Pointing stun gun could be reasonable, says expert at RCMP officer’s trial

Const. Luke Tomkinson’s assault trial continues for third day in Iqaluit

Day three of RCMP Const. Luke Tomkinson’s criminal trial heard from a Crown use-of-force expert. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Pointing a stun gun — as RCMP Const. Luke Tomkinson is alleged to have done during an incident at an Arctic Bay home in 2020 — could be reasonable under some circumstances, a Crown expert testified in an Iqaluit courtroom Thursday.

It was the third day of Tomkinson’s trial on charges of assault with a weapon and uttering threats, stemming from a Feb. 15, 2020, incident in Arctic Bay.

Tomkinson has pleaded not guilty to both counts.

It’s alleged that while arresting a suspect with another officer, Tomkinson pointed his stun gun —  a non-lethal weapon police use to temporarily immobilize suspects using a jolt of electricity — at Andrew Muckpa, another man in the room and that he threatened to “get [him] right in the [expletive] face.”

Videos made by Muckpa’s son, which capture parts of the incident, were posted to Facebook afterward and played in court earlier in the trial.

While Muckpa doesn’t appear in the videos and wasn’t the target of the arrest inside his home, he is alleged to have been verbally aggressive toward the two officers and can be heard using an array of expletives.

Cpl. Jesse Gawne, an RCMP use-of-force expert, testified Thursday and was the fourth and final witness called by Crown prosecutor Yoni Rahamim.

Gawne said training in the use of stun guns, or conducted energy weapons, is provided once officers are assigned to their provincial or territorial division.

Stun-gun training and usage guidelines may vary based on division, he added.

In response to questions from Rahamim, Gawne said stun guns are often used in situations to immobilize someone who is potentially putting others at risk of “imminent bodily harm.”

Typically, officers aim toward the lower rib cage or back.

On cross-examination, defence lawyer David Butcher scrutinized Gawne’s testimony, his background which involves working with service dogs and his expert reports.

At one point, Butcher called out Gawne for writing Resolute Bay in reference to the incident in parts of his reports, even though it occurred in Arctic Bay.

Butcher questioned Gawne about risk assessments and the type of responses officers are instructed to deliver in situations where, for example, backup is not available, officers are outnumbered or the people are known to have weapons or have been involved in past violent incidents.

Tomkinson, who is from British Columbia, would have been taught to “display” a stun gun for “compliance,” both Butcher and Gawne acknowledged.

At the end of his testimony, Gawne agreed that pointing a stun gun at someone who might potentially be interfering in an arrest may be a reasonable reaction.

Some uses of force may “appear to be shocking,” Gawne said, but are actually reasonable.

He disagreed with Butcher’s assertion that a person’s use of profanity is a “threat cue” to officers.

Gawne did, however, say that “swear words can be used” by officers, although some people may find that inappropriate.

Justice Christian Lyons adjourned court midday after Rahamim said he needed time to address an unspecified evidentiary issue.

The trial is set to resume Friday and expected to continue next week with defence witnesses.


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