Prosecutor alleges police officer lied about seeing weapon during traffic stop
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This article was published 25/03/2021 (616 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Winnipeg police officer, accused of assaulting a man following a prolonged highway chase, lied about seeing a possible weapon in his hand to excuse the attack, a prosecutor alleged Wednesday.
Patrol Sgt. Sean Cassidy is on trial for assault. He’s accused of following Jamie Cote from La Salle into Winnipeg, on March 28, 2017, and punching him in the head during what was described as a “high-risk” traffic stop.
Cassidy has testified Cote chased his vehicle out of La Salle at high speed after Cassidy, suspecting Cote might be involved in a rash of break-and-enters, followed him to several houses. Cassidy alleged Cote’s pursuit of him amounted to an assault.
Winnipeg police had been alerted to the chase by the time Cassidy and Cote drove into the city on St. Mary’s Road shortly after 1 a.m.
Cassidy said a marked cruiser had stopped Cote’s truck when Cassidy jumped out of his van and decided to assume the role of contact officer, the officer responsible for physically taking a suspect under control.
“My plan wasn’t to take any role, but when only one car showed up, I thought I could be of help,” he testified.
Cassidy was off-duty prior to the chase and did not have handcuffs or a firearm.
“You have no ability to restrain the suspect with handcuffs… so another officer is going to be required immediately, regardless of his level of co-operation,” said Crown attorney Brett Rach.
“Yes,” Cassidy replied.
“But you decide that you are going to be the police officer that is hands-on when you don’t have handcuffs,” Rach said.
Cassidy said Cote initially got out of his vehicle but returned to the driver’s seat, raising concerns he might have a weapon. Cassidy said he tried to pull a resistant Cote from the truck, when he saw something metal in his hand and punched him in the head.
Once on the ground, Cote was still resisting and not showing his hands and Cassidy punched him a second time, he said.
Cassidy said after another officer handcuffed Cote, he found a vape pen on the ground, which he returned to Cote’s truck.
Cassidy said he made no mention of the vape pen or seeing something in Cote’s hand in his police statement.
“I’m suggesting to you, you did not see anything in his hand. That was not the reason for you punching him,” Rach said.
“You were emotional, you were angry when you punched him. You punched him because you believed he had assaulted you. I’m suggesting you made the wrong assessment of the circumstances based on the limited information you had.”
“No, your suggestion would be misleading,” Cassidy said.
Cote has testified he and a roommate were in La Salle to deliver flyers for Cote’s landscaping business when a van started following them from house to house.
Cassidy said Cote, after stopping at one house, stopped in the middle of the road and yelled “You better stop f—— following me” before advancing toward Cassidy’s minivan.
Cassidy said he was on the phone to 911 and put his vehicle in reverse to put distance between himself and Cote.
Cassidy told court he said nothing to Cote and did not identify himself as a police officer.
“I was on the phone (to 911) and had to put my van in reverse… I had no time,” he said.
“Is it fair to say you never made your status as a police officer known to them in La Salle,” Rach said.
“I had no time,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy alleges Cote made an “aggressive” U-turn, and chased Cassidy out of town onto provincial road 330.
The pursuit continued to the Perimeter Highway where Cassidy, fearing Cote might be armed, swerved across both lanes and drove alongside other cars to prevent Cote from passing him.
“You decide to use this civilian vehicle to block the truck,” Rach said. “Did you communicate to the civilian vehicle the possible danger that they were being put in?”
“How would I do that?” Cassidy said.
Closing arguments will be heard April 19.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.