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Wound from police dog bite "very superficial," court hears during excessive force trial

Officer who took photos testifies she first thought injury was a rash
security camera arrest
An image from a security camera showing the February 2016 arrest now the subject of a trial.

The injuries a man suffered in an arrest caught on camera and now the subject of a trial into whether excessive force was used "seemed to be very superficial," the court heard during testimony on Tuesday.

RCMP dog handler Cst. Joshua Grafton faces one count each of assault, assault with a weapon and obstruction of justice in relation to an early-morning Feb. 18, 2016 apprehension of Cuyler Aubichon and Nathaniel Basil.

Members of the Prince George RCMP's street crew unit boxed in their stolen pickup truck in an alley off the 2200 block of Oak Street.

Video from a security camera posted on social media and obtained by media shows Grafton using a dog to pull Aubichon out of the driver's side of the truck and taking him to the ground.

Testifying Tuesday, Cst. Mireille Haunts said she was tasked with taking photos of the suspects clothing and identifiable marks and tattoos once they were in cells at the detachment.

Haunts said she noticed an abrasion above one of Aubichon's eyebrows and, on one of his forearms, what she initially thought was a rash but then told was a mark from a dog bite.

Prior to moving to Prince George, Haunts said she was an RCMP officer in Surrey where she worked as a "quarry" for a dog handler. Duties entailed shadowing the handler and providing protective cover while the handler worked with the dog.

Compared to the injuries she saw from dog bites at that time, Haunts said the marks she saw on Aubichon's arm "seemed to be very superficial."

"There were only light scratches on his arm and it wasn't like he was actively bleeding. There wasn't shortness of breath or anything like that where he required medical attention," Haunts testified.

By comparison, Haunts said the dog bites she saw in Surrey usually produced puncture wounds with fat, muscle, and chunks of skin taken out, such that the person arrested would be taken to hospital for stitches and an assessment by a doctor.

Haunts said Aubichon's demeanour while she dealt with him was cooperative, compliant, quiet and even pleasant although he complained that his arm hurt, which prompted her to let him roll his own fingers when she obtained fingerprints.

But it was also noted that Aubichon was wearing three layers of clothing at the time he was arrested.

"He did not require medical attention," Haunts said. "I'm sure it did hurt, there was maybe some bruising, but he didn't require to go to the hospital or see a doctor," Haunts said.

In earlier testimony, Kent MacNeill, now a staff sergeant major at North District RCMP but a sergeant at Prince George RCMP at the time of the arrest, agreed that dogs are often used in arrests involving a stolen vehicle because there could be weapons inside and the suspects' hands cannot be seen.

Asked by defence counsel Ravi Hira if the idea is that it's better to let the dog get hurt rather than an officer, MacNeill replied that that's accurate.

MacNeill agreed with Hira that the VLA neighbourhood where Aubichon and Basil were arrested was considered a high-crime area and that the arrest was conducted before the sun had come up.

In October, a trial for two other officers involved in the arrest of Basil was cut short and the charges stayed.

The trial for Grafton continues Wednesday at the Prince George courthouse.