Buddy Tavares, the man kicked in the face by a Kelowna RCMP officer in an arrest that was caught on video, describes the moment he was stopped at gunpoint by Const. Geoff Mantler, who grew up in Armstrong, as “most unnerving moment I’ve ever had.”
Tavares was recounting the moments of his arrest on Jan. 7, 2011 in a Kelowna courtroom Monday during the opening day of Mantler’s trial on a charge of assault causing bodily harm to Tavares.
That January morning, Tavares, who had recently been released from hospital after a motorcycle accident he was not expected to survive, stopped by his former workplace.
Tavares stopped in at the Harvest Golf Club and chatted with an employee before going to the second fairway to fire off a shotgun to scare the geese away.
It is something Tavares had done many times before, he testified.
After completing the task, Tavares drove toward the courthouse to deal with an issue related to his marital separation when he noticed a police vehicle do a U-turn at Gordon Drive and KLO Road.
Soon after, as he neared Pandosy Street, he spotted police lights in his rear view mirror and pulled over to let the vehicle pass, Tavares testified.
“I thought he was going where the other cops were going,” the now 53-year-old said.
Instead, he found himself staring at a police officer who had trained his gun on him.
The officer told him to keep his hands on the wheel. “If one comes off, I will shoot you,” Tavares recalls the officer saying.
“I froze, I did not move,” said Tavares.
“Had you ever had a gun pointed at you before?” asked Crown counsel William Burrows.
“Never,” said Tavares. “[It was the] most unnerving moment I’ve ever had.”
“I asked him, ‘what did I do?’” testified Tavares.
The officer did not respond to the question and soon asked Tavares to take his right hand off the wheel and unfasten his seat belt – a command Tavares found to be a “loaded statement” in light of the officer’s earlier command to not move.
Tavares said he was “not quick” as he got out of the vehicle.
The officer told him to get on the ground and Tavares said he got on his knees before placing his hands on the ground.
“What’s your next recollection?” asked Burrows.
“Being placed in the back of a police car.”
Earlier, the court heard from video journalist Kelly Hayes, who captured video of Tavares’ arrest.
Hayes testified that as Tavares was about to put his hands on the pavement, Mantler “took some steps toward him and then he kicked him in the face.”
Prior to the kick, Hayes testified that he heard Mantler tell Tavares to “get on the ground…at least five times.”
Hayes testified he couldn’t recall the content of Mantler’s commands to Tavares prior to him getting out of the truck.
On Tuesday, Tavares was cross examined by defence lawyer Neville McDougall and bristled when he was questioned in detail about what happened the day of the incident.
“I had a second brain injury, declared by my doctors, compliments of Mr. Mantler,” said Tavares.
“I don’t have a clear memory, minute by minute, from two years ago.”
He disagreed with a defence assertion that the first time he was back at the golf course to scare off geese was the day he was arrested by Mantler.
“Why don’t we call in Trudi Tavares [ex-wife] to verify. She wasn’t kicked in the head.”
Outside court, Tavares indicated he wasn’t confident that the truth would come out during the trial.
“This is a dog and pony show,” he said Monday.
Mantler’s trial is expected to last two weeks. He is currently suspended without pay.