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2014-05-07 at 17:19

Police officer found not guilty of assaulting 12-year-old

By Jodi Lundmark, tbnewswatch.com
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THUNDER BAY -- A city police officer accused of assaulting a 12-year-old boy was found not guilty Wednesday.

Thunder Bay Police Service Const. Steven Oster, 43, was charged with assault in connection with an incident involving a then-12-year-old boy at a youth hockey tournament at the Neebing Arena on Jan. 10, 2013.

Testimony outlined three incidents between Oster and the teen that happened within a short period of time.

The judge ruled Wednesday that the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt there was a criminal assault.

Defence lawyer David Bruzzese said his client and his family are relieved and the case has had a serious effect on his life and career. Oster has been on administrative duty since charged.

Although as a lawyer, there are always concerns, Bruzzese said he was confident trying this case.

"You can surmise from my decision not to call Mr. Oster to testify, I was comfortable at the end of the Crown's case they were not able to establish the allegation of assault," he said. 

The first incident was described as a shoulder bump as the teen was walking through a doorway toward the arena's dressing rooms. The boy described it as a "brush" in a video statement he gave to police in January last year.

The teen also agreed the hallway at the time was busy with other adults and youth with hockey equipment in his cross-examination.

The second incident occurred after the teen had gotten half-dressed before his hockey game.

He was at the boards watching the ongoing game at that time with friends when he said Oster "speed-walked" toward him and bumped him with his elbow as he walked by.

Testimony of two Crown witnesses, Nathaniel Moses and Tracy Pinet-Daly, who were sitting in the stands when the second incident occurred were consistent in portraying it as "non-assaultive contact," said the judge.

In the third interaction between Oster and the teen, the teen said he was walking towards the dressing room when Oster stopped him with his hand and told the teen to "watch the hitting from behind."

The teen thought this meant Oster was implying he was a dirty hockey player and it made him feel sad and upset.

The judge ruled the Crown had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt there was intent to commit assault, but that Oster should have apologized for bumping into the teen.

She said Oster was inconsiderate and rude and that young people deserve courtesy and respect.

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