Car running over foot may not break bones, expert witness tells B.C. mayor's trial

SURREY, B.C. — An expert in fractures has told the mischief trial of Surrey, B.C., Mayor Doug McCallum that broken bones may not necessarily be the result if someone's foot is run over by a car.

Biomechanical engineer Dennis Chimich testified Wednesday for McCallum's defence team, which opened its case by presenting evidence to suggest their client was not lying to police when he told them a woman ran over his foot in a grocery store parking lot.

McCallum filed a complaint with the RCMP on Sept. 4, 2021, saying Debi Johnstone targeted him with her vehicle because of her long-standing opposition to his policies, especially his plan to transition the RCMP out of Surrey in place of a municipal police force.

The mayor, who recently lost his bid for a fifth term in office, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of public mischief over his claims that Johnstone ran over his foot and had followed him to the parking lot.

Chimich told the provincial court that he calculated the rear right side of Johnstone's vehicle weighed 413 kgs and that if McCallum's left foot was run over, soft tissue damage may have occurred as indicated in a medical report he reviewed from the mayor's visit to an emergency room.

He reviewed two studies involving foot rollovers, one on live people and the other involving an experiment on cadavers' feet. They showed friction injuries and scrapes, but few fractures in the live study and none in the studies on cadavers.

“The absence of fractures or serious injuries for Mr. McCallum does not mean that his foot was not run over in this incident," he said.

However, Crown attorney Richard Fowler has suggested swelling in McCallum's left foot could have resulted from other factors including age, fluid retention and medications.

André Johnny, the lead RCMP investigator in the case, testified Tuesday that surveillance video from the store is inconclusive in determining whether McCallum's foot was run over but there's enough evidence to suggest some of his other allegations were false.

Defence lawyer Eric Gottardi said McCallum's complaint of harassment by Johnstone is related to her acrimonious history with the mayor, who he maintained did not commit public mischief, even if he intentionally or unintentionally made some "embellishments" in his complaint to the RCMP.

“Ms. Johnstone’s conduct towards Mr. McCallum and other city councillors was objectively designed to exert deleterious pressure on her targets, and that conduct is, on its face, harassment," Gottardi told the court.

Bradley Heinrichs, a mechanical engineer and expert in accident reconstruction and video analysis, also testified for the defence Wednesday.

The video footage suggests McCallum's arms jerked back and his head was down as Johnstone drove her Mustang past him, he said.

However, the video resolution is not good enough to determine how close or far McCallum was standing from the rear right wheel of the car and it's possible his feet were on the pavement by some shrubs that concealed the area, said Heinrichs, who also used aerial diagrams, virtual cameras and three-dimensional representations for his analysis.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2022.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press