Edmonton constable facing disciplinary charges recently arrested witness, hearing told

A witness says the Edmonton police officer she testified against at a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday arrested her a week ago.  

Const. Nathan Downing is accused of assault and using racial slurs when he arrested Nasser El Hallak in March 2015.

Crystal Fox, 39, is El Hallak’s neighbour.

On Tuesday, Fox testified that she saw Downing repeatedly punch El Hallak four years ago while he was seated in the back of a police vehicle and co-accused Const. Nicholas Talvio stood watch.

“It was loud. [El Hallak] was asking ‘please stop,’ ” said Fox, referring to him by his nickname Rasta. “Rasta was spitting or vomiting puke or blood onto the ground.”

My assumption was, he’s only after me because he knew today he had trial with me.– Crystal Fox, witness

Fox identified the man allegedly punching El Hallak as Downing, who EPS confirmed has remained on patrol since he was charged with unnecessary use of force, deceit and discreditable conduct under the Police Act.

Fox told the hearing she had recently been “wrongfully charged” by Downing. 

Court records show Fox was charged for driving with a suspended license on May 27 —  the same day Downing’s hearing began.

Outside court, Fox provided more details about her arrest. She said Downing pulled up as she and some friends sat on the curb, near her vehicle, across from the Abbottsfield Recreation Centre.

Fox said her friend had been driving but Downing asked for Fox’s license and told her it had been suspended.

She alleges he put her in handcuffs, told her she was under arrest, didn’t read her her rights, and kept her in the back of a police vehicle for an hour and a half.

“Oh I was pretty shocked because when he came in, he’s like ‘Well, well Miss Fox,’ ” said Fox. “My assumption was, he’s only after me because he knew today he had trial with me.”

Two police officers testified Tuesday that they believed Downing’s accuser, Nasser El Hallak, was drunk when he was arrested.

‘Very incoherent’

On Tuesday afternoon, Downing’s counsel, Mike Danyluik, called Curtis Fermaniuk to testify, the constable’s acting supervisor at the time of the 2015 arrest.

Fermaniuk said he examined El Hallak while he was wearing a spit mask and spitting up blood in the back of the police vehicle. El Hallak had a facial injury and smelled faintly of alcohol, he said.

“He was very incoherent,” said Fermaniuk.

Staff Sgt. David Crisp, who manages the unit where El Hallak awaited bail, testified that he grew increasingly concerned and notified the duty officer.

“We had an allegation of assault by police that was starting to concern me,” said Crisp. “It appeared to be more credible. We also had a broken bone that had not been documented.”

Under cross-examination by Harris, Crisp agreed he received no new information that night that made the allegations seem more credible. But he said when El Hallak arrived, he appeared to be drunk. Later when he was more sober, his allegations remained consistent.

Downing and Talvio are expected to testify later this week.

‘Deeply troubling’

Lawyer Mustafa Farooq, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said it’s “deeply troubling” that it took four years to get to a disciplinary hearing while Downing has remained on the street.

“I think there’s a need to seriously examine … how it’s possible that an officer involved in a disciplinary hearing, is going out there, as of one week ago, and arresting people that are involved as witnesses in his own hearing,” said Farooq.

A spokesperson said Edmonton police could not respond to concerns raised by Farooq given the ongoing hearing.

“If the witness feels as though she was wrongly charged, I would encourage her to contact the EPS Professional Standards Branch to file a complaint,” wrote Cheryl Sheppard, EPS spokesperson.


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