(Advocate file photo)

RCMP officer on trial for assault testifies prisoner hit him

Prisoner knocked unconscious in incident in cellblock in March 2020

A Red Deer RCMP officer testified he punched a man in custody in 2020 in a split-second reaction to having his neck grabbed by the intoxicated and unco-operative prisoner.

Cpl. Kent McDiarmid was on trial in Red Deer provincial court on Friday on a single count of assault for the March 2, 2020 incident in the Red Deer detachment cells that saw Evan Deschamps knocked unconscious.

Deschamps, who has since died under unrelated circumstances, had been picked up by police in the early hours of March 2 after they responded to a report of a fight at a Subway near Taylor Drive and 67th Street.

He was taken to the detachment where a swaying and mostly incoherent Deschamps repeatedly refused to provide his name, instead giving police a string of fake names. He was eventually identified by a tattoo of his last name found on his neck.

McDiarmid was the main person dealing with Deschamps, who was belligerent and kept pawing at the officer’s protective vest and at one point touched the belt carrying the officer’s baton and other tools.

A video surveillance recording with no sound of the incident was shown in court.

The officer, with about 15 years experience at the time, said he considered Deschamps a low- to medium-threat at first but the threat level rose as he continued to ignore the officer’s commands.

“At no time is my threat assessment of Mr. Deschamps lower, it’s continually rising,” McDiarmid testified.

Deschamps got notably more verbally aggressive and angry after police finally identified him and discovered there was a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest and he would not be leaving custody.

When Deschamps touched his belt “that put my threat assessment on him through the roof,” said McDiarmid.

The officer said he has been pepper sprayed and hit with a police baton in altercations during his career and was concerned if any of his tools were grabbed he would not be able to defend himself or anyone else.

When Deschamps hit his neck, McDiarmid said he delivered a “reactive strike” in a split-second decision. “I delivered a single punch to the face.”

Deschamps fell to the floor of the cellblock and was unconscious. Another officer testified he appeared to hit his head on the floor.

McDiarmid immediately called EMS and Deschamps was taken to hospital as a precaution.

Afterwards, an incident review was conducted and then the decision made to do an internal Code of Conduct investigation and a criminal investigation. McDiarmid was charged with assault in February 2021.

Under cross-examination Crown prosecutor Kaitlyn Perrin questioned McDiarmid closely about why the six-foot-six, 250-pound officer did not take other measures to control the prisoner such as putting him back in the handcuffs that had been removed so he could be searched.

McDiarmid said there was a risk Deschamps would have tried to fight if they tried to handcuff him.

“The solution isn’t always to put them in restraints,” he said.

Perrin asked McDiarmid why he didn’t just push Deschamps against the wall when he hit his neck instead of punching him.

“My response is what I believed to be the best response in defending myself in the split-second after being struck in the neck,” he replied.

Three other RCMP officers in the cellblock at the time of the incident described Deschamps as unco-operative. One described him as being “very handsy” and repeatedly touched McDiarmid despite multiple warnings not to.

Judge Gordon Hatch asked Perrin and defence lawyer Kent Teskey to provide their written final submissions next month. A date when he will deliver his decision was not available on Friday.



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