Nelson Police Department Cst. Drew Turner is on trial this week for assault following an incident on May 1, 2014.
The following outline of the circumstances is taken from the testimony of Nelson police officers Bill Andreaschuk and Jarrett Slomba on Wednesday at the Nelson courthouse, under questioning by prosecutor Debra Drissell and defence counsel John Green, presided over by Judge Richard Hewson.
The prosecution’s evidence
Andreaschuk told the court he apprehended Tawny Campbell, a Nelson area woman in her early twenties, whom he said was drunk and staggering in the traffic on Nelson Ave. near the orange bridge in the early afternoon.
Andreaschuk testified that he phoned his department for help, then put Campbell into the back of his police truck. She resisted, and while he was trying to handcuff her — she wedged between the back seat and the floor, he standing outside the vehicle — off-duty constable Drew Turner arrived in civilian clothes and helped to handcuff her with her hands in front of her body.
Campbell, who weighs just over 100 pounds (45 kg), was screaming and crying. Meanwhile two on-duty officers, Det-Cst. David Laing and Acting Sgt. Jarrett Slomba, arrived.
Slomba testified he put his hand on Turner’s shoulder and said, “I’ve got this,” but he said Turner ignored him, yelling at Campbell to “shut up.”
After she was handcuffed she continued yelling and crying. Slomba and Andreaschuk testified that Turner then punched her with a closed fist in the chest, and a second time in the face “with tremendous force” according to Slomba. “Her head snapped back,” he told the court, “and I heard a loud crack. My concern was that she had suffered a serious neck injury.”
He testified that Turner said, “That will shut her up.” Andreaschuk testified that Turner said, “I am f— tired of this shit.” Slomba said Campbell was bleeding from the mouth and nose and was unconscious for 15 to 20 seconds.
Slomba testified Campbell made no aggressive acts toward the police officers other than resistance to being handcuffed.
Andreaschuk and Slomba testified that Turner then left the scene. The police officers took Campbell out of the vehicle, sat her down on the edge of the sidewalk, and called for medical help. Campbell’s mother arrived, as did the fire department as first responder. Campbell refused treatment, refused to go to the hospital, and her mother took her home.
Campbell took the stand and testified that she couldn’t remember the day in question. She said she remembers drinking alcohol early that day, and her next memory is waking up at her mother’s house the following day. She said she does not know Turner but has a pattern of bad experiences with police and is frightened of them. She said the incident left her with a broken nose and scars.
The defence’s evidence
Drew Turner was the defence’s only witness.
He said that even though he was off duty he decided to help Andreaschuk because it was apparent that Campbell was kicking and pushing Andreachak and “behaving irrationally.”
Turner said he did not hit Campbell in the chest as testified by his colleagues. But he did hit her on the side of the head twice to stun her, with a half-closed fist. He said it was “a little whack. She was flailing. If I hadn’t controlled her, she would have assaulted us.” Asked under cross-examination by prosecutor Debra Drissell why he did not push her back with an open hand instead, Turner said he was afraid he might be accused of sexual assault.
Asked by Drissell if he identified himself to Campbell as a police officer when he arrived, he said he did not.
Turner testified that he punched Campbell in the face after she was handcuffed (in front of her body) because he felt he was being assaulted. “She grabbed my shirt and started to pull me toward her. I could see it in her eyes. I saw an assault coming. She gave me that thousand-yard stare. Given the knowledge that Bill [Andreaschuk] told me she is a fighter, I hit her on the nose. I thought she was going to bite or head-butt me.”
Asked by Drissell why not use an open hand rather than a closed fist, Turner agreed that his training was to use an open hand but he said when faced with assaultive behaviour he was given no choice.
Turner said he was not aware of the presence of Slomba and Laing until after he had hit Campbell in the face, and he did not hear their siren as they approached. When asked by Drissell if he felt Slomba touch him on the shoulder and tell him, “I’ve got this,” Turner said, “He’s making it up. He was not there.”
Turner testified that when Campbell went unconscious it “scared the shit out of me.”
When asked by Drissell if he said, “That will shut her up,” Turner said, “Yes, I said it to break the silence. It was dark humour used to diffuse the situation.”
Further events in this trial may be found in a July 17 article in the Star.
The external investigation
Police chief Wayne Holland told the Star the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner decided it was in the public interest that an external police force be assigned to investigate the matter.
The Vancouver Police Department’s professional standards section carried out the investigation of the incident and recommended a charge be laid against Turner. Crown counsel approved a single count of assault on Nov. 12.
Holland said Turner remains on duty but is assigned to administrative work at the police station until the criminal and Police Act matters conclude.
Nelson police did not issue a news release following the initial incident, nor when the charge was approved.
Asked about protocols for notifying the public of such incidents, Holland said the decision is made on a case-by-case basis, balancing the rights of the accused officer as well as the affected citizens.
“Certainly, if there was a need to inform the public, that would have been done,” he said.
“The police board was immediately advised, as were the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner and the Independent Investigations Office. At any time, if it had been in the public interest to make a formal announcement, that would have been done. I certainly would not have denied the existence of the investigation.”
This article was updated at 5:00 p.m. on July 16 to add the section sub-titled The Defence’s Evidence.