SARNIA--Two OPP officers testified they heard gunfire just after a yellow school bus crossed through their ranks in a confrontation around the time Dudley George was fatally shot during the 1995 occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park.
OPP Const. Peter Osborne and Sgt. George Hebblethwaithe told Judge A.M. Graham Monday they were part of a 32-person OPP crowd management unit directed to secure an adjacent parking lot and move protesters back into the park.
ADMITS DRIVING: A youth, who cannot be named under the Young Offenders Act, entered pleas of not guilty to charges of dangerous driving and assault with a weapon. Defence lawyer Jeffrey House and Assistant Crown attorney Henry Van Drunen agreed the male, who was 16 years old at the time, was driving the bus.
During the first day of the trial which is expected to last four days, Graham was told that OPP officers had been patrolling the area since Stoney Point natives walked into the park two days earlier as it was closing for the season, claiming it was a native burial ground.
Much of the testimony dealt with the events of the day leading up to the evening of Sept. 6 when Dudley George was shot. "I noticed that tensions were rising. We could feel it," testified Osborne.
MANOEUVRES: In a series of manoeuvres by the crowd management unit, the officers wearing protective gear and carrying shields were hit "intermittently" with rocks and other material while advancing to the fence separating the park from the parking lot, Judge Graham was told. He heard the area was suddenly lit up with spotlights and headlights from a yellow school bus and a second vehicle which were shining in the direction of the oncoming officers, making it difficult to see, said Osborne.
Later, ween the unit was retreating, believing the objective had been met, Hebblethwaithe testified he saw people carrying objects similar to pipes and bats "coming at us over the park line."
Within moments, he said the yellow school bus "advanced directly at us, " forcing officers to scatter to get out of the way.
Once the bus passed the line, Hebblethwaithe testified, a car drove toward the officers, making contact with three. He told the judge he then fired four rounds in the direction of the right front corner of the car.
Just before he fired, he said, he heard two or three shots and then shots "were coming from every which way."
Under cross-examination, he said he didn't know where the first shots came from.
Osborne tesstified that when the bus went by him as he lay in a roadside ditch, the rear left tire was 30 to 45 centimetres from his head.
House will begin the defence's cross-examination today.
George, 34, of Stoney Point, is charged with two counts of assault, one of mischief and one of uttering a death threat. The charges followed two incidents--on June 27 and 28, 1995--at Camp Ipperwash where he was taking part in a native occupation of the land. He is accused of assaulting two army personnel.
George testified he hadn't assaulted them.
Graham said he will give his decision May 26.
* In 1980, the federal government paid Kettle and Stony Point band $2.5 million in compensation, saying the land would be returned when no longer needed by the military. Stoney Point natives, who say they are a separate group from the Kettle and Stony Point band, say the compensation should have been paid to them. The federal government recognizes only the Kettle and Stony band as an official band.
* On May 6, 1993, Stoney Point natives moved back on the land, saying they were home to stay.
* On July 29, 1995, about 100 native men, women and children lifted the barrier at the camp's fron gate and walked in. Military personnel left the base to avoid a confrontation.
* On Sept. 4, 1995, natives walked into nearby Ipperwash Provincial Park as it was closing for the season, claiming the province desecrated a native burial ground when the park was developed in 1938.
* On Sept. 6, 1995, Dudley George was fatally shot during a skirmish with police outside the park.
* In July, 1996, OPP acting sergeant Kenneth Deane was charged with criminal negligence causing death in connection with the shooting of Dudley George. His trial is slated to begin April 1.
An OPP officer assigned to the crowd management unit (CMU) at Ipprwash Provincial Park the night Dudley George died, testified Monday a last-second dive into a roadside ditch to dodge a school bus saved his life.
Sgt. Peter Osborne told the court "I started to fear for my life" when a school bus driven by a native youth crashed through the gates of the provincial park and headed directly into a scattering crowd of 32 OPP officers.
"The bus kept revving its engine, and I said to myself, `he's going to run through us' ...the bus was weaving back and forth," Osborne said as he recalled the incident.
"Then I heard the gun fire ... pop, pop, pop. But that wasn't the real threat. I had this bus bearing down on me. That was my immediate threat."
Clutching an eagle feather throughout the first day of court proceedings, a native youth, now 18-years-old but 16 at the time of the Sept. 6, 1995 incident, cannot be named under terms of the Young Offenders Act.
He is charged with operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner and with assaulting members of the OPP crowd management unit.
In an admitted statement of facts, defence lawyer Jeffry House said they are not disputing "the identity of the driver, the time or the place." The youth entered a not guilty plea.
The trial continues today.
Painting a picture of the night, the officer said the bus rammed and pushed a dumpster "out of the way in a hurry" only moments after CMU had contained a violent confrontation with natives armed with sticks and clubs outside the park in a public parking area.
"I decided to go to the right" and into a ditch with other officers. "The left rear wheel went right by my head ... about a foot, foot-and-a-half away." As the bus sped by, he felt a "whack" against his teeth and spotted "a spray of blood" on the inside of his protective visor. "I started to feel my body to see where I was hit."
Osborne, who admitted police knew it was a serious operation from the fact commanders said that if somone was injured they weren't to be left behind, said he didn't know if it was a ricochet from shots being fired, or from flying gravel. Three of his teeth were chipped.
After the bus drove past, it stoppped and began to back up. "I thought I was going to be crushed. It was pointed right at us."
He also said they were instructed,if they observed weapons, or heard gunfire "the operation would be terminated."
George Thebblewaite, second in command of the CMU, testified that he expcted members of the TRU (Tactical Rescue Unit) team, who were strategically located and outfitted with high powered rifles and a variety of gadgetry, to provide protective cover.
"Suddenly the bus moved. I thought to myself 'where's the (disabling) shot?' The shot should be coming ... but it never did."
As the bus approached, Thebblewaite, decked out in protective riot gear--helmets, shield, and body armor like all CMU members--drew his revolver but says he wasn't in a position to fire.
"I was surprised no one was struck."
Seconds later, an automobile followed. "If I stayed on the road I would have been hit. I could almost reach out and touch it," he said.
Again he drew his weapon as he watched three partners get struck by the car.
Fearing the car was going to make another run at the officers, Thebblewaite fired four rounds "a split second" after other shots rang out.
The officer told the court he never saw the driver of the bus. "Only thing I know is, there had to be one."
Inspector John Carson, stationed in the Tactical Operation Centre (TOC) during two crowd control efforts and the confrontation with the bus, said the orders of the CMU were "very specific" to push those from the public access back into the park and "not go on to the park."
Carson had hoped mere physical presence would thwart a confrontation. He said at one point as CMU advanced on the area, scouts spotted "something that resembled a weapon."
It turned out to be a stick. And the march resumed.
In the lone confrontation with natives, one man was arrested.
"I'm not going to deploy CMU into an area where there's a potential for shots," he said. "They're not equipped to get into a gun fight."
When CMU returned to the TOC centre, Carson says signs of trauma were visible. "It was obvious they were in a situation.
They had been through an experience they never thought they'd experience in their lifetime."
The trial continues today.
SARNIA--An Ontario Provincial Police officer feared he was going to be run down by a bus during a late-night clash with Indian activists at Ipperwash Provincial Park, court has been told.
The testimony by Constable Peter Osborne came on the opening day of the trial of a youth who is charged with dangerous driving and assaulting police by driving a school bus at them outside the Lake Huron park late in the evening September 6, 1995.
During the same melee, Indian activist Anthony (Dudley) George was shot dead.
George and the youth were among about 35 Indians who occupied the park after the tourist season ended, saying it contained a sacred burial ground.
The youth, now 18, but who cannot be identified, held an eagle feather throughout the days testimony in youth court.
His mother sat behind him, wearing a t-shirt with a picture of George. About 15 other supporters were there, some holding eagle feathers.
Osborne told judge A.M. Graham he tried to flee from the bus by jumping into a ditch, but it was already full of other police officers.
Under questioning by Crown Attorney Henry Van Drunen, Osborne testified the bus came within a metre of his head and three of his teeth were damaged by what he thought was a pebble.
"I thought he was trying to run us down, run us over," Osborne said.
Officers went to the park shortly before 11 p.m. to make sure the Indians stayed off public roads, Sergeant George Hebblethwaite of the force's crowd management unit told the court.
The crowd unit, equipped with body armor and batons, was backed up by the force's riot squad, snipers, and its canine unit. No guns were seen on the Indians, he said.
The crowd unit wouldn't have been sent to the park if police thought the Indians were going to shoot at them, Hebblethwaite and Superintendent John Carson both testified.
Police had planned to clear a roadway of protesters, but when they arrived, all the protesters were inside the park, Hebblethwaite testified.
The mission seemed to be accomplished, he said, but then the Indians attacked, hurling heavy objects and waving clubs.
Police counterattacked when the Indians were almost on top of them, Hebblethwaite said.
An instant later, the school bus barreled at them, followed by a car, which Hebblethwaite said he fired at.
After a volley of gunfire, Hebblethwaite said he heard screams of, "murderers!"
The officer accused of killing George is to appear in court next week.