RED DEER, Alta. — Three Alberta RCMP officers have been found not guilty of assaulting a man they arrested for carrying a bottle of root beer.
The RCMP said in a statement that the Red Deer judge "exonerated'' the officers.
Cpl. Kevin Halwa, 42, Cpl. Dean Purcka, 41, and Const. Drew Burchett, 50, were charged after an incident in Sylvan Lake, Alta., on Aug. 20, 2011.
The complainant, Levi Desjarlais, testified in Red Deer court that he was walking from one hotel to another when he was approached by Burchett in an unmarked police van.
Desjarlais testified he was tackled to the ground, choked, pepper sprayed, and handcuffed.
The RCMP said the judge ruled Wednesday that all three officers "acted lawfully, properly and provided reliable and honest evidence.''
"Not only did the judge find them not guilty based on reasonable doubt, he exonerated them,'' said a statement read by an RCMP spokesman.
Police say Desjarlais resisted arrest
On Tuesday, Burchett took the stand 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 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 had argued the officers used excessive force and that the arrest was unlawful.
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