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Toronto Star - Sept. 26, 2006 - By Bob Mitchell, Staff Reporter.

Paraplegic not guilty in confrontation with officer

Two Mississauga men, including one who is paralyzed from the waist down, have been found not guilty of causing a disturbance. The pair were charged in connection with a stabbing incident wherein a Peel Police officer is alleged to have pulled the disabled man from his wheelchair.

In acquitting Stephen Miller, 20, and his wheelchair-bound friend Garrett Mannings, 24, Justice Peter Wilkie yesterday emphasized that Peel Constable Jason Sandilands and other involved officers weren’t on trial.

Defence lawyer Jason Bogle said the actions of the officers on July 29, 2005 would likely be dealt with civilly at a later date.

The two men were accused of causing a disturbance after they berated and shouted at Sandilands for failing to help their friend, who was bleeding profusely from a stab wound to his abdomen.

Sandilands testified during the three-day trial that he "tipped” Mannings during a verbal confrontation and later arrested him. Miller was also arrested when he accused the officer of not attending to their injured friend, one of two men who were stabbed that day at the Britannia-Glen Co-Op complex on Glen Erin Dr.

On the stand, Miller, who was using his shirt to try to staunch his friend’s bleeding, accused the officer of saying “Oh well, if he dies, he dies.”

Outside the Brampton courtroom, Miller said he was “extremely relieved” the case was over.

“I’m still scared and I hope this never happens to anybody else,” the Wilfrid Laurier University student said. “This outcome has restored my faith in the justice system.”

Mannings, who remains in custody on an unrelated firearms charge, didn’t take the stand but a civilian witness, called by the defence, yesterday gave an emotional description of what she saw that day.

Daria Mercer, a former corrections officer at Metro West, testified that Mannings became angry when Sandilands initially put his hand on his shoulder and told him to move away from tending to his injured friend.

“Don’t touch me,” she said Mannings told Sandilands. After that, the officer yelled something like “I’ve had enough of this nonsense,” according to Mercer.

At that point, she said Sandilands “grabbed Mannings by the back of his collar” and pulled him back from his wheelchair and his “head hit the concrete.”

“Then he kicked his wheelchair out of his reach,” she said, fighting back tears from the witness box.

She said he then dragged Mannings across the parking lot and into a police cruiser.

“I shouted please stop,” said Mercer, who has lived in the co-op since 1993. “We have a higher priority here ... where is your humanity?.”

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