Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Public arrest under scrutiny

Event organizer goes up against police

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The organizer of a popular motorcycle exhibit at the annual World of Wheels event is pushing back against Winnipeg police after he wound up being arrested as officers moved to seize a high-ranking Hells Angel's souped-up Harley Davidson during the 2012 show.

Robert Sefton Gray, who also goes by the first name Robyn, has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including obstructing police and assaulting a peace officer stemming from his March 16, 2012, arrest at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

Gray, whose trial began this week in provincial court, is representing himself.

In addition to his denial of any wrongdoing, Gray is challenging the validity of the search warrant police obtained allowing them to seize a motorcycle owned by Dale Sweeney on display at Gray's annual Rolling Thunder exhibit. Sweeney had been arrested days earlier in connection to a major drug bust and justice officials were moving to seize some of his assets.

Court has heard police turned up with the warrant, presented it to a security manager at the convention centre and then moved to the second-floor exhibition gallery to remove the souped-up motorcycle from its display.

Gray, who was not wearing any identification, came over to ask what they were doing, believing the bike was property under his care and control.

Const. Jeffrey Norman said he asked Gray, who looked "unkempt," for proof of his association with the event or if he had claim to ownership of the Harley. This set off a heated verbal exchange. "He told me it was none of my business," Norman testified.

Norman said when Gray grabbed his shoulder and said "you're not taking this bike," he placed the 66-year-old under arrest and removed him from the busy gallery in handcuffs. Norman denied yelling out, "He's going to jail, he's going to jail."

By the time Gray was formally read his rights outside the convention centre at 7:33 p.m., he was also put on notice he'd be facing an assault charge and weapons-related allegations after a prohibited folding knife was seized from a pouch around his waist.

"You did not appear to have any involvement with this event; you did not provide me with any proof you were involved with this event," Norman said. He testified he was under no obligation to deal with event organizers as it was the people in charge of the convention centre who could facilitate the removal of the motorcycle.

Gray called two witnesses on his behalf Tuesday. Both testified to his honesty and professionalism and one said he was "blown back" by the police response that evening, which he described as akin to "a major takedown."

"Without knowing what was going on, it seemed extraordinarily excessive," Robert Chubala told Judge Wanda Garreck. He conceded he didn't witness the exchange leading up to Gray's arrest, only the aftermath.

Chubala testified he is the co-ordinator of the World of Wheels show -- which he said saw 41,000 visitors in 2013.

Chubala said he and the event manager tried to speak with the lead officer about what was unfolding but were warned they'd be arrested, too, if they didn't move out of the area.

"It was probably an excessive amount of enforcement officers on site," Chubala said. "It was pretty overwhelming what transpired."

Chubala said he believes police should have approached event organizers to say what they were doing there. "I would feel slighted if I were not presented with any type of paperwork," he said. "As producers and organizers of the event, we would want to know."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2013 A4


Updated on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 7:40 AM CDT: adds photo

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