Former NHL tough guy Bob Probert, who was accused of assaulting a police officer at his Lakeshore home, was cleared of criminal charges Friday after a videotape of the July 1 altercation showed he did nothing wrong.
The tape from Probert’s home security system shows he was backing away from police when he was hit in the face with pepper spray, said assistant Crown attorney Tim Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh withdrew the charges on the day of the trial Friday after he reviewed the tape.
“Basically, it doesn’t support the charge,” he said in an interview.
Probert, 40, had been charged with assault with the intent of resisting arrest.
Defence lawyer Patrick Ducharme says the tape shows it was police who were overly aggressive.
At least seven officers from the Lakeshore and Tecumseh detachments responded to the call from Probert’s wife that day, he said.
They arrived wearing black gloves, not common protocol, admitted an OPP inspector.
After being hit in the face with pepper spray, “seven officers jumped him,” Ducharme said.
While Probert has always denied the assault, the tape provides proof, he said.
“It demonstrates Mr. Probert did not assault any police officer. In fact, he never raised a hand to anyone.”
The tape was never played in court. “They say he was moving away to get a better vantage point to fight,” Kavanaugh said, referring to statements given by police. Police also said Probert had his hands clenched into fists, but the video can’t confirm that, Kavanaugh said.
He said that when police blasted Probert with the spray there was “not much motion if any at all” on Probert’s part.
Police were called to Probert’s Russell Woods Drive home just after 8 a.m. July 1 after his wife called 911. “She was frantic,” said Kavanaugh. She told the dispatcher her husband had been drinking all night and had punched a hole in the wall.
But Ducharme said Probert was showing his friends who were with him in the garage how poorly built the $1 million-plus home is. “They were horsing around,” said Ducharme. “His wife didn’t know that.”
Ducharme said Probert had only “recently” provided him with the video. Kavanaugh said Ducharme gave him a copy “two days ago.”
Ducharme said he is not sure if Probert plans to formally complain about the police behaviour.
Probert was not in court Friday and could not be reached for comment.
Insp. Bill Crate, contacted at the OPP headquarters in Orillia, said he could not comment specifically on the Probert arrest, but said he “invites” the Windsor-born NHLer to complain to the force’s professional standards branch.
“One of the cornerstones of the OPP is accountability,” said Crate. “We take complaints very seriously.”
Kavanaugh said he can’t conclude police acted improperly. “I think they had no choice but to respond,” he said. As for the numbers of officers and the force used, he said, “They thought they had a situation to defuse.”
Probert is no stranger to the courts.
He was charged with impaired driving several times while playing for the Red Wings from 1984 to 1994.
He was convicted in 1986 of assaulting a police officer outside a Windsor bar and was placed on probation.
He served jail time after being convicted in 1989 of smuggling cocaine into the United States through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.
He was placed on inactive status for the 1994-95 season after he crashed his motorcycle in Michigan and tests showed alcohol and cocaine in his system. He was released by the Wings and picked up by the Chicago Blackhawks.
He retired in 2003.
At times during his 17-year career where he racked up 3,300 penalty minutes, Probert could only play games in the United States. He couldn’t return home to Canada because U.S. immigration wouldn’t allow the convicted felon back into the country.
In February, he was acquitted of one misdemeanour and three felony charges that arose from a melee with Delray Beach, Fla., police who used Taser and touch stun guns to subdue him.