As his partner was being “donkey kicked” by a handcuffed prisoner, a Hay River RCMP officer considered punching the assailant in the head to subdue him.
However, a few knee-strikes to the back of Joshua Alexis Salopree’s non-kicking leg proved effective in halting his resistance in the early morning of June 12, 2020, NWT Territorial Court heard this week.
“[The officer] was contemplating whether he should have punched Mr Salopree in the head to stop the kicking behaviour beside the police car, but decided there was a lesser use of force available,” Crown prosecutor Morgan Fane said during a sentencing hearing on Thursday in Yellowknife.
“The other officer present delivered some knee strikes to the back of [Mr Salopree’s] left leg – which distracted him – and he stopped fighting at that point.”
Police finished searching the intoxicated and shirtless prisoner and “physically lifted” him into the patrol vehicle, as he refused to enter himself.
The prosecutor said Salopree directed a racial slur toward the officer he had kicked, who is of South Asian heritage, on the way back to the detachment.
Salopree was also “not a willing participant” while being escorted to the cell area of the detachment.
The officer “described in his report the discretion involved in not Tasering Mr Salopree,” said Fane, noting police had been called to the man’s house at 3:30am by his common-law wife, who said he assaulted her and their seven-year-old daughter was scared of his behaviour.
Defence lawyer Jay Bran said his client did not “have a clear recollection” of the early morning incident but did not dispute what was said to have happened.
“I’m not sure how to address the comment by the officer … that he briefly thought about punching my client in the head,” said Bran. “I ask the court not to take that rumination by the officer as a suggestion that Mr Salopree’s conduct deserved a punch in the head, because it very could easily be a mental health issue with the officer.
“I’m glad he didn’t punch my client in the head, but what we do know for sure is my client did receive knee strikes, which would have been a very quick notice to him that his behaviour was wrong.”
A charge of assault was stayed on what was supposed to be the first day of Salopree’s trial in Hay River on February 16. While the officer had flown from his new posting in Yellowknife to Hay River to testify, Salopree failed to show up to court.
A warrant was issued and Salopree was arrested eight days later. He decided to plead guilty to one count of assaulting a peace officer in exchange for the Crown agreeing to withdrew a charge of obstructing a police officer.
Salopree, 35, now lives in Yellowknife. His family remains in Hay River, where he had lived for 12 years. He has performed casual labour at the downtown sobering centre and day shelter, said Bran, and hopes to take carpentry training before returning to Hay River and his family.
Salopree has been preparing to enter programs designed to address his alcoholism. Bran asked Judge Garth Malakoe to sentence Salopree to a 14-day conditional sentence order, to be served at the Salvation Army’s Bailey House.
“Mr Salopree is trying to better himself. He does have addictions issues. He has had alcohol dependency for most of his adult life,” said the lawyer, noting cocaine has been a problem for his client.
Asked if he had anything to say, Salopree told the judge “alcohol has had a big impact” on his life, which was why he hoped to enter a withdrawal management program.
“I drink way too much and … I know … I’m going to lose my life to it,” he said, adding he wants to be a good father. His criminal record includes convictions for “assaultive behaviour” including domestic violence, resisting arrest, and breaking court orders.
Judge Malakoe sided with the Crown’s call for a 60-day sentence, less 30 days of remand credit through time spent in custody.
“Although I expect Mr Salopree’s intentions are good he has shown,” the judge said, “he is not capable of, or does not want to, obey court process … a period of jail is required.
“And I want to say this directly to you, Mr Salopree, when you interact with police officer – whether you are sober or whether you are drunk – there has to be something in you that just realizes you can’t assault them.
“It doesn’t make any sense. They’ve got guns, they’ve got pepper spray. You are going to lose every time. You are lucky you got away with just a couple of strikes on your knee.”