The Kelowna Mountie on trial for allegedly assaulting a 19-year-old pregnant woman, will have his say later this month when he takes the stand to prove he was acting in self defence.
Const. Steve Conlon is facing assault charges stemming from an altercation with Crystal Young that took place Feb. 13, 2009.
While other police tried to track down a parole violator in her Rutland home, Young, who was holding back an aggressive pitbull, got caught in the melee and was punched in the face.
The question that lingered after days of witness testimony is whether police entry into her house and Const. Conlon’s subsequent blow to Young were justified considering the circumstances.
“My defence rests on two issues,” said lawyer Jack Harris, listing the rushed and urgent nature in which police officers entered the home and the threat to Conlon as key elements.
He also contended Young’s pitbull first bit Conlon, then Conlon struck the dog, and in that process hit Young.
He wasn’t aiming to attack the young, pregnant woman, but the amount of threat she presented threw a chain of events in motion.
“It doesn’t matter if he was in there lawfully or unlawfully,” Harris said, referring to a portion of the Criminal Code that says a person is allowed to defend themselves if they’re facing grievous bodily harm, under any circumstances.
During testimony from Const. Chris Brinnen this week, an RCMP dog handler who was on the scene for the events that unfolded, a 60-pound dog in attack mode can cause people to react in fear.
“I always say as a man there’s that innate fear that you’re being eaten by an animal,” he said, adding that he’s witnessed dogs take down people, who sustained little to no injuries, and their reactions were extreme. In other cases, he added, the fear is legitimate.
Although Harris was trying to justify the conditions that led police to enter the house Crown counsel Murray Kaay pointed out that police entry was unlawful.
That, he said, means Conlon can’t be shielded from his actions as part and parcel of his duties.
“At that point (Conlon) is a trespasser and Young is able to do what she can to get him out,” Kaay said.
The incident began earlier that night when Const. Kent Hall, in plain clothes, tried to arrest Mark Pauls on a parole violation warrant and was pepper sprayed.
Hall, meanwhile, shot Pauls in the leg.
A woman who had been with Pauls in the driveway of a Thompson Road home when Hall confronted Pauls went into the house after suffering the effects of the spray, and police soon came looking for her, threatening to kick down the door if it wasn’t opened up.
Police officers testified that people inside the home were swearing and telling them they needed a warrant.
When police burst into the house, the court was told the people inside, including the woman police were looking for, were ordered to the ground and Young, who was six months pregnant, was trying to hold back her angry pitbull dog when she sustained her injuries.
The trial will continue Dec. 21, with two defense witnesses and submissions from either side remaining.
Update December 22, 2010 10:58am - The following article is from CTV:
Mountie admits punching pregnant woman in raid
An RCMP officer admitted he punched a pregnant woman in the face during a raid on a drug house in Kelowna, but he says he was aiming for her pit bull.
Const. Steve Conlon, who is on trial for assault causing bodily harm, testified he felt the dog grab his arm and when he went to hit the dog he also struck the woman, Crystal Young.
"The dog . . . locked on to my right tricep," Conlon said Tuesday. "I didn't see it happen at all. I hit it with the downward motion of my fist and the dog let out a yelp. It went to the ground and I struck her in the eyebrow area. It was one motion."
But Young testified earlier she was trying to hold the dog back when Conlon walked past the animal, hit her in the eye with his fist and pulled her to the floor.
The incident happened in February of 2009 when Conlon and four other officers stormed a crack house after a shooting nearby in which another officer wounded a man wanted on a Canada Wide warrant.
Const. Kent Hall had confronted Mark Aaron Pauls outside the house. Pauls, wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, fired pepper spray at Hall and ran away.
Hall answered with several shots from his pistol as they ran and shot Pauls in both legs. Pauls underwent surgery and recovered.
Update December 23, 2010 12:54pm - The following article is by Klaudia Ceglarz, from The Vancouver Sun:
Pregnant woman allegedly struck by police speaks out