Winnipeg police officer on trial for assault of prisoner

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A Winnipeg police officer is currently standing trial for allegedly assaulting a prisoner who he was transporting to the Winnipeg Remand Centre. The trial commenced on Nov. 26.

The police officer, constable Ryan Law, nephew of former chief Keith McCaskill, has pleaded not guilty to the charge of aggravated assault.

The man pressing charges, Henry Lavallee, claims that Law arrested Lavallee and another unnamed man for attempting to break into a car in Winnipeg’s Exchange District in November 2008.

The two men were reportedly then taken to the Public Safety Building and placed in separate holding cells.

After being taken out of the car, Lavallee claims that he and the other man were slapped in the face by each of the arresting officers. It was at this point, Lavallee claims, that Law entered his holding cell and kicked him in the stomach. Lavallee then began vomiting blood.

The attack, according to Lavallee, was unprovoked and unwarranted.

“I never said nothing because I remember every time I got arrested. Don’t say nothing, don’t kick nothing, don’t do nothing. Just lay there and let them do their job, what they got to do,” he said.

During the trial, Lavallee commented that the other arresting police officer accompanying Law acted aggressively while he acted as though it were his first arrest.

“He was jumping around like it was his first ice cream cone,” Lavallee said.

Lavallee claims he requested and was denied medical care until he had been transferred to the Remand Centre.

Lavallee testified that he had passed out in his holding cell in the Remand Centre. He was revived but passed out again and awoke in the St. Boniface Hospital, where he underwent surgery for a ruptured colon.

At a press conference shortly after the incident with the Southern Chiefs Organization, an advocacy group for First Nations people in southern Manitoba, Lavallee lifted his shirt and showed his stomach and said, “This is the outcome of what he did – I got 21 staples.”

The paramedic who responded to the call claimed, however, that Lavallee was conscious during the trip to the hospital and that he did not seem to be in distress. The unnamed paramedic alleges that there were no visible signs of injury, such as bruises, abrasions, welts, or swelling of his stomach.

It was also said that Lavallee was making jokes and sexually crude remarks toward female hospital employees.

The paramedic told the court, “He didn’t appear distressed.”

Law was arrested the following June after an internal police investigation into the matter and was subsequently charged with assault. He was released from custody under specified conditions, as well as an order to appear in court.

Under cross-examination of Lavallee, Law’s lawyer accused Lavallee of being offensive and rude to the arresting police officers.

When asked during the trial if he had sworn at the arresting police officers, Lavallee said he “maybe” did.

Joseph Pasternack, the officer working at the Remand Centre admissions desk at the time of Lavallee’s arrest, claimed that, “he was decent with us [ . . . ] better than normal.”

In a conflicting statement, Dale Schwartz, a corrections officer at the Remand Centre, claimed that Lavallee appeared very intoxicated and was “kicking and banging” when brought into the Remand Centre.