Edmonton

Edmonton police officer acquitted of assault with a weapon during arrest

An Edmonton police officer who shot a man with a stun gun during an arrest was found not guilty of assault with a weapon Tuesday.

Judge found Const. Dustin Adsett acted reasonably

A courtroom interior.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) announced in a news release in September 2022 that Const. Dustin Adsett, 37, and Oli Olason, a former constable, were charged with assault and assault with a weapon. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Update: On May 3, 2024, Justice Kent Davidson dismissed a publication ban application and lifted an interim publication ban that protected the identity of former EPS officer Oli Olason, who was also charged in the March 23, 2021, assault.

An Edmonton police officer who shot a man with a stun gun during an arrest was found not guilty of assault with a weapon Tuesday.

Court of King's Bench Justice Kent Davidson acquitted Const. Dustin Adsett, 37, for his role in a 2021 arrest in an alleyway in the Ritchie neighbourhood, despite finding that the victim was co-operating with police when he was injured.

"In hindsight, the accused was mistaken. But police are entitled to be wrong when they act reasonably," Davidson said.

During the trial that began earlier this year, Lee Van Beaver testified that he was walking near Ritchie Market on March 23, 2021, when he became concerned that he was being followed by a black vehicle with tinted windows.

Beaver told court he was worried about being attacked, and took a canister of bear spray out of his bag and showed it to the vehicle and then headed down an alley beside the market, near 96th Street.  

Court heard the vehicle was an unmarked Edmonton police vehicle, driven by officers who then pursued Beaver in the alley.

Surveillance footage filed with the court shows that one of the officers drew his gun while another, Oli Olason, had his hand on his holster.

Olason, a former EPS constable, was charged alongside Adsett in Beaver's arrest. Olason is scheduled to go to trial in May 2025.  

Davidson found that the video shows Beaver slowly and deliberately removing his backpack and dropping it on the ground, before getting on the ground himself. As the officers move in, Olason stands with his foot on Beaver's head, and then kicks Beaver in the head.

Davidson found that Beaver was moving his hands while on the ground in an effort to protect his face. As Adsett arrived on the scene after missing the beginning of the interaction, Davidson found the officer couldn't have known that Beaver's movements were the result of his fellow officer's behaviour. 

The judge found that given the scene Adsett was presented with when he arrived after the arrest was underway, it was reasonable for him to deploy the stun gun.

"I accept that the accused sensed danger and urgency because of the actions of the other officers," the judge said.

Davidson found that while Beaver deserved "more compassion, dignity, respect and empathy" than he was treated with, Adsett shouldn't be the one held responsible for what happened.  

At the time, Beaver was wanted on warrants and had a criminal record, but none of the police involved in his arrest knew about his record.

Adsett sat next to his defence lawyer Mona Duckett during the decision, and had supporters in the courtroom gallery. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paige Parsons reports on justice issues, courts and crime, with a special focus on public safety. Send Paige a story tip at paige.parsons@cbc.ca.