for people who get arrested to act in this fashion. Lavallee also threatened to "infect" them, said Law. One of three cautions under Lavallee's name in the police computer was that he had an infectious disease, Law said.

Arrested and charged for mischief and a probation breach, Lavallee's demeanour remained consistent throughout the 45 to 50 minutes the officers dealt with him, said Law.

"You don't really react much at all," said Law of the disparagement. "It's kind of just part of our job."

"It's not about getting even?" defence lawyer Richard Wolson asked.

"No," Law replied.

Law denied slapping Lavallee in the face in the parking garage of the PSB or shoving him in the elevator, as Lavallee alleges. "At no time did I ever assault him," said Law.

Law said Lavallee was housed in the cell farthest away from the on-duty sergeant's office because of the noise he was making. He and his partner typed up a report and made phone calls to allow them to get Lavallee to the remand facility quickly, as their sergeant requested. They then returned to the cell to take him to the PSB identification unit to be photographed and partially fingerprinted.

Lavallee walked under his own power, although his gait was affected sightly by intoxication, Law said. At no time was Lavallee being dragged, he said. Paraded in front of a sergeant on the way out, Lavallee made no complaint of being injured or in pain, said Law.

In the police car on the way to the remand centre, Law said he got a call from a patrol sergeant who told him there was video or pictures of Lavallee in relation to the vehicle-mischief incident he had been arrested for. At that point, Law said, Lavallee continued to disparage him and his partner, claiming he'd have their jobs because of "false arrest."

"You can drop the act now," Law said he told him. "We've got you on video." "I'm still going to have your jobs," Law said Lavallee replied.

After arriving at the remand centre, Lavallee told the in-house nurse something along the lines of: "I got kicked," and gestured toward Law.

A few hours later, Lavallee was rushed to hospital. At 9 a.m. the next morning, he underwent emergency surgery for a two-centimetre tear in his small bowel and a larger tear to some connective tissue in his abdomen.

Prosecutors are expected to cross-examine Law today.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2013 A9

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