Two Mounties have been found not guilty of assaulting a man during his 2019 arrest.
Judge Jay Solomon said in his reasons for judgment, delivered at Richmond provincial court after a 13-day trial, that the issue was whether Constables John Tsonos and Matthew McGuire used excessive force in arresting Alexander Eaton after police followed a stolen vehicle from Surrey to Richmond.
Solomon noted “at the material time” that Tsonos was with the Surrey Auto Crime Target Team and McGuire was with the Richmond RCMP’s Mobile Enforcement Team.
“The evidence is mostly non-contentious as the alleged assault was captured by a residential security camera that was motion activated and included audio,” Solomon noted.
“Based on the recording of the arrest, the evidence of the witnesses including both accused, and the minor injuries suffered by Mr. Eaton,” Solomon decided, the force used by both constables “although aggressive, was rather limited, necessary, and certainly not unreasonable or disproportionate. It is abundantly clear that the force used was not intended to cause serious injury. At all times the blows delivered by the accused were for the sole purpose of gaining control of Mr. Eaton’s hands as soon as possible to reduce the very significant risk posed by Mr. Eaton to the officers and the public. No lesser force would have been appropriate or effective.”
The court heard McGuire delivered about 16 “short strikes” with a closed fist to Eaton’s shoulders, then three knee kicks from a kneeling position to his upper right side.
After a struggle, McGuire made a final knee strike to Eaton’s right side “that appears to connect with his head,” the judge noted. “The officers are then able to gain control of Mr. Eaton’s left arm and place his left wrist into the handcuffs. No further strikes are delivered by the officers after the handcuffs are applied. From the time of going ‘hands-on’ with Mr. Eaton until the final knee strike, approximately 35 seconds has elapsed.”
Tsonos was observed to deliver an “initial kick” to Eaton’s right shoulder or arm as he runs up to him. “He repositions himself and attempts a second kick that was aborted when his heel struck a post. He then delivers two kicks in the direction of Mr. Eaton’s right hip. The recording does not show if any of the kicks actually landed on Mr. Eaton. The kicks were delivered during the first five seconds of going hands-on with Mr. Eaton. Cst. Tsonos then disengages and repositions himself.”
Eaton sustained two abrasions during the arrest, just above his right eyebrow and to the left side of his forehead just below the hairline.
Solomon noted that police officers who testified for the Crown “all agreed” that Eaton was “well known to the entire team as a prolific vehicle thief, a person who carried weapons, as a drug dealer and a drug user. Once it became known that Mr. Eaton was operating the stolen vehicle there was concern about Mr. Eaton’s previous access to weapons and use of methamphetamine.”
In his analysis, the judge found Tsonos’s and McGuire’s evidence to be “credible, reliable, and consistent with the security camera recording.
“They were unshaken on cross-examination. I accept their assessment of Mr. Eaton as posing an extremely high risk to officer and public safety and that it was of paramount importance to obtain full control over him as soon as possible. Their risk assessment was consistent with the totality of the evidence and objectively reasonable having regard to the circumstances as they existed at the time force was applied to Mr. Eaton.”
The judge concluded the force used by both officers was “required, authorized, proportional, necessary, and reasonable.”