After nearly two years since his videotaped kick to the face of Buddy Tavares, RCMP Const. Geoff Mantler pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm Wednesday. Sentencing will be at a later date.
The shocking turn of events happened just moments before Mantler was to take the stand in his own defence. Instead, his lawyer Neville McDougall, a former RCMP officer, told Judge Gary Korturbash that Mantler would withdraw his not guilty plea and change it to guilty.
Tavares said he was shocked and disappointed that Mantler didn't testify.
"I've been waiting a long time to hear him say why he did that," Tavares said. "I'm not going to hear it. That's why I've been hanging around so long. So I'll let it go and move on."
McDougall said the defence came to the decision after a conversation with Crown counsel Will Burrows on Tuesday. Although guarded in his comments because the matter still is before the court, McDougall said it became apparent that the guilty verdict was the prudent move.
"The true story has come out," McDougall said afterward. "To the police haters that were following the trial, nothing changed. But (the trial) changed significantly. The Crown and we were able to discuss it and come to a resolution and we were able to enter a guilty plea."
Mantler walked briskly out of the Kelowna Law Courts without talking to reporters.
The day marked the end of two years of waiting for Tavares, who had attended much of the trial with his sister, Pam Weiher. After the verdict, Weiher, too, said she was disappointed.
"We were waiting to hear what he had to say," she said. "He finally did the right thing at the end. Unfortunately, a lot of time and money were wasted."
The trial brought into question the use of police use of force and brought the issue of police brutality to the fore. This was the second such trial for Mantler, who was acquitted in July of assaulting Manjeet Singh Bhatti. Still, Tavares said he had little hope that Mantler will receive any jail time.
"The courts have an opportunity to send a message to all police, because this is a problem in Canada that's ongoing," he said. "Nothing ever happens to them. Let's see if (the judge) takes the opportunity to send a message or tell him, 'just go home again and watch TV.' That's what always happens."
Tavares was pulled over Jan. 7, 2011 after a police dispatch reported a man who'd suffered a brain injury was shooting a shotgun at Harvest Golf Club, his former workplace, and left the scene.
Mantler pulled Tavares over near the intersection of KLO Road and Lakeshore Road. Commanding orders while pointing his service weapon at Tavares, Mantler coaxed Tavares into getting out of his truck and getting on his hands and knees. Seconds afterward, Mantler kicked Tavares in the face. Two other officers who later arrived on the scene helped Tavares to his feet and escorted him to a police car.
The incident was caught on videotape by Kelly Hayes, a video journalist.
During the trial, much of the debate involved whether Mantler used correct procedure in approaching Tavares' truck alone, before backup arrived. Many of Mantler's other actions leading up to the kick were criticized. An expert in police use of force, Jeremy Lane, testified that Mantler did little in the way of correct police procedure during the arrest, which left him in what he probably considered a vulnerable position.
That may have led to the kick, Lane said, who added that he thought that the kick was unwarranted.
"I don't think his guilt was ever in question," Tavares said.