'You were trying to hurt him': Edmonton police officer cross-examined on Day 3 of assault trial

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An Edmonton police officer charged with assault for driving his knee into a prone suspect testified he was “surprised” at the amount of force when he watched video of the arrest a year later.

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Const. Michael Partington, 34, has been suspended from the Edmonton Police Service without pay since June 2020, when video emerged of the Aug. 27, 2019, arrest of Elliot McLeod on a north Edmonton boulevard.

The video shows Partington striding from his patrol car towards McLeod — who was pinned beneath fellow Const. Curtis McCargar — then dropping his knee into his back.

Partington was charged with assault on June 16, 2020. His provincial court trial before Judge Peter Ayotte began Monday.

“Yes, my knee landed on the subject much harder than I realized,” Partington testified as the defence began its case Wednesday. “I was quite surprised when I saw the video how hard it appeared to have been.”

McCargar was the first police officer to interact with McLeod on the day of the arrest. He told court Tuesday that he stopped McLeod — who is Indigenous — near 115 Avenue and 95 Street after noticing he was riding a bike on a sidewalk without a bell or a horn.

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McLeod gave McCargar a fake name and rode off. Convinced McLeod was obstructing his investigation, the officer turned his cruiser around and caught up to McLeod in about 36 seconds. He pulled his cruiser onto the curb, dragged McLeod off the bike, and delivered several punches to the back of his head.

At some point, McCargar radioed for backup. Partington, who was patrolling in the area, raced to the scene with lights and sirens activated.

Partington testified that when he arrived, he saw McLeod struggling on the ground beneath McCargar, who was sweating and out of breath with a “furious” look on his face. Within a few seconds, Partington decided to “place” his knee between McLeod’s shoulder blades to restrain him for handcuffing.

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He said he did not recall feeling an impact when his knee struck McLeod, and that the man’s screams and moans did not strike him out of the ordinary in such an arrest.

A subsequent search of McLeod turned up no weapons. Charges against McLeod including resisting arrest and assault (for allegedly spitting on the back of Partington’s head) were later dropped.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Carla MacPhail attempted to paint Partington as an officer who responded excessively, then tried to downplay his own conduct.

On the stand, McCargar portrayed himself as being in a desperate fight, struggling with a resisting suspect and an injured hand. MacPhail, on the other hand, suggested that Partington had no indication McCargar was actually in dire straits, besides his tone of voice on the radio call.

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She argued the knee blow was actually intended to cause McLeod pain.

“You were trying to hurt him,” she told Partington, who disagreed. “You weren’t just trying to assist Const. McCargar in applying the handcuffs.”

Rather than “placing” his knee, “you actually planted one of your legs and launched yourself forward and down onto Mr. McLeod’s upper back and neck,” MacPhail charged. “You drove your knee into him with significant force. What you did was you dropped your entire body weight, with one point of contact, which was your knee.”

“Yes, I see that now,” Partington admitted. 

She also noted Partington did not properly report the use of force, and took no steps to obtain video taken by bystanders, despite its relevance to both the investigation of McLeod and the officers’ own conduct.

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MacPhail added that Partington’s written narrative of the arrest mentioned McLeod’s use of profanity, but failed to mention McCargar’s own language. McCargar admitted to calling McLeod a “fat f—” and a “mother f—er” after the blows were delivered.

Partington said he simply did not believe McCargar’s actions were relevant to his narrative. He said he did not believe his actions were a reportable use of force.

Partington joined Edmonton police in 2015 after a nine-year career in the Canadian military. He told court he was a crewman with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse armoured regiment.

Partington’s trial began Monday and is scheduled to last five days.

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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