Windsor Court House (Image courtesy of Google Maps via Street View)Windsor Court House (Image courtesy of Google Maps via Street View)

Veltman trial jury hears from first responders

Warning: this article may contain content that is distressing for some readers.

Officers, who were some of the first on-scene, after a Dodge pick-up truck struck five members of a Muslim family out for an evening walk on June 6, 2021 gave emotional testimony Thursday afternoon during day eight of Nathaniel Veltman's trial.

Constable Brock Dease was a six-year veteran of the London Police Service (LPS) at the time and was coaching Cst. Michael Olszowy during his shift on June 6.

Dease told Assistant Crown Attorney Jennifer Moser that he and Olszowy were in full gear, parked at Brescia University College when the call about the Afzaal family came in at 8:43 p.m.

He said it took approximately four minutes to get to the scene, noting the ideal driving conditions.

Dease was noticeably emotional as he described what he saw and did at the scene.

He recalled that another cruiser and a fire truck were already there when he and Olszowy arrived and that one officer was administering CPR to a victim, while a second officer was rushing to aid another victim.

Dease said that he and Olszowy went to a third victim, who he described as an elderly woman, with severe injuries to her torso and face.

He then said he heard "citizens yelling and screaming that a young boy had been struck."

Dease left Olszowy to help the woman while he ran over to the boy. He said the victim was "on his stomach on the grass" about 15 metres from the intersection. "He was conscious, crying, and asking me questions," Dease recounted.

He was then made aware of a fifth victim. Dease said that "knowing the boy was conscious" he "went to attend the fifth victim." He recalled that the victim "appeared to be a teenager" and that she seemed to be moving her head, but none of her extremities.

After the teenager's neck was stabilized, Dease said he went to check on Olszowy and learned that life saving measures on the elderly woman, later identified as Talat Afzaal, had stopped.

Noticing a crowd around the young boy Dease asked them to move back. When he moved to help the boy onto a stretcher Dease said he noticed tire tracks in the grass.

After that, Moser asked him to mark on aerial photos of the intersection of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road the "resting spot of any of the victims."

In cross-examination, defence lawyer Christopher Hicks had no questions for Dease.

Cst. Olszowy was called to the stand next. He told Moser that June 6, 2021 was only his twelfth shift with LPS.

Olszowy said he was driving the cruiser when they responded to the call. He added that the call was "code one, meaning lights and sirens."

Olszawy was describing his first actions at the scene when Hicks objected and the jury was asked to leave the courtroom.

When the jury returned, Justice Renee Pomerance reminded the jury that the graphic testimony of Cst. Dease may have caused an emotional reaction for some of them.

"Emotion must not play a role when you are deciding the case," Pomerance instructed. "Be aware of these reactions, but set them aside when making decisions."

Olszowy was then called back to the stand, both sides announced that they had no questions for him, and he was dismissed.

Cst. Patti Leavoy-Costa was the next witness called by the Crown.

Leavoy-Costa, who has been with LPS since 2008, said she was alone in a cruiser, driving northbound on Adelaide Street North when she heard the call.

She told the jury that she made the decision to go to the scene because of the implied severity of the crash. On the way to the crash-site Leavoy-Costa redirected to Cherryhill Mall to assist with the arrest of the suspect.

Moser asked if Leavoy-Costa saw any other cruisers present or whether she saw anyone outside of their vehicle. She responded that she saw one other cruiser saying "as I got closer I saw a male, now known as the accused, was on his knees with his hands above his head."

Leavoy-Costa said she stopped her vehicle directly in front of the black pickup truck. She said she wasn't sure if the person being arrested was the only one in the truck so she wanted to make sure it couldn't move any further.

When she was making her way to the other officers Leavoy-Costa said she looked into the truck to make sure no one was inside. There were no people, but she did notice "a large knife in an orange and black sheath" in the driver side door and a pocket knife in the centre drink console. She told the jury that she also reached in to turn the vehicle off, as she noticed it was still running.

Leavoy-Costa went to inform the arresting officers that she had located weapons in the vehicle, for their own safety, when she noticed the truck was smoking and returned to the vehicle to remove the keys completely.

She described Veltman as "very excitable" and "continuously yelling" when she called him "tense and jumpy" the defence objected and the jury was dismissed for the day.

Before the responding officers took the stand, the defence continued with their cross-examination of LPS Detective Micah Bourdeau.

Bourdeau interviewed Veltman twice in the hours after the deaths occurred. The first interview happened shortly after 1 a.m. Monday, June 7, 2021, the second happened just before 10 a.m. the same day.

The defence is claiming that Veltman's detention conditions, including a lack of sleep, a cement bed, no pillow, and no food may have affected the reliability of his statement.

On Tuesday, court ended with Bourdeau saying he wasn't concerned about Veltman's mental state during the interviews.

When court resumed Thursday morning, Hicks resumed questioning Bourdeau about the second interview and how Veltman's demeanour had changed from earlier in the morning.

Bourdeau confirms that Veltman was "quieter" and "more subdued."

Hicks continued to ask about questions that Veltman had declined to answer during both interviews and asked about his demeanour again.

Bourdeau said that while Veltman was acting differently from one interview to the other, his demeanour remained steady within each interview.

The defence also questioned Veltman's specific wording about being "in shock." Hicks said that Bourdeau asked Veltman if he was cold and even gave him a blanket at one point, and wouldn't that physiological response speak to being in a state of shock and cause Bourdeau to be concerned about his mental state?

The detective responded that the temperature in the cell blocks tends to be on the colder side. "[It] only speaks to the fact that he was cold," Bourdeau said.

In regards to Veltman using the word "shock" Bourdeau said it didn't ring any alarm bells as the word gets used all the time in everyday life. "[It] didn't surprise me that he would use that word," he said.

When Hicks brought up Veltman's admission that the incident "didn't seem real" and "seemed like a dream" and questioned whether that spoke to his mental state.

"Considering the circumstances, this did not seem out of the ordinary to me," Bourdeau replied.

As Hicks continued to press about all of the questions that Veltman refused to answer Bourdeau said that "a pattern emerged that he refused to answer questions about things that would make him feel uncomfortable, but he was willing to answer broader questions."

The Crown's re-examination of Bourdeau began Thursday afternoon with Crown Attorney Fraser Ball questioning police procedure regarding detention. The jury was released shortly after the re-examination began following an objection from the defence.

When they returned the jury received a reminder from Pomerance that all redacted portions of Bourdeau's interviews with Veltman had no bearing on the case at hand.

Ball's re-examination only took minutes.

The final question to Boudreau was why police felt the need to interview Veltman so quickly, to which he replied they felt there could be ongoing danger to the public.

Veltman has pleaded not guilty to the first degree murder of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal, the attempted murder of a then 9-year-old boy, and associated terrorism charges.

Court will resume at 10 a.m. on Friday.

-With files from Paul Pedro

Read More Local Stories