Officer testifies Arens seemed impaired on night of crash

  • May. 21, 2014 4:29 p.m.

An RCMP officer who recently testified in the Rodney Arens trial said Arens appeared to be impaired after an accident on July 1, 2010 that claimed a young boy’s life. A second officer testified Arens smelled of liquor and was swaying as well.

Both testimonies, which took place last Thursday, were part of a voir dire.

Arens, 36, of Red Deer, is charged with impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and breach of recognizance. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

Arens has also been charged with three counts of refusing to provide a breathalyzer sample. Two weeks ago, the crown issued a stay of proceedings in regards to those three charges.

In 2010, police said Anouluck ‘Jeffrey’ Chanminaraj, 13, was riding in a Honda Civic with his then 18-year-old brother Jamie and 20-year-old sister Stephanie, who was driving, at about 11 p.m. on Canada Day when a Dodge Ram pick-up truck crashed into the passenger side of the car.

Their car was turning left through the intersection of Taylor Dr. and Kerry Wood Dr. when it was allegedly struck by the pick-up truck. The siblings were on their way to see the Canada Day fireworks.

Jeffrey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Last week, RCMP Auxiliary Const. Lyle Cheney testified that he was one of the first responders at the scene of the accident.

“When we arrived on scene we saw two vehicles that were disabled – a Honda Civic and a very heavily damaged truck,” he said. “I went to the car first because there were people inside who were injured. I went to the passenger in the front of the car who was a male. He was unconscious. I felt for a pulse but couldn’t find anything and I determined that he had passed away.”

Cheney said he then turned his attention to the black Dodge Ram truck.

“I went to the truck and there was a number of people standing around. I asked who was driving the truck and a man (Arens) advised me that he was the driver,” he said. “I asked him what had happened and his speech was slurred and he seemed confused. He had difficulty describing what had happened.

“His eyes were blood shot and he seemed unsteady on his feet.”

Cheney said he asked Arens to produce his driver’s license, vehicle insurance and registration. “He had trouble finding them,” Cheney said, adding he saw Arens reach into the truck between the two front seats to look for the requested items.

“I felt like he might be impaired by alcohol so I called over a regular member to get involved,” he added, stating as an auxiliary member, he was there for assistance to the regular members.

Cheney said after ensuring another officer was able to deal with Arens, he then began controlling the crowd and containing the scene. “People kept showing up and getting close to the accident and taking pictures.”

Meanwhile, RCMP Const. Richard Browne first saw Arens in the booking area at the old police detachment in the early hours of July 2, 2010.

He was dealing with another file while Arens was being processed in the same area.

Browne testified that Arens was standing in front of him at the booking counter when he turned around and told Browne what he did for a living and how much money he made. “He sparked up a conversation with me but I didn’t pay much attention to him because we don’t speak with someone who another officer is dealing with. We don’t want to interfere with their investigation,” said Browne, who said he was standing about 3 ft. away from Arens when he first began speaking to him. “I did notice a smell of liquor when he opened his mouth.”

After that initial meeting, Arens proceeded to be booked, as could be seen on a video that was shown in court. “I noticed him swaying and he wasn’t sure of his balance when he was talking to me,” said Browne.

The close to 11-minute video that was played in court showed Arens speaking to Browne and also showed Arens swaying while he was waiting to be processed. It also showed him getting his photo taken before being escorted off camera.

At around 2 a.m. on July 2, 2010, Browne was tasked to interview Arens.

“He was quite upset and was crying. He was agitated and concerned about his kids. He seemed emotional and was erratic and frantic at times,” said Browne, adding the interview lasted about two hours. “I could smell liquor coming from him, but it smelled stale – like he had been drinking earlier at some point during the day.”

He added during the interview Arens was agitated when talking about the other parties involved in the accident. “He was all over the map when he was being asked questions.”

Later that day, Browne wanted to re-interview Arens.

“I went to his cell to advise him of all the charges he would face to inform him of his jeopardy and I provided him an opportunity to contact legal counsel. He wanted to speak to a lawyer,” said Browne, also adding that Arens was able to make a call to a lawyer at that time as well as later in the day again.

At about 7 p.m. Browne conducted a second interview with Arens.

“He was significantly calmer and he was more collected. He was still upset about the situation and referred to it as a nightmare. He was still a little agitated when he spoke about the other parties involved,” he said. “He wasn’t staggering and he wasn’t bursting into tears. He was controlling himself.”

The trial will continue on May 28th.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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