A Nelson police officer has been convicted of assault.
Judge Richard Hewson found Cst. Drew Turner of the Nelson Police Department guilty of one count Tuesday.
On May 1, 2014, Turner, off duty and in plain clothes, stopped to help Cst. Bill Andreaschuk who was attempting to arrest Tawny Campbell whom he found wandering in traffic, drunk, on Nelson Ave. near the orange bridge. Campbell, in her early 20s, who weighs 107 pounds and is 5’5” tall, was fighting Andreaschuk violently.
He radioed for help, then got her partially into the back seat of his truck. He then attempted to handcuff her, assisted by Turner.
Acting Sgt. Jarrett Slomba and Det.-Cst. David Laing arrived in response to Andreaschuk’s call. Slomba walked up behind Turner, put a hand on his shoulder, and said, “I’ve got this.” In the trial, Turner denied Slomba had done this, and said he didn’t know Slomba and Laing were there.
Turner kept struggling with Campbell. By this time he and Andreaschuk had cuffed her hands in front of her body, and she was on the floor of the back seat of the truck with her legs outside the truck.
The trial testimony of Slomba, Andreaschuk, and Laing varied somewhat in terms of the order of events, but the judge accepted that Turner first hit Campbell on the side of the head, then punched her in the chest, and then punched her hard in the face, the last punch causing Slomba to testify that for a moment he thought Campbell was dead.
Turner then said, “That will shut her up,” and left the scene. The other officers took Campbell, who had regained consciousness after 10 to 20 seconds, out of the vehicle, sat her down outside and called for medical help, which she refused. Her mother arrived and took her home.
The issue: justifiable force
That Turner punched Campbell in the face, knocking her unconscious, was never an issue in the trial: Turner admitted it.
The issue was whether he used more force than necessary and whether he honestly believed such force was necessary.
He testified in the trial that he thought the force was justified because Campbell grabbed his shirt violently as though she was going to bite or head-butt him, and that Andreaschuk had warned him that “she will bite you.”
Hewson said there were three components to his analysis of the case:
1. Justification. Was the amount of force justified? Was Turner’s belief that it was justified reasonable?
2. Credibility. How believable were the witnesses?
3. Reasonable doubt. Is there a reasonable doubt the force used was justified? If there was reasonable doubt, he said, he would have been bound to acquit Turner.
Hewson listed the pieces of evidence he found credible and influential, and which he had no reason to disbelieve:
a. Campbell was handcuffed and vulnerable.
b. Turner is twice her size.
c. Turner did not follow his training by using an open hand rather than his fist when he struck her.
d. Slomba and Laing were there before he punched her.
e. Slomba touched Turner and said, “I’ve got this.”
f. Turner knew Slomba and Laing were there and in a position to support him.
g. Campbell did not grab Turner’s shirt.
h. Turner said, “That will shut her up,” and he made a similar statement after the incident in a taped discussion with a police dispatcher that was entered into evidence at the trial.
Hewson concluded the amount of force used was not justified even after making allowances for Campbell’s behaviour and the chaotic situation. He said he didn’t think Turner’s belief that it was necessary was reasonable. And he said he was not left with any reasonable doubt.
Turner will be sentenced at a later date, as yet undetermined.
He has been on desk duty at the police department since he was charged.