Recently fired 'predatory' Calgary officer found not guilty of assault in violent arrest

Recently fired 'predatory' Calgary officer found not guilty of assault in violent arrest

A Calgary police officer who was recently fired for preying on a young woman has been found not guilty of assault for his role in a violent arrest in 2016.

David Pizzolato was charged one year ago based on video of the incident captured at the arrest processing unit (APU).

On Friday, provincial court Judge Gordon Yake acquitted Pizzolato, finding the former officer "had to act to defend himself from further assault from Mr. Ekson."

The judge believed Pizzolato's testimony that Ekson had spat at him just before the violent take-down.

In March 2016, Pizzolato arrested Darren Ekson, 59, in downtown Calgary for allegedly assaulting a staff member at the Drop-In Centre. Ekson's charges were eventually dropped.

Following a trial in October, Yake found Ekson's testimony "obviously inconsistent" and "evasive and argumentative."

"[Ekson] had a cavalier attitude toward telling the truth," said Yake.

Yake found Pizzolato was an "honest and reliable witness."

"I accept his evidence," said Yake.

Based on testimony, Yake found Ekson had displayed "abusive behaviour" toward the officer who had attempted to de-escalate the situation before using force.

Yake said Ekson had refused to obey Pizzolato's instructions.

Two angles of the video entered as evidence in the trial show Pizzolato punching Ekson three times after forcing him to the ground. Pizzolato testified Ekson had spat at him, prompting the use of force.

Pizzolato's trial was run by Edmonton prosecutor Damian Rogers and defence lawyer Don MacLeod.

'Predatory relationship' 

Last month, Pizzolato was fired for trying to initiate a "predatory" relationship with a young woman as she recovered in hospital after trying to kill herself.  

Details of Pizzolato's actions come from the written decision by retired Calgary Police Service superintendent Paul Manuel to fire the constable for discreditable conduct.

In 2016, Pizzolato met his 22-year-old victim after he responded to a "check on welfare" call.

Shortly after she was taken to hospital, Pizzolato began sending her text messages — up to 100 in four days as she recovered. 

He called her "hon," "sweety" and "sweetness." At the time, Pizzolato was 48 years old.

The young woman was uncomfortable and scared of Pizzolato and showed the messages to hospital staff, who became so concerned they called police.

On the day she was released from hospital, Pizzolato showed up at the victim's home, took her for ice cream and touched her leg as they sat in his vehicle.

Just weeks earlier, Pizzolato's supervisor had warned him to stop contacting women he met while on duty.

Greg Dunn, Pizzolato's lawyer from his disciplinary hearing says he is appealing his dismissal from CPS.