Superior Court of Justice building in Windsor, Ontario, September 18, 2023. (Photo by Maureen Revait) Superior Court of Justice building in Windsor, Ontario, September 18, 2023. (Photo by Maureen Revait)

Arresting officers testify in day nine of Veltman trial

Warning: this article may contain content that is distressing for some readers.

The Nathaniel Veltman murder trial continued Friday with the questioning of Crown witness Constable Patti Leavoy-Costa of the London Police Service (LPS).

Cst. Leavoy-Costa was alone, driving in her cruiser in northeast London on June 6, 2021 when she heard the code 1 dispatch call for a motor vehicle crash with potentially multiple victims at 8:43 p.m.

It would later come out that Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal, and their 9-year-old son had been hit by a black Dodge pick up truck. The young boy was the only survivor.

In her testimony on Thursday, Leavoy-Costa told the jury that on her way to the scene of the crash she re-directed and headed to Cherryhill Mall to assist with the arrest of a suspect.

When Leavoy-Costa arrived to the mall parking lot she parked her cruiser in front of a damaged black pick up truck to prevent it from potentially leaving. On her way to assist other officers in making the arrest, Leavoy-Costa stopped to turn off the still running truck. She said she observed two knives, described as a machete and a pocket knife, and warned her colleagues for their own safety.

The LPS officer had just described Veltman as "tense and jumpy" when defence lawyer Christopher Hicks objected and court was ended for the day.

On Friday morning, Cst. Leavoy-Costa was called back to the stand by Assistant Crown Attorney Jennifer Moser and asked to pick up where they had left off.

Moser asked Leavoy-Costa to clarify what she meant by "tense and jumpy."

"He was stiff, his muscles were clenched and he was kind of bouncing around," she said in reference to the word "tense." In terms of the word "jumpy" Leavoy-Costa moved her shoulders up and down and told Moser that Veltman wasn't displaying "fluid movement."

Moser then asked for specifics about the search of Veltman as he was arrested. Leavoy-Costa said she told the officers conducting the search about the knives she had seen and recommended a more thorough search of the suspect.

She added that she helped to remove Veltman's bulletproof vest and put it on the hood of a cruiser before moving off to speak with cab driver Azzeddin Jahanghiri.

After speaking briefly with witnesses, Leavoy-Costa said she began to notice the damage to the truck. She mentioned that the driver's side was more damaged than the passenger side, both headlights were broken, paint was taken off, and "what appeared, to me, to be human tissue in the grill and on the hood of the truck." She added that what really drew her attention was "a piece of fabric wedged between the hood and the vehicle."

During cross examination, Hicks claimed that Leavoy-Costa's evidence was inconsistent. He mentioned that she didn't mention helping with the vest in her duty notes or will say statement and that in court she said she first saw Veltman on his knees with his hands behind his head, but previously she said she first saw him lying on his stomach.

Leavoy-Costa responded that when she was driving into the mall parking lot Veltman was on his knees, but the next time she looked over he was on the ground.

Hicks also took issue with the lack of time stamps in her notes.

"It was a fluid scene, my first thought was not to take out my duty book and take notes," she said.

The defence asked about gender-paired searches and whether it was unusual for a female officer to search a male suspect.

Leavoy-Costa told Hicks that LPS does try to have same gender searches if possible, but in the field it can be hard to do.

Hicks then mentioned that there were three officers involved in the pat down.

"The one thing I've learned in this job is complacency kills," Leavoy-Costa responded. She added that, especially when weapons could be involved, more eyes [hands] are always better.

The next witness called to the stand was Detective Constable Matthew Hietkamp.

Hietkamp confirmed that on June 6, 2021 he was a constable and was driving in a marked LPS SUV on his own.

He was dispatched "to locate a vehicle that fled from a hit and run" at 8:50 p.m.

Hietkamp said several other cruisers were at the Cherryhill Mall parking lot when he arrived and that the accused had already been arrested and was sitting in the back of Cst. Sarah Cochrane's cruiser.

When asked if he got a good look at Veltman in the car Hietkamp said yes.

"He was happy, he was smiling, looking around... he was giddy," he added.

Hietkamp was assigned to follow Cst. Cochrane and Veltman, who had been identified at that point, to police headquarters. He recalled that Veltman continued to look around, smiling for the entirety of the drive.

Hietkamp stayed with Cochrane and Veltman while he was booked and said the last time he was in contact with Veltman was when he escorted him to the first interview room where he waited for his phone call from duty counsel.

Moser then asked Hietkamp about his shift on June 12, 2021.

At 6:10 a.m. Hietkamp said he relieved an officer guarding Veltman's apartment. He added that he stayed at his post, not even leaving to use the washroom, until he was relieved around after 2 p.m.

Hicks briefly cross-examined Hietkamp before the jury was dismissed for the weekend.

Veltman has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and corresponding terrorism charges.

Court will resume at 10 a.m. on Monday.

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