NEWS
01/19/2016 18:11 EST | Updated 01/19/2017 00:12 EST

RCMP officers who arrested man over root beer facing assault charges

RED DEER, Alta. — An RCMP officer who arrested a man who turned out to be carrying a bottle of root beer has denied accusations he and two colleagues unlawfully assaulted the individual.

Cpl. Kevin Halwa, 42, Cpl. Dean Purka, 41, and Const. Drew Burchett, 50, are each charged with one count of assault dating back to an incident in Sylvan Lake, Alta., on Aug. 20, 2011.

The complainant, Levi Desjarlais, has previously testified that he was walking from one hotel to another when he was approached by Burchett in an unmarked police van.

Burchett asked what was in the bottle he was carrying and Desjarlais testified he told the officer it was root beer and even handed it over for him to inspect it.

On Tuesday, Burchett took the stand in his own defence and said he believed Desjarlais was drinking a beer and was in violation of the Liquor and Gaming Act by having open liquor in a public place.

The officer said Desjarlais was asked to hand the bottle over but refused, and would not provide the officer his name.

Burchett was adamant that Desjarlais was not co-operative, though did admit that he eventually realized that the bottle was, in fact, root beer.

Halwa also testified Desjarlais would not comply with demands to hand over the bottle or give his name and said he "aggressively resisted arrest," which is why Halwa felt it necessary to deploy his pepper spray.

Both officers admitted that Desjarlais was co-operative once he was transported to the RCMP detachment in Sylvan Lake.

Desjarlais has testified he was tackled to the ground, choked, pepper sprayed, and handcuffed.

He testified that the officers never told him what he was being arrested for. Eventually, he was charged with obstruction, resisting arrest and causing a disturbance, but the charges never proceeded to court.

The Crown contends the officers used excessive force and that the arrest was unlawful.

(CHUB)