Sarnia man says COVID anxiety played into heated exchange with cop

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Alex Kurial/Local Journalism Initiative

Michel St. Jean plead guilty to causing a public disturbance following a confrontation with a Sarnia Police officer which he says was fueled in part by anxiety over a coming COVID-19 test.

St. Jean, 46, was driving behind his ex-wife on Apr. 17 this year when she was pulled over on Colborne Rd. St. Jean became upset by this and parked his truck behind his ex-wife’s vehicle and the police cruiser.

He got out of his truck and immediately began swearing at the officer, asking why he was being harassed and calling officer a goon.The officer told St. Jean to get back in his truck and leave.

St. Jean continued however, telling the cop . “Take the uniform off, you’re not so tough. I’ll kick your f****** ass.”

At this point the officer told St. Jean he was putting him under arrest. St. Jean began to run around his truck to avoid capture.

But when the officer pulled out his taser and pointed it at St. Jean he finally surrendered. The court heard there is a rocky history between St. Jean and the officer.

St. Jean claims the officer has harassed him and his ex-wife by pulling them over several times before, and that the officer called him a ‘lowlife’. But St. Jean did apologize for his actions.

Defense lawyer Luigi Perzia says St. Jean was never an actual threat to the officer. “There may be a history, but that history isn’t necessarily a history of Mr. St. Jean berating the officer,” says Perzia.

“It’s obviously not a positive history, but there have been no allegations of this kind.”

Perzia added that St. Jean was highly stressed that day after believing he had been exposed to COVID-19.

He says the pair were going to get his symptoms checked when they were pulled over.

Crown attorney David Nicol says the circumstances warrant counselling.

“This is certainly very concerning when an officer is trying to execute his duty and is being harassed and yelled at to the point where he actually felt that he needed to pull his taser and point it at Mr. St. Jean prior to him being arrested,” says Nicol.

“Individuals who behave in this way obviously have something underlying that needs to be addressed in order to ensure that type of behavior does not continue,” Nicol says.A joint submission of a conditional discharge with 12 months probation was accepted by Justice Deborah Austin.

The main probation term will be for St. Jean to take anger management counselling.

“The nature of the offense is troubling, but not one that… requires the registering of a conviction,” says Austin, noting that St. Jean has no criminal record.

“This is indicative of an anger issue that ought to be addressed through counselling in order to ensure that it does not occur in the future.”