Trial begins for Nunavut RCMP officer facing assault charge
Const. Luke Tomkinson faces two charges relating to 2020 Arctic Bay incident allegedly involving stun gun
Video showing a 2020 arrest as well as questions over who said what were at the forefront on the opening day of the trial of a Nunavut RCMP officer charged with assault, in an Iqaluit courtroom Tuesday.
Const. Luke Tomkinson is charged with one count each of assault with a weapon and uttering threats, in relation to an incident in Arctic Bay on the morning of Feb. 15, 2020.
A third charge — pointing a firearm — was withdrawn by Crown prosecutor Yoni Rahamim at the beginning of Tuesday’s proceedings.
The charges relate to Tomkinson allegedly pointing his stun gun, a non-lethal weapon police use to temporarily immobilize suspects by hitting them with a jolt of electricity, at a man named Andrew Muckpa, and yelling that he’ll get him “right in the [expletive] face,” court heard.
The Criminal Code considers situations where someone “carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon” as assault with a weapon.
Court was told that on the day in question Tomkinson and fellow RCMP Const. Jesse Byer responded to a report of an overdose involving a person in Muckpa’s home.
After they arrived and began investigating, the officers arrested a man named Ivan Oyoukuluk for trafficking offences; however, those charges were later stayed.
Byer, who is still an RCMP constable but working in British Columbia, was the first of two witnesses to testify Tuesday.
Tomkinson, wearing a dark suit — not his uniform, sat in court, dressed in a dark suit and tie, listening to the Crown’s evidence being presented.
Byer described Muckpa as “chirping” and “threatening” the officers from a different part of the living room while they were arresting Oyoukuluk and trying to keep an eye on the woman who had overdosed.
Part of that arrest, including Tomkinson pointing his stun gun, was captured on video by Devon Muckpa, Andrew’s son, who posted two short videos to Facebook.
Andrew Muckpa is not seen in the video but can be heard yelling, “I’ll kill you,” allegedly after Tomkinson had pointed his stun gun.
Byer testified he heard Andrew Muckpa say, “I’ll kill you” before Tomkinson pulled out his stun gun.
He said police in Nunavut communities take threats seriously in homes were people have access to knives or guns.
However, the video presented in court appeared to show Tomkinson had already pulled out his stun gun before Andrew Muckpa made the verbal threat.
Byer said he had written in his notes at the time that he had heard Andrew Muckpa say “I’ll kill you,” before, but that it’s possible it was said more than once and he was focused on subduing Oyoukuluk.
“I just remember the threat he said,” Byer said.
Devon Muckpa, who was 19 years old at the time, was the second witness to testify. He also seemed to recall his father saying, “I’ll kill you” more than once, but the timing of when he might have said it was unclear.
The pair of videos he captured accounted for only about two minutes of what court heard to be a 15- to 30-minute police intervention.
Devon Muckpa said he didn’t know who the officers were but he filmed the incident because he was scared.
The trial is set to continue Wednesday with testimony from Andrew Muckpa and an expert Crown witness.
Tomkinson’s lawyers, David Butcher and Trevor Martin, said they plan to call police use-of-force experts to testify.
Justice Christian Lyons is overseeing the trial, which is expected to run for two weeks.