Two Edmonton police officers who gave a man a concussion after dragging him out of his home and roughing him up in have been convicted of assault.
Justice Barry Nordin found Steven Minarchi and Sgt. Marc Chmilar guilty of one count of assault each when they took down Cristian Mosquera, who was injured in the incident, in October 2020.
Minarchi, 45, was a sergeant at the time, but resigned from Edmonton Police Service in August 2021. Chmilar, also 45, is still employed with EPS, a spokesperson said Thursday.
Nordin, a Calgary judge brought in to oversee the case in Edmonton’s Court of Justice, found that the use of force by the two officers on the night they responded to a noise complaint at Mosquera’s house was unnecessary.
“The investigation turned physical at some point when it need not have turned physical,” Nordin said, adding that Mosquera suffered injuries to his cheek, mouth and chest in addition to a concussion.
“There was no reason for it,” he said.
Recounting the evidence he heard at trial, Nordin said he accepts that the two officers arrived at Mosquera’s home in southwest Edmonton in the early hours of Oct. 4, 2020, in response to reports that a fight had broken out outside a home and multiple noise complaints.
Mosquera was hosting a party that did get rowdy, and at one point people were outside, swearing and being loud.
However, by the time Minarchi and Chmilar arrived, the scene had largely quieted down but the officers could hear bass thumping from music being played in Mosquera’s house.
When the officers knocked on the door, Mosquera came to the door. And while he gave police his name and told them he was the homeowner, he was also “defiant and hostile” and slammed the door shut, Nordin said.
During the trial, defence lawyers for the officers argued Mosquera may been drunk and that the officers were trying to get more information in order to identify him. Nordin rejected these arguments, and found that what happened next served no investigative purpose.
The judge said Chmilar banged on the door again, more aggressively this time. Mosquera answered, but refused to step outside or to show the officers his driver’s licence. A 30-second exchange captured on his doorbell camera shows Mosquera gesturing animatedly.
‘Understandable but not reasonable’
Nordin found that Mosquera was being provocative and escalating the situation, but said that there weren’t any real safety concerns.
“The continued demand for identification and to step outside was simply attempt to exercise control over Mosquera and to ensure he was compliant,” the judge said.
During the trial, Mosquera told court he was careful not to step outside his residence during the confrontation with police. Chmilar gave evidence that was concerned about his safety because Mosquera stepped toward him, and testified that that’s why he decided to grab Mosquera and pull him out onto the lawn.
“I am left with the unfortunate conclusion that he did so because he wanted to establish authority . . . over someone who was verbally abusing him. It may be understandable but it was not reasonable,” Nordin said.
Once down on the ground, Mosquera was handcuffed and placed in the back of the police vehicle, but was then released without being charged or issued a ticket.
Nordin found that the officers never formally told Mosquera he was under arrest, nor did they caution him or advise him of his rights to counsel.
Nordin made no findings as to which officer caused Mosquera’s injuries.
Both Chmilar and Minarchi were in court Thursday with supporters. Mosquera did not attend the hearing.
A date for sentencing will be set later this month.
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