May 01, 2013 - 6:24 AM
The injuries to Buddy Tavares after being kicked by former RCMP officer Geoff Mantler are well-known, but until the Monday sentencing hearing, we knew far less about Mantler.
Since the video of the incident went viral on YouTube in 2011, with backlash spreading across social media sites, Mantler has left his life in Kelowna behind. His lawyer Neville McDougall said the constant bombardment of media on his client's doorstep and fear for his family's safety led him to sell his home at a $50,000 loss. He didn't say where he lives now.
The last two years have brought Mantler nothing short of national notoriety and public outrage for an act interpreted as police brutality. In court Monday, Mantler read out an apology expressing remorse for his actions on January 7, 2011.
“If I could use a time machine and go back, I would change what I did,” he said.
Defence lawyer Neville McDougall said if his client had known the suspect had been shooting at geese, he would never have responded in such a manner. Instead Mantler believed he was going to one of the most serious types of situations an officer is confronted with: An active shooter.
“Mantler honestly believed his life was at stake,” McDougall said. Mantler believed then-suspect Buddy Tavares was potentially concealing a weapon under his clothing after exiting his vehicle. In those situations, police protocol requires that if an officer decides to use force they must make the strongest strike possible.
In hindsight, McDougall says his client's actions were wrong, but he was also misinformed about the threat. The true nature of the complaint was distorted from the 911 call to the dispatcher, to the response.
“Police officers have a certain amount of latitude in handling such situations, they have to make immediate decisions which are not always the most appropriate,” McDougall said. McDougall himself is a former RCMP officer, as well.
Mantler made such a decision, kicking and stunning Tavares attempting to disarm him. In this type of confrontation, McDougall says officers tend to experience a spike in adrenaline triggered by a fear response.
“In his haste to apprehend the suspect he abandoned his training,” McDougall says.
According to a statement from an Abbotsford RCMP officer, the Kelowna detachment was lacking adequately trained officers, saying it was “rookies training rookies.” Such a Code 5 call would usually require two cars and two senior members present. Mantler, who had been working just over three years at the Kelowna detachment, responded to the call alone.
“There was an alarming lack of supervision,” McDougall said.
McDougall also told the court Mantler's fellow officers first felt uncomfortable providing letters of support for their former colleague, given the detachment was requesting Mantler's resignation.
One colleague described Mantler as, “one of the hardest working officers on the watch.”
Former Superintendent Bill McKinnon also went on TV saying the Kelowna detachment did not have enough experienced members on watch.
The crown announced today they are seeking a suspended sentence for Mantler with18 months of probation. Judge Gregory Koturbash will give his final decision on the sentence this Thursday, May 2.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013