Not guilty verdict in Nanaimo self-defence stabbing trial

By Ian Holmes
March 9, 2019 - 8:25am Updated: March 9, 2019 - 10:03am

Matthew Dean Tremblay was acquitted in a stabbing which badly injured another man on Fifth St. on March 31, 2018. A BC Supreme Court judge ruled Tremblay acted in self-defence. File photo/NanaimoNewsNOW

Aftermath of a stabbing outside the former King Arthurs Court housing complex on March 31, 2018. Kyle Ireland/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — A BC Supreme Court judge ruled a man reasonably defended himself in the near-fatal stabbing of another man in Nanaimo's Harewood neighbourhood.

Justice Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten acquitted Matthew Dean Tremblay, 28, who was on trial for aggravated assault and assault with a weapon for stabbing a then 25-year-old man four times outside the former King Arthurs Court housing complex.

The judge said Tremblay acted appropriately after he was faced with an unprovoked attack by Brendan Lapoleon on the early morning hours of March 31, 2018, which was caught on video surveillance.

“After considering Mr. Tremblay's evidence in conjunction with the other evidence I am left with reasonable doubt that he was acting in unlawful self-defence, and as a result I must find him not guilty.”

Once the verdict was handed down, Lapoleon and several supporters immediately stormed out of the courtroom, some loudly shouting on the way out.

“Relax? Relax? He's getting away with murder!" one family member yelled.

Tremblay stabbed Lapoleon, who was unknown to him, four times with an eight to 10 inch folding knife. The trial heard Tremblay randomly met a group of people during the night in question, including Lapoleon's girlfriend.

Justice DeWitt-Van Ooosten said the evidence showed an apparent angry Lapoleon instigated the altercation by going after Tremblay. 

“The law does not require that a person who defends himself be expected to know exactly how to respond or to deal with the situation or to know how much force to use to achieve his purpose.”

The judge said under Canada's self-defence law, the person on the defensive is not required to retreat.

Justice DeWitt-Van Oosten said the evidence showed the much larger Lapoleon was upset his girlfriend wasn't home at the time and demanded to know who Tremblay was.

The altercation unfolded rapidly, with punching by Lapoleon and stabbing by Tremblay taking place essentially instantaneously, the Judge said.

Justice DeWitt-Van Oosten said there was no indication Tremblay brought the knife with him for a dangerous purpose.

During the trial, Tremblay testified he didn't believe his fists were enough to protect himself from the charging Lapoleon. 

Tremblay told court he didn't feel walking away was an option because he didn't want to turn his back on the advancing man.

Lapoleon was stabbed twice in the left abdomen, once on the arm and once on the groin. Court was told the life-threatening wound was to the groin where an artery was severed, causing significant blood loss and requiring life-saving surgery.

Numerous inconsistent accounts of the evening via statements to police and testimony during the trial were referenced by Justice DeWitt-Van Oosten.

Lapoleon, who was intoxicated at the time, testified he didn't recall what happened.

Following the stabbing, witnesses reported Tremblay taunted Lapoleon. Tremblay admitted to throwing the knife down a storm drain as he left. Tremblay was found two hours later by police hiding in a nearby trailer.

Tremblay initially told police it was Lapoleon who produced the knife, which the video contradicted.

The Judge said a prolonged lie during a police interview about the knife was not insignificant and was calculated by Tremblay in a bid to diminish his level of responsibility.

Tremblay was originally charged with attemped murder for the incident, which was later downgraded.

He sat quietly in the prisoner's box throughout the lengthy one hour and forty minute ruling.

Tremblay was escorted from the courtroom by sheriffs to a vehicle after the ruling for security purposes.

 

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