RCMP officer charged in investigation into excessive force during arrest at Winnipeg airport

A Manitoba RCMP officer is set to appear in provincial court next month after Manitoba’s police watchdog authorized an assault charge stemming from a 2019 incident at Winnipeg’s airport.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba (IIU) said they were notified by RCMP Aug. 11, 2021, about the incident that happened on Aug. 1, 2019, and concerned an allegation of excessive use of force by two RCMP members during an arrest.

According to an IIU news release, civilian director Zane Tesler is satisfied there are reasonable grounds to believe there was a criminal offence committed, and has authorized an assault charge against one of the officers involved.

The IIU said Cst. Eric Gerein has been issued a summons for Sept. 26 in Winnipeg Provincial Court.

Manitoba RCMP said Guerin remains employed, but didn’t respond to a question on the duty status of the officer.

Meantime, the National Police Federation, the union that represents RCMP officers, says it will not be making any public comment on the matter, as it is before the courts.

INCIDENT CAUGHT ON CAMERA

The investigation was launched after a video was played in an assault trial in Aug. 2021 which shows an RCMP officer who appears to be kneeling on a man’s neck as he screams he can’t breathe.

Court heard officers were responding to a report of an assault involving an intoxicated man on the night of Aug. 1, 2019. Nathan Lasuik of Alberta argued his Charter rights were breached due to excessive use of force.

The video was presented as evidence in his trial and released to media outlets.

In the nearly five-minute-long cellphone video captured by Lasuik’s father, one of the officers appears to be kneeling on his son’s neck while Lasuik screams he can’t breathe.

“You’re breathing,” an officer can be heard yelling in the video. “When you’re talking, you’re breathing.”

Lasuik pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Last December, Judge Dave Mann ruled Lasuik’s Charter rights were violated, and gave Lasuik a conditional discharge with 12 months of supervised probation.

Among the conditions, Mann said Lasuik must complete any counselling as directed by probation services and will need to complete 40 hours of community service work.

Lasuik told CTV News in a statement the charge is a positive step to help healing move forward for his family, the public and himself.

He said he’s hopeful the outcome from this event can be a positive step for the public in setting helpful precedent to have trust in the system.

‘VERY DISTURBING’: FORMER RCMP ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER

When asked for comment on the IIU ruling, Manitoba RCMP referred CTV to a statement by its former assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy that was issued when the investigation was initially launched last summer.

“I found the video very disturbing,” the statement reads.

“Hearing a man clearly informing police officers that he cannot breathe is all too present in our collective consciousness. Let me be very clear, the RCMP does not teach nor endorse any technique where RCMP officers place a knee on the head or neck.”

Manitoba RCMP said it would not issue any further statements at this time.

– With files from CTV’s Josh Crabb and Danton Unger

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