Judge doesn’t buy complaint against RCMP officer

Complaints about rough handling by an RCMP officer failed to get an Oliver man exonerated.

Complaints about rough handling by an RCMP officer failed to get an Oliver man exonerated on charges related to an impaired-driving incident.

Anthony Chester Bryant, 55, was convicted Thursday in provincial court in Penticton on four counts — having control of a vehicle while impaired, obstructing a police officer, failing to stop for police, and refusing to provide a breath sample — but found not guilty of flight from police.

At trial last fall, RCMP Const. Ian Patrick McNeil testified he spotted Bryant, who had been the subject of an impaired driving complaint, behind the wheel of a truck that was towing a trailer on Sawmill Road.

McNeil turned on his lights and sirens and pursued Bryant for 1.5 kilometres, during which time he watched Bryant’s truck swerve and cross the centre line numerous times. Eventually, Bryant stopped in his own driveway, at which point McNeil approached the driver’s door with gun drawn.

In their testimony, both McNeil and Bryant agreed that Bryant reached under the dash to shut off the truck, since the vehicle’s ignition system didn’t work, but the men disagreed about what happened next. McNeil said he feared Bryant was reaching for a weapon, so he opened the door and threw Bryant to the ground. Bryant, however, said the officer punched him in the head and then threw him to the ground. Bryant also alleged the officer kicked him numerous times while on the ground.

A neighbour who witnessed the arrest testified she saw two or three kicks directed at Bryant’s legs, but Judge Greg Koturbash dismissed her evidence since she had a “less than ideal view” and admitted to having a “terrible” memory.

Koturbash also wrote off Bryant’s testimony, in particular his explanation that a worn-out steering box was to blame for his truck swerving. The judge noted Bryant said he didn’t immediately pull over for McNeil because the road wasn’t wide enough to do so safely, so it “defies common sense” that someone so worried about safety would drive that same truck from Castlegar as Bryant said he did.

Bryant, who denied drinking that day, but said he may have smelled of alcohol from the night before, also testified that on his way out of the Oliver RCMP detachment he said to McNeil, “Hey, no animosity towards you.”

“Why would anyone who was just beaten by an officer say he has no animosity?” Koturbash said.

The judge later dismissed Bryant’s application to have the charges dropped due to an infringement of his Charter rights stemming from McNeil’s alleged excessive use of force, noting a letter from Bryant’s doctor following a visit the day after the arrest mentioned only minor abrasions on Bryant’s wrists and a bruise on his face. Sentencing will be at a later date.