Trial begins for two RCMP members charged from Prince George arrest caught on video
October 18, 2021 By Canadian Press / Local Journalism Initiative
Oct. 15, 2021, Price George, B.C. – A trial began Thursday for two Prince George RCMP members facing criminal charges from an arrest caught on a security camera that suggested excessive force was used.
Constables Wayne Connell and Kyle Sharpe each face a count of assault causing bodily harm from the takedown in an alleyway off the 2200 block of Oak St. during the early morning of Feb. 18, 2016.
The key evidence is video from a security camera showing the arrest of Cuyler Richard Aubichon and Nathaniel Lazarus Basil. Police had boxed in and stopped a stolen pickup truck that Aubichon was driving and in which Basil was the passenger.
Crown prosecution’s theory is that Basil was subjected to blows from Connell and Sharpe despite complying with officers’ direction to exit the truck.
“He was cooperative and showed his hands,” Crown counsel Shannon Gerrie said in her opening statement to provincial court judge Joseph Galati.
Potentially hampering the Crown’s case, the video shows clearly only the driver’s side while the passenger side is obscured by the truck, “excluding what the Crown says are kicks and strikes,” Gerrie conceded.
Crown is pursuing a separate prosecution for Cst. Joshua Grafton who faces assault, assault with a weapon in relation to the arrest of Aubichon, as well as a count obstruction of justice.
The video was initially provided to Global News in the days that followed and, about a month later, B.C.’s civilian-based police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, launched an investigation.
It took another two years and three months for the IIO to refer its findings to the B.C. Prosecution Service and, in turn, charges were approved in June 2020, nearly 4 1/2 years after the arrest.
Alison Carstairs, who was an investigator for the IIO at the time, was the first witness called.
Under cross-examination from Sharpe’s lawyer, David Butcher, Carstairs, who left the IIO in 2017, testified that she had been hired in part to speed up the investigation process and that a new procedure for handling files was implemented but after the case in question.
Carstairs also provided testimony on the steps she took to gather evidence when she was deployed to Prince George in March 2016 as part of the IIO’s investigation. Carstairs said Shayla Crispin handed over to her a hard drive showing the footage from the camera as well as a video player that could be used to see it.
By that time, testified Carstairs, the camera had been taken down and that Crispin would not let her into the house to confirm its location, despite explaining to her that the IIO are not the police.
“I recalled her saying that she removed the hard drives and everything in relation to it because she didn’t want the police to do a warrant on the house,” Carstairs said.
“There were other things she was worried the police would come into the house about, weren’t there?” Butcher asked.
“If there were, I have no knowledge about them,” Carstairs replied.
Crispin is on the witness list, as is Basil.
Later in 2016, Basil and Aubichon were sentenced to one year probation for possessing stolen property over $5,000.
Aubichon has since filed a civil lawsuit against Grafton, seeking damages for allegedly using a police dog inappropriately. In a response, Grafton contends his actions were “reasonable and necessary.”
The trial before judge alone has been scheduled for six days and continues Friday at the courthouse.
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