'I NEED HELP. I'VE BEEN BEATEN UP'
KAMLOOPS - Two men with no criminal records will soon find out if they will be required to spend time behind bars after pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer.
Jerry Lamar, 51, and Leon Leclerc, 47, were charged with assaulting a peace officer after a traffic stop in Pritchard July 5, 2014 and pleaded guilty to the charge last year.
Dashcam footage from Const. Paul Koester's cruiser shown in Kamloops Supreme Court today, Jan. 10, shows Koester speaking with Lamar after pulling him over.
Crown prosecutor Frank Caputo told the court Koester, a member of Central Interior Traffic Services, was conducting a road block near Pritchard around 4 p.m. that day.
An impaired driving investigation was launched after Koester smelled alcohol on Lamar, court heard in the video. Koester and Lamar had a conversation about the alcohol consumption and Lamar said although he had consumed some alcohol, he wasn't impaired.
In the video, Koester tells Lamar he didn't believe he was impaired, but there was a possibility he was over the legal limit of .08.
Koester asked Lamar to provide a breath sample, but Lamar refused. Koester explained to him a refusal of providing a breath sample holds the same punishments as impaired driving.
At one point in the video, Leclerc appears to be stepping slightly away from the parked vehicle and Koester asks him to return to the truck.
Lamar continued to refuse to provide a breath sample and Koester attempted to arrest him. Lamar began running away and Koester deployed pepper-spray to stop him.
Shortly after, Crown says Lamar was knocked in the back of the head by Koester during the chase. Koester eventually caught up to Lamar and the two got into an altercation where Lamar ended up on top of the officer.
During this time, Lamar saw what appeared to be Koester reaching for his firearm, to which he yelled "Leon, gun!" or something to that effect, lawyers say.
Hearing this, Leclerc "stomped" on Koester's shoulder, Caputo told the court, in an attempt to disarm him. But Leclerc ended up accidentally kicking Koester in the head, causing him to go unconscious.
Court heard Koester suffered a concussion which led to him missing weeks of work.
In the dashcam footage, a passerby is seen arriving about one minute after Lamar and Leclerc fled the scene in the vehicle they were in.
"I need help. I've been beaten up," Koester told the person.
Caputo says a lengthy jail sentence is necessary for general deterrence. He says this was a two-on-one situation and a violent assault.
Crown is seeking a nine- to 12-month jail sentence for Lamar and an 18-month sentence for Leclerc, followed by a two-year probation period for both men.
But defence lawyers Don Campbell and Jeremy Jensen say no jail is necessary for their clients because they are otherwise upstanding, law-abiding citizens with no criminal record.
Both Lamar and Leclerc have been on bail since the incident and neither has breached their conditions.
Campbell, Lamar's lawyer, is asking for a conditional sentence order of two years less a day, followed by a period of probation. He says this would better serve the community without compromising public safety.
Campbell says the conditional sentence could also include a period of house arrest. He told the court he spoke to Koester when the matter was first brought before the courts, and the officer told him he wanted to settle things as soon as possible.
"That conversation had an impact on me," Campbell said. "We have worked on a resolution from that time."
Between Lamar and Leclerc, more than 20 reference letters were filed in court from friends, family and colleagues who say both men are hard-working and respectful.
Campbell says Lamar is a much different person than the man who appeared in the dashcam video.
"He was caught up in a situation that quickly got out of everyone's control," Campbell said.
Supreme Court judge Dev Dley gave Lamar the opportunity to speak at the end of sentencing submissions today.
"I'm deeply sorry for what happened," he said. "I assure you, it'll never happen again."
Jensen is also asking for a conditional sentence order for Leclerc. He told the court Leclerc only intervened at the end to prevent the possible use of a firearm.
"Mr. Leclerc finds himself in a situation and acts instinctively," Jensen said.
He told the court Leclerc is an integral part of the community of Falkland where he and his family live, and that many people depend on him and the services of his businesses, including Falkland Tank Services.
Jensen says although Leclerc only had three beers on the day of the offence, he has not touched alcohol since and never wants to again.
"I can only attribute... my part in the events to sheer panic and fear," Leclerc told the court. "You will never see me in another courtroom."
Dley is reserving his decision on the case and a date for that is expected to be set later this month.
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