Caledonia assault caught us off-guard: OPP

Maurice Cacho
The Hamilton Spectator
(Sep 15, 2007)

Police say they were caught off-guard by a confrontation that seriously injured a homebuilder Thursday afternoon at a disputed Caledonia subdivision.

"Had we seen something taking place, we would have definitely stepped in," said OPP Sergeant Dave Rektor.

The assault took place at the "exact opposite end" of a construction site where a protest, watched by police, was taking place, he said.

"We had no visual on this house at all, nor was there any reason to believe we needed to," he said. "We don't have a crystal ball, we can't predict where fights are going to break out."

The clash appeared to take place at about 4 p.m. Thursday.

Media standing at a yellow tape barricade at the top of Stirling Street saw natives running diagonally across the subdivision to the home on Kyler Court. They arrived at the house within a minute or two.

At the time, police were stationed at the barricade, with some just inside the top of the subdivision.

Other OPP officers were manning a post a block down Stirling Street where they turned away cars trying to approach the development.

Plainclothes police and one of the developers arrived at the home in time to see a group of youths emerge from behind the house and walk along a berm on the boundary of the site.

No one appeared to stop them.

Uniformed officers attended to builder Sam Gualtieri inside the home. An ambulance and fire truck arrived within five minutes.

Rektor said police's main priority was saving the life of the victim and making sure the person got the medical attention needed.

"The investigation is extremely important as well," he said, "but certainly the priority lies with saving the person."

Rektor said witnesses to Thursday's incident have been co-operating with police.

"We're getting help," he said. There are people on both sides who don't like what happened "and realized it sets everything back."

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino's office was contacted by The Spectator to speak to the events. A spokesperson said Fantino is on vacation outside the country and is unavailable for comment.

But Rektor said police have been instructed by Fantino to not tolerate criminal acts at protests.

Haldimand Mayor Marie Trainer said locals are upset at police .

"I feel bad for them because people are actually hating them," she said.

"They're in a no-win situation, and not of their doing."