LETHBRIDGE: Regional Police officer David Easter has been
found Not Guilty on a charge of assault causing bodily harm.
Justice Kim Nixon ruled that Easter was acting in self-defence and that he
used reasonable force, when he punched an intoxicated man in May of 2012,
fracturing the man's left eye socket and the back of his skull when he fell.
Easter told the court that Donavan Girard, who was 20 at the time of the
incident, approached him in his cruiser while he was writing a ticket for
another individual, and started demanding that he turn off his emergency lights.
Easter said that he warned Girard, who seemed very intoxicated and aggressive,
to leave three or four times before finally getting out of his vehicle. At that
point Girard started to walk away and he told him to stop, which he did.
Easter warned Girard that he could arrest him for public intoxication, and after
a brief conversation told Girard that he was under arrest and grabbed his arm.
From there Easter says Girard stepped back, pulled his arm free and made a fist.
Noting that he thought Girard would strike, he delivered the punch.
After admitting that he had consumed 10 beers and two shots of whiskey that
night, Girard testified that he only asked the officer once to turn his lights
off, and that he did so from a distance. He also stated that he pulled his arm
back when Easter grabbed him, but that he did not make a fist or prepare to
throw a punch.
Justice Nixon explained in court that she believed Easter's testimony, and
that he was justified in believing that Girard would attack.
Outside the courthouse, defence lawyer Willie deWitt discussed his client's
decision to strike first, "It's really what's in the mind of the officer at the
time, he can't know what this person is thinking and he can't give a presumption
that, oh the guy's not going to do anything, that's when you get in
Lethbridge Police Association President Tom Kramer also spoke to the media
following the verdict, "I appreciated the comments of the justice and I think
they follow what the court's have already said in many cases. When police
officers are faced in these situations they often have to react and they're very
split second decisions."
Kramer also noted that after almost two years of being relieved from duty
with pay, Easter will return to work Monday morning.