WESTLOCK — A Westlock man who struck an RCMP officer with the door of his truck began serving a 15-day intermittent sentence over the Remembrance Day weekend.
At Westlock Court of Justice on Nov. 8, Steven David Buchak pleaded guilty to a single charge of assaulting a peace officer.
Justice Gordon Putnam sentenced Buchak in line with the joint submission from the Crown and defence to 15 days in jail, to be served on weekends at the Fort Saskatchewan Correctional Centre.
He must also abide by a probation order until his time is served.
Crown prosecutor Brett Grierson said that on June 24, 2023, an RCMP officer from the Westlock detachment conducted a traffic stop on a GMC pick-up truck at an unspecified location.
After the truck came to a complete stop, Grierson said Buchak got out of the vehicle and approached the RCMP officer.
“He was upset, swearing, flipping his middle finger at the officer,” the Crown added.
The officer asked Buchak to go back to his truck, but Buchak refused and continued to swear at him. He did, however, provide his driver’s licence and other vehicle documents.
Eventually, Buchak returned to his truck and the officer served him a ticket. Grierson said Buchak took the ticket, crumpled it and threw it in the truck.
“He then very rapidly opened the driver’s side door handle of the truck and struck the … RCMP officer with the door. No injury was caused, but this was done intentionally.”
Grierson noted that with an assault on a peace officer, denunciation and deterrence are the guiding principles in sentencing, and thus a jail sentence was appropriate despite the guilty plea and Buchak’s fairly dated record.
“Police officers deserve respect, especially when they are comporting themselves professionally,” Grierson said.
Defence lawyer Richard Forbes said that on the day of this incident, Buchak was particularly stressed due to a recent cancer diagnosis in his family.
Forbes added that his client bore some animus towards the RCMP from previous interactions with the police.
However, Buchak began seeing a counsellor of his own volition within a week of this incident, and that counsellor had written a letter indicating that he had made a lot of progress in terms of properly handling stress and reacting to people in authority.
Justice Putnam agreed this was a situation where a custodial sentence was appropriate, though it could be served intermittently given the other circumstances.
“(Police) deserve our respect. It’s part of how we construct our society: the rule of law. So the next time (you encounter the police), you have to have a different response,” he told Buchak.
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