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Burnaby man Tasered inside his home acquitted of assaulting, threatening police

Rajneel Maharaj,35, was acquitted of uttering threats and assaulting two police officers during what began as a wellness check and ended with him being Tasered by both officers.
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A 35-year-old Burnaby man Tasered twice by police in his own home during an "unlawful arrest" has been acquitted of threatening and assaulting the officers.

Rajneel Maharaj was charged in June 2022 with one count of uttering threats and two counts of assaulting a police officer.

After a one-day trial Wednesday, B.C. provincial court Judge Kathryn Denhoff acquitted Maharaj on all charges in a ruling Friday.

Maharaj was before the court because of an incident on June 10, 2022.

Two Burnaby RCMP officers, Const. Cole Rolland and Const. Tyler Duchesne-Read, responded to his home for a "wellness check," according to Denhoff.

She said Maharaj had called 911 while he was intoxicated, and he was "not making much sense to the dispatcher."

Maharaj was "very belligerent and smelled of alcohol" when the officers arrived, Denhoff said.

At one point, after a female family member accused him of being drunk, Maharaj made "physical contact" with her.

During the trial, Rolland had described the contact as a push, but Duchesne-Read had said it was more like a "tap" with one or two fingers, according to Denhoff.

Rolland had testified he considered the contact an assault, and he detained Maharaj and told him he would be arrested.

But Rolland never told Maharaj the reason for the impending arrest, making it unlawful, according to Denhoff.

At some point, Maharaj said to the officers "F**k you! I will f**k you up" and took a "fighting stance," according to Denhoff.

Rolland then said he was under arrest – again not saying why – and tried to grab his arm, Denhoff said.

A scuffle ensued during which both officers separately Tasered Maharaj.

During the altercation, Maharaj hit them both.

Duchesne-Read had told the court it was "impossible" to say if the blow that hit him was intentional, as Maharaj's arms were "flailing in the scuffle," according to Denhoff.

Denhoff said she wasn't convinced a punch to Rolland's forehead was intentional either.

"He had just been Tasered, which the officers testified impacts an individual's neurological system," she said.

In any case, Denhoff said Maharaj hadn't assaulted the officers because neither was "in the lawful execution of his duty at the time of the unlawful arrest."

"Mr. Maharaj was entitled to defend himself," she said.

Denhoff said the law requires officers to promptly tell people the reason for an arrest or a detention.

There are exceptions, such as when an officer doesn't have time to give an explanation, but Denhoff ruled that exception didn't apply in Maharaj's case.

Denhoff said it seemed "very unfortunate" that what began as a wellness check escalated into two officers Tasering Maharaj.

"In making these observations, the court recognizes that far too often police officers face challenges and sometimes dangerous situations with people who are belligerent, aggressive and intoxicated as Mr. Maharaj was that day," Denhoff said.

"While those situations sometimes require a physical response by the police, in this case, better communication would have likely gone a long way to avoid a situation which put Mr. Maharaj, his family members and the two police officers all at risk of injury."

Follow Cornelia Naylor on X/Twitter @CorNaylor
Email cnaylor@burnabynow.com