Behchoko man acquitted of resisting arrest, assaulting police officer after judge rules arrest was unlawful

Yellowknife Courthouse (CKLB File photo).

A Behchoko man has been found not guilty of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and uttering threats following a trial earlier this year in Behchoko and Yellowknife.

Jean-Louis Rabesca, 50, was acquitted of all charges against him by Territorial Court Judge Donovan Molloy who, in his decision earlier this month, essentially ruled all bets were off because Rabesca’s arrest was unlawful.

The charges stemmed from an incident in Behchoko in June of 2018.

The investigating officer – Cst. Blake Chursinoff testified that he was called to Rabesca’s home by family members who told him that Rabesca was intoxicated and aggressive but that they didn’t want him charged.

The constable told the court that he located Rabesca on the street shortly afterwards yelling at an unknown female.

He said Rabesca called him a racist at which time he said he told Rabesca he was under arrest for causing a disturbance and mischief.

Chursinoff testified that he had to wrestle Rabesca into a police vehicle at which time he said Rabesca kicked him in the face.

Rabesca was eventually lodged in cells at the Behchoko detachment.

The officer testified that Rabesca was never handcuffed.

Roman Lamouelle was the civilian in charge of the cell area and he testified that Rabesca threatened the officer.

On cross examination, Lamouelle was asked how he knew Rabesca was threatening the officer and not him.

He said the threats referenced “your white ass.”

Lamouelle is Indigenous.

“He wasn’t pointing at me because, like, I don’t have a white ass, I guess,” Lamouelle testified.

Lamouelle added that he would not have normally made note of the threats until he was asked to do so by the officer. 

Rabesca’s testimony was dramatically different from that of the police officer.

He said he hadn’t been drinking because he had been hunting earlier in the day, however records showed he later told medical staff that he was under the influence at the time.

Rabesca also testified he was apprehended at gunpoint and handcuffed.

Rabesca said while he was handcuffed behind his back Chursinoff slammed the vehicle door on his legs.

Rabesca testified that to avoid injury, he kicked the door but did not kick the officer in the face.

He also said he was refused medical treatment during a subsequent four-day incarceration at the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC) in Yellowknife.

He eventually went to the health centre in Behchoko where photos of his injuries were taken.

Court heard that the photos showed abrasions to his face and bruises to his limbs, knees and wrists.

“Those injuries are consistent with the force that Mr. Rabesca says was used. They also are consistent with an arrest that was occasioned by the application of far more force that Cst. Chursinoff said was used,” the judge stated in his decision.

Molloy also cleared Rabesca of resisting and assaulting the officer, stating the officer had no real reason to arrest Rabesca.

“Mr. Rabesca cannot be convicted of resisting Cst. Chursinoff in the execution of his duty given that Cst. Chursinoff’s arrest of Mr. Rabesca was unlawful. In fact, Mr. Rabesca was entitled to resist being arrested, including using force to defend himself… If Mr. Rabesca kicked Cst. Chursinoff self-defence would have to be considered,” Molloy ruled.

The judge also stated that it is common practice to handcuff suspects before placing them in a police vehicle so the officer’s testimony that Rabesca was never handcuffed undermines the Mountie’s credibility.

The judge also cleared him of uttering threats essentially saying that Rabesca’s threats, under the circumstances, could not be taken seriously.







About the Author

John McFadden
John has been in the broadcast journalism industry since the 1980s. He has been a reporter in Yellowknife since 2012 and joined CKLB in January of 2018. John covers the crime and court beat as well as reporting on other areas including politics, business, entertainment and sports. He won seven national community newspaper awards while he was a journalist with Northern News Services Limited (NNSL). John worked in Ontario before coming North including stints as a TV sportscaster in Peterborough and senior news writer for CBC and CTV in downtown Toronto.