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Trial for assault of three Vancouver police officers ends with conflicting versions of events | Radio-Canada News

Crown counsel and defense lawyers for three Vancouver police officers gave conflicting accounts of an arrest that left one suspect seriously injured as the officers’ assault trial concluded Friday.

Crown prosecutor Peter Campbell told a provincial court judge that video of the arrest confirms the numerous punches and knees inflicted by Vancouver Police Department officers Brandon Blue and Beau Spencer, as well as by now-retired Agent Gregory Jackson, were excessive and unnecessary.

Defense lawyers, for their part, argued they were only taking reasonable steps to subdue a resisting man, and suggested the Crown was careless with its evidence.

Campbell said that by the time Blue arrived on scene at the SkyTrain Commercial-Broadway station on May 24, 2017, followed closely by his partner Spencer and then Jackson, suspect David Cowie had already been subdued by another officer.

“At that point, Mr. Cowie had been subdued. He was not actively resisting,” Campbell said, describing Cowie as a frail, short man.

Campbell argued that the video even showed Spencer kneeling Cowie while he was handcuffed.

Judge Jay Solomon interrupted to ask for clarification, saying that, as he recalled, the location of Cowie’s right hand was unclear in the video at that time.

Spencer’s lawyer, Claire Hatcher, also disputed Campbell’s arguments on this point.

“Crown took what I consider to be a bit of a casual approach to the evidence, which is troubling,” Hatcher said.

After the takedown, Cowie was treated for four broken ribs – including two each fractured in two places – as well as a collapsed lung.

WATCH | Surveillance video of the 2017 arrest:

CCTV footage shows arrest that led to assault charges against 3 police officers

Surveillance video taken at the SkyTrain Commercial-Broadway station on May 24, 2017 shows Vancouver police officers repeatedly punching and kneeing a robbery suspect.

The trial heard testimony from an emergency room doctor who viewed video of the arrest and said Cowie’s injuries appeared to have been caused by the officers’ knees. The doctor said Spencer was probably responsible.

Spencer admitted that at one point he kneed Cowie three times and punched him three times in just six seconds.

Campbell described the force used by Spencer as being an “order of magnitude greater” than either of his co-defendants, suggesting he kneed Cowie in the ribs while he had been trained to avoid the chest.

Defense says police had no intention of punishing suspect

In his closing arguments, Hatcher acknowledged Spencer was responsible for “the lion’s share” of the beating at Cowie, but said there was no evidence he punched the suspect in the ribs.

Hatcher said the video was unable to convey the signs of resistance officers saw from Cowie and that Spencer aimed at Cowie’s thigh and buttocks in an attempt to control his legs.

She said Spencer did not intend to punish or harm Cowie.

“If Officer Spencer had such intent, he wouldn’t hit a buttock or a thigh…he would hit a face,” Hatcher said.

In his arguments, Blue’s lawyer David Jardine suggested the Crown had failed to prove that none of the officers were responsible for Cowie’s injuries.

He argued that they could have been caused by Const. Josh Wong, who testified at the trial, was also investigated by the Office of Independent Investigations, a civilian-led police watchdog, but was never charged.

Wong was the officer who initially chased Cowie into the SkyTrain station, where he tackled him to the ground, then punched him before calling for backup.

Blue was the first to respond to that call, and the video immediately shows him sliding at the suspect with his knee.

Jardine argued the trial did not hear evidence about Cowie’s physical condition before his arrest, suggesting there could also have been pre-existing injuries.

An image taken from grainy CCTV footage shows four police officers huddled in the bottom right corner, holding someone to the ground.  One of them can be seen curling his right arm to throw a punch.
Surveillance video taken at the SkyTrain Commercial-Broadway station on May 24, 2017 shows Const. Beau Spencer, left, prepares to punch a suspect while officers Josh Wong, Brandon Blue and Gregory Jackson restrain him. (CBC)

As for Jackson, his attorney, Kevin Westell, said the now-retired officer’s actions should be viewed somewhat separately from those of others.

Jackson was the last to arrive on the scene, and unlike Blue and Spencer, he can be seen in the video stopping to assess the situation before latching onto Cowie and delivering two quick punches.

“If his intention was to be aggressive, punitive, unfair, he would have come in and immediately started throwing punches,” Westell said.

He pointed out that Blue, Spencer and Wong were all young and had worked together for many years responding to emergency calls, while Jackson was in his 50s and part of a youth response team.

“He’s not here to mess around and pick fights. He’s riding with a social worker,” Westell said.

Campbell argued in his arguments that it was Jackson’s duty to determine how much force had already been used against Cowie before he began striking.

The trial has now concluded and a decision is expected on January 12.

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