The province’s police watchdog has charged a Winnipeg police officer with possessing a restricted weapon and unsafe storage of a firearm, after the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba determined there were reasonable and probable grounds a criminal offence had occurred.
Patrol Sgt. Sean Cassidy was charged Aug. 30 and ordered to appear in provincial court Oct. 21.
The IIU said Tuesday the WPS alerted it Jan. 14, during the course of another investigation.
The IIU would not say anything more than what was in Tuesday’s news release, but Jan. 14 is the day information was released that the same officer had been charged with assault following an IIU investigation.
At that time, an off-duty Cassidy was accused of punching and kneeing a 32-year-old man March 27, 2017. The alleged victim, who was released without charges and sought medical attention, claims to have suffered a number of head injuries as a result, including permanent hearing loss.
The IIU took over the investigation after it learned the man may have suffered permanent hearing loss. At its conclusion, IIU civilian director Zane Tessler said he had "determined there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe a criminal offence occurred."
Meanwhile, Cassidy’s alleged victim, Kenneth James Cote, filed a statement of claim against Cassidy and the City of Winnipeg earlier this year, seeking general, aggravated, punitive, public law and special damages, including medical costs.
The allegations in the lawsuit are connected to the March 2017 incident.
The documents say Cote and an employee were in La Salle, delivering spring flyers to customers of Cote Landscaping, in a vehicle with his company’s name emblazoned on the side, when a minivan with no police markings started following them at 12:30 a.m.
After twice trying to speak with the van’s driver, Cote and his employee left La Salle and started driving to Winnipeg. The van passed them and began swerving across both lanes of traffic to prevent Cote from passing.
On St. Mary’s Road, Cote spotted a marked Winnipeg Police Service cruiser and stopped to get help.
Cote alleges Cassidy (the driver of the van) pulled over and yelled for him to get back in his vehicle. The marked cruiser’s emergency lights came on.
Cote alleges he put his hands in the air before Cassidy threw him to the ground, and he was pinned by other officers without being advised he was under arrest.
While down, Cote says, Cassidy punched him in the face before dropping his knee on Cote’s left temple area. Cote claims only then did the other officer pull Cassidy away.
After the officers searched Cote’s vehicle, he alleges, one told him if he didn’t say anything about the incident he was free to go and could keep the marijuana cigarette they found in his cigarette pack without being charged.
Cote says he was diagnosed later that morning with a concussion and fractured nose, and his hearing has been "negatively affected." Cote also claims he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.
The lawsuit alleges the conduct of the officers "was malicious, unconstitutional and outrageous, and is deserving of an award of punitive and public law damages of sufficient magnitude to vindicate the constitutional rights of the plaintiff and to deter similar conduct."
No statement of defence has been filed, and the allegations have not been proven in court.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at 7:00 AM CDT: Comments turned off.
9:00 AM: Clarifies the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba laid the charges against the officer.
10:26 AM: fixes error, clarifies it was Winnipeg Police Service officer