The target of an arrest for which a former Prince George RCMP dog handler is accused of using excessive force stuck to his story in the face of video evidence presented in court on Wednesday indicating he failed to comply with commands during the apprehension.
Cst. Joshua Grafton faces one count each of assault, assault with a weapon and obstruction of justice in relation to an early-morning Feb. 18, 2016 apprehension of Cuyler Aubichon in an alleyway off the 2200 block of Oak Street.
The video from a nearby security camera shows the dog pulling Aubichon out of the driver's side of a stolen pickup truck and onto the ground. Over the course of about 50 seconds the dog and Grafton work to subdue Aubichon before putting him in handcuffs.
During testimony provided earlier this week, Aubichon said he tried to comply with police commands as best he could, only to be repeatedly struck with what felt like a baton or "hard object" by more than one officer as he laid face down on the ground.
Aubichon also testified police "cheered" and "chanted" and that he was called a "dirty Indian."
During cross-examination, Grafton's lawyer, Ravi Hira, took Aubichon through a series of digitally-sharpened still frames from the video and asked him to show where the images matched with his story.
Aubichon had conceded that while he was in the truck, he had tried to stuff a bag of methamphetamine down his pants with his right hand as he saw police converge, but once out and on the ground he complied with police commands to show his right hand as the dog maintained a grip on his left forearm.
When Hira suggested the video shows the dog switching to his right arm, Aubichon disagreed. That prompted Provincial Court Judge Peter McDermick to ask Aubichon to raise his arms and show which he thought was his left and right out of concern there may have been confusion.
Hira later put it to Aubichon that he refused to show his right hand while on the ground "because you were determined not to show your drugs."
"Incorrect," Aubichon replied.
Hira also put it to Aubichon that the blows he felt were actually from the upper part of Grafton's elbow and were exacted to get Aubichon to show his right arm.
"I disagree," Aubichon replied.
Hira also worked to discredit Aubichon's allegation that Grafton called him a "dirty Indian" during the takedown, noting that no reference was made to the assertion in a statement he gave to investigators from the Independent Investigations Office about a month later.
Rather, Hira noted the allegation was only raised in an affidavit filed in December 2020 as part of a civil lawsuit Aubichon brought against Grafton and the RCMP that was filed in July 2020, roughly six weeks after charges against Grafton were approved.
Aubichon maintained that he indeed was called the slur but conceded he could not say for certain that it came from Grafton because "my face was down, in the dirt."
Aubichon denied Hira's assertion that he exaggerated the extent of his injuries in the notice of claim and the affidavit and claimed ignorance when it was suggested it will help the chances of the lawsuit being successful if Grafton is found guilty
"If that's the way it works, yes," Aubichon said.
Hira, who is also representing Grafton on the civil matter, then produced an email from Aubichon's lawyer that was sent to Hira's office in December 2020, offering to discontinue the action if legal costs are waived.
The video also shows the apprehension of Nathaniel Basil, who was the passenger in the pickup truck. Charges against two officers involved in that arrest were stayed in October following Basil's testimony during a trial on that matter.
The trial for Grafton, which has consumed more than 20 days so far, is scheduled to resume in June.