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Edmonton police officer pleads not guilty to assaulting 39-year-old man in 2021

An Edmonton police constable has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a man during an arrest in Ritchie nearly three years ago. 

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) announced in a news release in September 2022 that Const. Dustin Adsett, 37, and Oli Olason, a former constable, were charged with assault and assault with a weapon.

The charges related to an arrest the officers were involved in on March 23, 2021. Adsett used a conducted electrical weapon, also known as a Taser, during the incident that occurred just outside Ritchie Market. 

Adsett’s trial began in an Edmonton Court of King’s Bench court room on Monday. The court heard from three witnesses and saw security footage of the incident from multiple angles. Adsett pleaded not guilty. 

Crown prosecutor Michelle Kai said the essential issue is whether Adsett used more force than was necessary.

Defence lawyer Mona Duckett said in her opening statement that the footage provides a fairly clear picture of the incident from the north, but it does not show Adsett’s perspective from the south.

“The video doesn’t capture the intensity of the situation that the officers faced at the time,” Duckett said.

‘My stomach’s turning’

Lee Van Beaver, 42, told court he was heading to Whyte Avenue to a friend’s place when a black vehicle with tinted windows started following him. 

Beaver said he didn’t recognize the vehicle as belonging to police and he started to become paranoid.

He told the court he was worried about being trafficked, kidnapped, jumped or assaulted so he took bear a canister of bear spray out of his bag and showed it to the vehicle as he walked along 76th Avenue toward an alley beside Ritchie Market, near 96th Street.

After Beaver entered the alley, police officers identified themselves, put their emergency vehicle lights on and told him to get down on the ground. 

Security footage played in court showed Beaver lifting his empty hands, then kneeling and lying down. Two police officers stood on his body, with one of them trying to handcuff him.

Beaver said he was Tasered in the back and kicked in the face. 

“It’s hard to watch. My stomach’s turning,” he said in court after watching the video footage for the first time.

An agreed statement of facts read by Kai said emergency medical personnel removed two Taser probes from Beaver’s body after he was arrested. He also sustained a cut to his lower lip.

He told Kai he had been drinking vodka before riding the bus to the area and had smoked methamphetamine earlier in the night.

Why police stopped

Const. Dan Fedechko testified that he was partnered with Olason that night and had been en route to a nearby call when they encountered a man who pointed a canister of bear spray at their Ford F350.

Once they learned they were no longer needed to assist on the other call, he said, they made a U-turn and drove back to arrest the man for possessing a weapon dangerous to the public.

Fedechko said he was concerned about the man’s motivations because, given the police truck was unmarked, he may have been pointing weapons at random people.

He said he and Olason stood on either side of the man to control him and he believed the bear spray went off when he was turning on the ground. He said he could smell the spray and later found his right pant leg saturated with it.

Fedechko said he did not think the bear spray was deployed intentionally.

He said he remembered hearing Adsett say he had a Taser.

Pedechko said the less-lethal weapon was “incredibly effective” that night because until it was deployed, he had having a difficult time handcuffing the man.

“I would have done the exact same thing,” he said.

Const. Jason Ludvig, who also responded to the incident, said it appeared Beaver was fighting the officers trying to arrest him. 

“He was actively trying to tuck one of his hands underneath his body,” he told the court.

Beaver said during his testimony that he turned his head because he didn’t want to be kicked in the face again and at no point was he resisting arrest.

Justice Kent Davidson is presiding over Adsett’s trial, which continues on Tuesday.

Olason resigned from EPS in late 2021 and his trial is proceeding separately next year.

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