Winnipeg man cleared of assaulting officers after judge finds ‘inconsistencies’ in police testimony

A Manitoba judge has cleared a Winnipeg man accused of assaulting two police officers after finding “inconsistencies” with the officer’s testimony and questioning their use of a Taser on him.

“Was the use of a Taser multiple times really necessary?” said provincial court Judge Robert Heinrichs as he read his decision Tuesday.

“There are some inconsistencies and concerns with the police’s evidence in this case.”

Shaun Anobis, 38, was found not guilty on two charges of assaulting a police officer and one charge of resisting arrest.  

The charges stem from an incident in June 2020, during which police say Anobis punched and kicked officers who responded to a report of a break-in involving a man brandishing a BB gun.

Officers testified at Anobis’s trial that a Taser was used after he refused to give them his hands while they tried to arrest him. 

Anobis’s testimony detailed a different version of events, alleging police never told him he was under arrest when they first encountered him and he was Tasered 13 times during the arrest.

Anobis filed a lawsuit in 2021 against police over the incident, seeking damages for his alleged unlawful arrest.

Defence lawyer Martin Pollock said that people like Shaun Anobis need to be believed when they tell their story about their encounter with police. (pollockandcompany.com)

Martin Pollock, Anobis’s lawyer, says Tuesday’s decision sends a message. 

“There are a lot of people like Shaun Anobis who should be believed when they tell their story,” Pollock told CBC News.

‘That omission is significant’: judge 

The June 2020 incident began when Anobis was at a friend’s house in Winnipeg’s West End and had his cellphone stolen.

Officers testified at the trial that after the BB gun report had come in, they were told to go to the house that Anobis was leaving, still searching for his phone.

Police testified Anobis was agitated and talking about a missing phone, but said he also matched the description of the the break-in suspect. Officers testified they immediately told Anobis he was being detained. Anobis said that never happened.

There is no mention in police use of force reports that officers immediately told Anobis they were detaining him, Heinrichs said in his decision.

If officers did tell him he was being detained, “then this omission [in the reports] is significant,” said Heinrichs.

Both arresting officers testified that Anobis refused to take his hands out of his pockets when asked — but the use of force reports said Anobis had complied, Heinrichs noted.

“This is a significant discrepancy,” the judge’s decision said.

Taser report shows switch used 13 times

The officers said they gave Anobis clear instructions, and when they went to search him at the fence for a BB gun, he refused to comply and punched one of the officers. Both officers say he was taken to the fence and searched before he was taken to the ground. 

Police testified that when they searched Anobis, they found a pocket knife on him.

The officer testified that Anobis was Tasered two or three times while on the ground in order for police to get both of his hands free so he could be arrested. 

A copy of one of the photos presented as evidence by the defence in Anobis’s trial. His attorney says the photos show that Anobis was Tasered multiple times. The Crown argued the marks could have been caused by bedbugs or cigarette burns. (Provincial court exhibit)

However, a Taser report that was given as evidence in the trial shows that the Taser switch was pressed 13 times. Anobis’s lawyers presented photographs of multiple alleged Taser marks on Anobis’s legs and buttocks, something the Crown argued could have been caused by bedbugs or cigarette burns. 

Heinrichs said the officer’s “refusal to admit he could have been wrong [about the Taser] is concerning.”

Heinrichs also pointed out the fact that after one officer testified, the Crown attorney came forward with a second use of force report that had previously not been disclosed.

The second report has several changes and a list of force used against Anobis, Heinrichs said.

“The additions and deletions to it [the second use of force report] are such that his credibility is further called into question,” Heinrichs said. 

Video played in court

A video of the incident was also played during the trial, which Heinrichs said showed several officers on top of Anobis and Anobis screaming, “I am not resisting.”

Heinrichs noted the video shows the officers take Anobis to the ground first and then later to the fence — contrary to what the officers had said in testimony.

He also said the video shows an officer asking if Anobis had anything “on” himself, which contradicts the testimony that Anobis was searched before he was taken to the ground. 

Heinrichs questioned whether the use of Taser was necessary, and suggested “patience” could have been used instead.

WATCH | Video of police arresting Shaun Anobis (WARNING: may be disturbing to viewers): 

Shaun Anobis being arrested by police in 2020

3 hours ago

Duration 1:35

WARNING: video might be distressing to some viewers. This video, taken by a neighbour, was filed as an exhibit in Shaun Anobis’s trial. He was found not guilty on two charges of assaulting a police officer and one charge of resisting arrest. 1:35

Heinrichs concluded his decision by pointing out inconsistencies with Anobis’s testimony, questioning why he didn’t make a better effort to get the name of the woman who allegedly stole his phone. 

However, he said there were more issues with the police version of events.

“There are more significant concerns with the evidence of police officers in this case,” he said.

“It is plausible that Shaun Anobis’s version of what happened in his encounter … is in fact what happened.” 

Winnipeg police declined to comment on the judge’s decision. 

Anobis has filed a civil claim, which remains before the court.