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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Police history questioned unfairly?

February 24, 2009
Similkameen Spotlight

Operation Rosemary is an informal group of Princeton citizens who initially rallied to the support of Rosemary Doughty, and to seek to reverse her termination, but also have raised questions in respect of the suitability of Sergeant Gary Macahonic to decide to terminate Ms. Doughty, based on allegations in the public record respecting Sgt. Macahonic’s policing history. No allegation has been proved in a court of law. Sgt. Macahonic is entitled to a presumption of regularity as to all of his conduct, until proven otherwise. Certainly, he is entitled to a presumption of innocence in respect of any suggestion of excessive force or similar excesses.

“Why is he - this man making decisions about someone so well respected in our community?” queried one of Doughty’s clients. The client was referring to the YOU TUBE video of, then, Corporal Macahonic (GOOGLE - Taser Disabled Man), where Macahonic tasered a handcuffed disabled man. The victim, John Dempsey was, then, charged with obstructing justice. He was acquitted of these charges by the judge. February 20th, 2008, John Dempsey died. Dempsey was to have appeared in court in a civil action that both he and his friend, who was, also, acquitted, had launched against Corporal Macahonic. Kamloops lawyer, Jamie Ashby, filed a claim for damages on behalf of Gene Lyne and John Dempsey. Mr. Ashby is recorded as saying he (John Dempsey) is passed away so the case dies with him. However, Mr Ashby is continuing with the claim for Gene Lyne.

Another incident of tasering in Kamloops occurred involving a man, Jean-Marc Phillips. Phillips was injured in what Judge James Gordon referred to as a gang-style beating by the RCMP, again with Macahonic on hand. The full extent of Macahonic’s involvement in the incident is unclear, although he was named by RCMP member Blanchard as the officer who transported Phillips to the detachment. In the court docket, Judge Gordon states further, “There were a number of other officers who arrived, but only one he (Officer Blanchard) put a name to - I believe was Constable Macahonic. The cell block is under constant video monitoring,” said Judge Gordon. “In this case, I am left to accept that there are no videos of whatever did or did not take place while Mr. Phillips was in cells. With all this in mind, I must say that I do have reasonable doubt as to whether or not the police officers were engaged in lawful execution of duty at this time.”

RCMP District Commander, Don Harrison, did not directly answer the question of how Macahonic was promoted with civil litigation still ongoing, but Harrison did state that any public complaints go through an internal investigation process and that all matters are considered individually. Harrison said that he had “little knowledge” with regard to the civil litigation underway in Kamloops nor of the judgements made by three different judges in all three taser cases - the fact that the charges against the taser victim’s were all dropped received no comment from anyone in the RCMP. The ongoing litigation against Macahonic was not relevant in the RCMP’s decision to promote him. Harrison said, “only criminal charges against Macahonic would delay the process.”

In the third case involving tasering, Princeton’s Sergeant Gary Macahonic is in civil litigation with Tracy Leanne Carrell, Randy Lynn Carrell and Rita Ann Zagorski stemming from an incident that occurred at the Kami Inn in Kamloops on December 20th, 2003 whereby the litigants claim Macahonic used excessive force. The threesome are seeking damages for injuries suffered at the hands of Corporal Macahonic. Tracy Carrell’s statement of claim alleges Macahonic repeatedly tasered her, as well as, injured her by standing on her head and torso and dragging her by her hair to the police cruiser. Her mother, Randy, and the bartender, Rita, claim they were, also, tasered by Macahonic while trying to stop Macahonic from further tasering Tracy. Randy and Tracy were charged with assault and resisting arrest. All charges were dropped by Judge Dohm. Judge Tony Dohm said, “in the circumstances, it appears to me - although I do not have to decide it - (the use of force) appears excessive.”

In the court documents, Tracy Carrell said she was inexplicably attacked by Macahonic when she went back inside the bar where she was lead singer in the band. Macahonic said Carrell inexplicably bolted when he approached. Carrell admitted she turned and went inside, but said it was because Macahonic frightened her when he approached in an intimidating manner. Macahonic tackled and tasered her in front of customers who were attending a Christmas party Tracy said at the hearing. In Macahonic’s own words, “he couldn’t recall how many times he discharged the weapon.” Judge Dohm stated that “the use of a Taser by a 220 pound officer against a 120 pound female who has been restrained must be questioned” and that even Macahonic himself admitted he was able to change the cartridges on the Taser suggesting he had Carrell under control.

District Commander Harrison, said taser training by officers stresses “shooting at the center of mass or chest area.” In Tracy Carrell’s testimony she said she was tasered twice in the head while handcuffed. Harrison said they avoid shooting for the head “because someone could lose an eye.” Macahonic denied he shot her in the head with the taser. Pictures admitted to the Kamloops Court case clearly showed burn marks on the back of Carrell’s head similar to what would result from a taser discharge. Litigation is pending.

Macahonic confirmed in an interview that internal investigations were done by the RCMP following thetasering incidents, but that “I was exonerated of all charges.” He denied inappropriate or excessive use of force and states that the RCMP investigations confirmed that the use of force, to the extent it was attributable to Macahonic, was reasonable in the circumstances.

A defence lawyer consulted by the Similkimeen Spotlight states that it is not unusual for a person such as Sgt. Macahonic, facing civil litigation, to decline to provide detailed answers to allegations, given the jeopardy that Sgt. Macahonic faces, and the usual advice of civil defence counsel that clients should not debate the merits of a civil lawsuit in the public press. “ That said, there are three interim questions that need to be addressed creatively, in the short term; firstly, the evident suitability of returning Rosemary Doughty to her role with Victim Services, secondly, the effectiveness of the leadership of the local detachment, and thirdly, the best way to exploit the talents of Sgt. Macahonic so as to permit him to serve with distinction and the respect he deserves.”

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