The first day of testimony began this morning in the trial of a suspended RCMP officer charged with assault, after former Castanet.net reporter Kelly Hayes shot an infamous video that quickly went viral.
That video showed Cst. Geoff Mantler kick Buddy Tavares in the face while trying to make an arrest on Jan. 7, 2011.
Hayes was the first witness called to the stand on Monday, and testified that he was driving to another assignment while listening to a police scanner when he heard chatter about a possible domestic incident at the Harvest Golf Club and a man firing a gun.
As Hayes turned onto KLO Road, he witnessed a pickup truck fitting the police description pulled over by an unmarked police vehicle. He immediately reached for his iPhone, took one still frame picture and then proceeded to record video of the incident.
He said the officer, Cst. Mantler, was dressed in plainclothes but was wearing a police vest when he approached the pick-up truck with his gun drawn and yelling commands at the driver, Buddy Tavares.
Hayes was unsure what those other commands were, but finally heard Mantler yell at Tavares to “get on the ground” once Buddy had exited his vehicle.
“(Tavares) looked stunned, “ said Hayes, who added that the driver’s hands were visibly raised while in the vehicle.
As Tavares got out, Hayes said he also exited his car, which was parked directly across the street from the incident and began moving towards the scene while he continued recording.
He said Tavares began to get down on his knees and was about to put his hands on the pavement when Mantler took three steps and kicked him in the face.
“It was a hard kick,” testified Hayes. “His head shot back and he fell to the ground face down.”
Prior to this, Hayes said it appeared that Tavares had been complying with Mantler’s commands although every movement was slowed.
Crown prosecutor Will Burrows then showed the video Hayes shot, including the aftermath, which included an impromptu interview with Mantler about what had just happened and a puddle of blood where Tavares had fallen.
Afterwards, Hayes testified that Mantler later came up to him, requested to see the video and asked not to show his face, before stating that he had repeatedly told Tavares to get on the ground.
During cross-examination by defence counsel Neville McDougall, Hayes reiterated that Tavares looked stunned by the events as they unfolded and testified that Mantler’s movements during the incident were very cautious.
McDougall then broke down the video frame by frame to show how it appeared that while Tavares was down on his knees and about to move lower to the ground, he instead raised his hands for a brief instant just before Mantler reacted by kicking him in the face.
Still on the stand, Hayes agreed with this assessment before later admitting to Burrows he wasn’t sure if it was possible to move from Tavares’s position to the ground without slightly raising ones hands.
Burrows also used his redirect examination to question how ever so slightly Tavares raised his hands, explaining that Hayes video was shot at 15 frames per second and McDougall could only find three frames where this appeared to happen.
Later in the afternoon, 53-year-old victim Buddy Tavares took the stand to testify about the events he remembers from that day.
Tavares said he suffered a near fatal motorcycle accident six months before the incident; one that left him in the hospital for three months and with short term memory loss from a head injury. He said the kick he received from Mantler complicated his problems and he now suffers from panic attacks brought on by stressful situations.
On the day in question, Tavares said he went to the Harvest Golf Club and used his 12-gauge shotgun to scare geese from the fairways, something he did on a regular basis. He then left the course and proceeded to drive down KLO Road before pulling over for flashing lights in his rearview mirror, unaware of why he was being targeted.
The first thing Tavares saw was Mantler standing outside his driver side window with his gun drawn, ordering Tavares to “keep both hands on the steering wheel. If you move one, I’ll shoot you.”
He testified that Mantler looked serious, but scared because his hand was shaking.
Tavares said he froze and did not move, and when Mantler then told him to take off his seatbelt, he believed it at first to be a loaded question, before slowly complying.
“I was worried about being shot,” said Tavares. “I only did exactly what I was told.”
Tavares adds he twice asked Mantler what he had done, but received no answer.
When he exited the vehicle, Tavares said he got on his knees, then down to his hands and knees. The next thing he remembers is being in the back of a police car and says he was completely disorientated.
“I didn’t see the kick coming, I was on my hands and knees,” said Tavares. “My brain was seriously rattled.”
Tavares testified that prior to the incident, he was just able to cope again with his daily life, but after the kick to the face he was "screwed up". He also suffered a cut to his pupil and severe bruising to the left side of his face, which lasted for weeks.
Defence counsel cross examination will continue on Nov.27
The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.
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