A RCMP dog handler recounted how he came face-to-face with a man wielding an axe that committed a break and enter in Oliver.
“The first thing I thought of was ‘Oh, s—-. This guy is going to kill us … I was hoping he was fixated on the dog because he was engaged on him but I thought ‘OK, this is it,’” said Cpl. Jason Goodfellow, during his testimony in Penticton provincial court on Monday.
Steve Joseph Godbout was sentenced to a combined 697 days in jail on Tuesday for assaulting a police officer with a weapon, break and enter with intent to commit an offence and two breach of probation charges. A conditional stay of proceedings was given for the assaulting a police officer, willfully resisting or obstructing a police officer and to one of the breach charges.
It was around 7:15 a.m. on Feb. 17, 2018, that Tatum Brogan was driving to her workplace, at a bakery located on Main Street in Oliver, when she saw a man hitting the back door in the alleyway of the neighbouring building with an axe. She called her uncle, who owns the bakery, to let him know and after seeing the destroyed door himself, he called RCMP.
Two officers initially responded, with Goodfellow and police dog, Harrow, coming shortly after. The three, led by Goodfellow, entered the building announcing that they were police and they had the dog with them. Clearing the first room, they noticed there was a “hatch” that led to an attic space. Const. Peter Wise stayed behind to ensure no one came out of hiding in that space while the other two Mounties continued to check the rest of the building.
Const. James Grandy testified that he could smell smoke in the air as the pair approached another area of the building where small offices were located. Goodfellow said he was in the process of telling Grandy to alert dispatch to call the fire department when Harrow pulled him towards one of the offices. He said the next sequence of events happened quickly, but he could see the dog jumping up on a person behind the door of the office, latching onto the person. As he got even closer to the dimly-lit room, Goodfellow said he found a man with an axe raised above his head in “chopping position” and Harrow engaged on the man’s clothing. Goodfellow said he grabbed the axe with both hands and struggled face-to-face with Godbout and the police dog in between them. Once he got control of the axe he placed it behind him, where Grandy was now standing, and wrestled with the man until he could put him to the ground. The police dog fell under them and released from Godbout and then re-engaged on the police officer’s left calf. Goodfellow said he saw the light from the taser Grandy had pointed and rolled off Godbout.
Grandy said his attempt to use a taser on Godbout failed and, as he was loading another cartridge, Godbout pushed by him. Const. Wise testified that he heard yelling from the other room and proceeded towards the noise, eventually tackling Godbout, who contined to resist. The taser was put into stun mode on Godbout and he was then restrained.
Godbout, who took the stand in the afternoon, told a different story. He said in 2016, just prior to serving his jail sentence for an arson in Oliver, the owner of the building had told him he could stay there whenever he wanted. Godbout said upon his release from jail, a friend told him the man, who he believed to still be the owner, was away in Portugal. It was learned, in court, that there was a different owner of the building in 2018.
Godbout admitted he grabbed an axe from the back of a friend’s truck and proceeded to chop down the door to gain access, stating that he was hoping to fix it later. Trying to warm his hands, he lit cardboard on fire in a coffee tin in one of the offices. He told the court that he did not know it was the police who were in the building, only hearing the sound of a dog’s collar. Godbout also admitted to having the axe in his hand, but not above his head, when the dog bit him. He testified that he was not resisting when he was taken to the ground, tasered, had the stun gun used on him and eventually arrested by RCMP.
Godbout, who was warned several times during the day-long trial to stop speaking during witness testimony, became agitated during his own testimony and at one point said, “I’m fed up, take me out of here” then tried to leave the stand.
In his decision, Judge Gregory Koturbash did not believe the events unfolded as Godbout stated.
“With respect to the evidence heard in this trial, the truth was only an occasional visitor for Mr. Godbout’s testimony. I didn’t believe very much of what you had to say. I almost asked the sheriffs to bring out the extinguisher to see if your pants were on fire, sir. You really strung a big line here. I reject your evidence,” said Koturbash.