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Mounties apologize to Kelowna man kicked in head during arrest

Sporting a bruised face and bloodshot eye, Buddy Tavares speaks to media at a protest in Kelowna, Jan. 16 2011.

Daniel Hayduk For The Globe and Mail/daniel hayduk The Globe and Mail

The Kelowna man who was seen on video being kicked in the head by an RCMP officer while being arrested has been cleared of the criminal charge against him and has received a personal apology from British Columbia's top Mountie.

A charge of careless use of a firearm against Buddy Tavares, 51, was stayed Monday afternoon. Crown prosecutor Phillip Seagram told a Kelowna court that after reviewing the evidence, he concluded there was no likelihood of conviction.

However, Mr. Tavares did agree to an 18-month ban on possessing firearms, though Mr. Seagram said there was no deal to stay the charge in exchange for consenting to the ban.

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Mr. Tavares's arrest on Jan. 7 was caught on a cellphone video that shows him being kicked in the head while on his hands and knees. RCMP Constable Geoff Mantler was subsequently suspended with pay and investigators with the Abbotsford Police Department have recommended he face a charge of assault causing bodily harm.

Crown prosecutors are in the process of reviewing the evidence and deciding whether to proceed. Constable Mantler is also facing an internal disciplinary proceeding.

A few hours before Mr. Tavares's court appearance, he got a visit at his home from RCMP Assistant Commissioner Peter Hourihan, who apologized to Mr. Tavares for his ordeal.

"From my perspective, the visit went well," Mr. Hourihan said in an interview.

He said that he has watched the video and, while the legal and disciplinary processes still need to play out, "what I saw fell far short of meeting my expectations of how Mr. Tavares should have been treated."

Mr. Hourihan said he understands public outrage at the fact that the officer involved is still collecting a paycheque despite being suspended, but added he has to follow the procedures laid out in the RCMP Act. He said that the suspension eventually could be converted into one without pay.

Mr. Tavares said he accepts Mr. Hourihan's apology.

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"I mean, the guy flew here to do this," he said. "You can be sure they don't do that to everybody, so it's good."

At the time of Mr. Tavares's arrest, Kelowna RCMP were responding to a call about an employee of Kelowna's Harvest Golf Club who was on the grounds firing a gun.

Mr. Tavares worked at the golf course and his duties included scaring away geese with a shotgun. However, police said he was on leave because of brain injury from a recent motorcycle accident and did not have permission to be at the club.

On Monday, Mr. Tavares's lawyer, Clarke Burnett, insisted that he did have permission to be there.

Mr. Burnett and Mr. Tavares also said they had "no idea" why Kelowna RCMP Superintendent Bill McKinnon told reporters after Mr. Tavares's arrest that the incident was connected to a "domestic violence situation."

Mr. Tavares's ex-wife, Trudi Tavares, also works at the golf course. She has publicly stood by her former husband and denied the accusation came from her. Mr. Tavares was not charged with a domestic-violence-related offence.

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The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has filed complaints with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, accusing Supt. McKinnon and RCMP spokesman Constable Steve Holmes of conducting a smear campaign against Mr. Tavares.

When contacted Monday, Constable Holmes said he could not comment on the case and that Supt. McKinnon was out of town and unavailable for comment.

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