An expert in the use of police force returned to the stand in Kelowna courts on July 21, for cross-examination in the continuation of an RCMP assault trial.
Staff Sgt. Leonard McCoshen was called as an expert witness by the Crown, for his work as a use of force expert and homicide investigator in Edmonton, A.B.
While on the stand in June, the use-of-force expert stated that he believed Const. Siggy Pietrzak did not have to strike Tyler Russell in order to complete an arrest on May 30, 2020.
Pietrzak was charged with assault in April 2021, almost a year after an arrest downtown Kelowna was caught on camera. In the footage, the accused appears to repeatedly punch a man who is being placed under arrest by several Mounties.
Two videos of the altercation were shown in court for McCoshen to analyze, while defence counsel David Butcher questioned the witness.
Butcher suggested that the punches were not forceful and “distractionary”(sic) in nature, a fact that McCoshen denied. McCoshen said that while he does not know the intent of Pietrzak’s blows, they were forceful.
“He is rotating his hips, straightening his legs and generating force,” said McCoshen, about one of the approximately nine punches delivered by Pietrzak.
Watch commander Martin Trudeau had earlier stated in the trial that he had planned to go for a mountain bike ride with Pietrzak the day after the incident but they cancelled because the constable had injured his hand in the altercation.
Const. David Carter previously testified that he verbally placed Tyler Russell under arrest for obstruction of justice after Russell failed to comply with his order to take a breathalyzer test under suspicion that he intended to drive a vehicle.
It was later discovered that Russell did not possess the keys to the vehicle he was sitting in.
Carter claimed that he called for backup after the complainant “raised his voice” while he was instructing Russell to use the breathalyzer and subsequently placing him under arrest for obstruction of justice.
He attempted to handcuff the complainant and a struggle ensued. Shortly after, Const. Donahue arrived to assist in the arrest.
Without being dispatched, Const. Pietrzak then arrived on the scene and ran towards the officers, without allegedly being asked or given direction.
“He used closed hand strikes to Mr. Russell’s face,” said Carter.
McCoshen stated that is unclear from the video footage if Pietrzak reassessed the situation after delivering the first few blows.
Carter had said that while Russell’s face was being struck, he started bleeding.
He then added that Russell never hit, kicked or injured himself or any of the other officers but was resisting arrest.
Carter said that while the claimant was not being aggressive, he did say that he vocalized his intention of not going to the ground.
McCoshen alleged while the punches delivered by Pietrzak did eventually bring Russell to the ground, they were unnecessary as three capable officers were present to complete the arrest.
“Force can be effective but not appropriate,” said McCoshen.
“With a coordinated effort, he could have been taken to the ground using techniques other than strikes.”
McCoshen said that the use of force is inconsistent with RCMP standards.
Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet confirmed that Pietrzak remains suspended with pay. She said that his duty status remains subject to ongoing review and assessment and the code of conduct investigation is also ongoing.
The trial is expected to run for three more days taking place in October and December.
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