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Accused officer says alleged victim struck first 'in a jealous rage'

'This shouldn't have happened. It was just a nightmare'
The Sault Ste. Marie Courthouse is pictured in this file photo. Michael Purvis/SooToday

Det. Const. Melanie Roach struck the first blow — a sucker punch to the side of his head — a fellow officer accused of assaulting her during an off-duty altercation last year, testified Monday.

Taking the witness stand in his own defence, Const. Jarrott Forsyth described Roach as drunk, belligerent and angry, yelling and swearing at him when he was at her Manitou Park residence in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 2016.

He said he was giving her girlfriend Lindsay Palmer a hug goodbye in the kitchen, when Roach "came exploding through the kitchen door."

Roach, whom he called a friend, demanded to know what he was doing, saying "that's my girlfriend," the 10-year member of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service stated.

She hit him a second time, he ducked a third punch, and grabbed her arms, he told his lawyer Bruce Willson.

"She's flailing her arms, punching me, pulling at my shirt and it ripped."

He denied that he was attempting to kiss Palmer, which both women testified last week that he was doing when Roach returned to the house. 

"Absolutely not," Forsyth insisted.

He has pleaded not guilty to assaulting both women.

Forsyth said he yelled at Roach to stop, telling her "how embarrassed you're going to be tomorrow."

Forsyth said he told Palmer to get out, and she ran into the living room, and as he and Roach entered that area he pushed "Mel and she fell back onto an ottoman."

He explained to Ontario Court Justice Richard Humphrey that he "kind of went down with her," told Roach "to f**king let me go," and "I gave her a punch on the mouth."

"It wasn't meant to hurt her," just to stop the attack.

Roach let go of him, and he said he told Palmer to get her shoes and that he would take her any place she wanted to go, and went into the kitchen.

Forsyth said he heard Roach saying to Palmer that she wasn't leaving, "I heard a slap, turned around and Lindsay was holding her face."

The officer said he didn't see his colleague strike her girlfriend, but she came at him "wildly," that he pushed her and warned if she came at him one more time, he was going to call the station.

"She said call the station you p***y  white boy," indicating "she would tell them I hit her first."

Roach came at him again, throwing punches. Palmer came into the kitchen, got in between them and told her to stop, Forsyth said.

He said he "scooped" Palmer out of way so she wouldn't be hurt and to protect himself, and told her to come with him.

"Mel says get out of my house white boy," he told Willson. "She spit at me, bloody spit."

He said he was telling Palmer to get her stuff because she needed to get out of the house, suggesting that Roach was "obviously attacking me in a jealous rage."

Forsyth testified that Palmer refused to leave with him and he ran out of the house, got into his truck and "peeled out of there."

The court heard the trio at been at a bonfire earlier that night at the home of two fellow officers.

Forsyth said he brought a 40-ounce bottle of whiskey, which had three to four ounces of liquor in it, to the gathering, and used it to make two drinks mixed with Coke. He also drank a can of Coors Light.

"Everything was good, a typical night," he testified, adding he noticed Roach was drinking quite a bit.

He texted his wife at 12:30 a.m. that he was leaving the bonfire at the east-end residence, then spent some time talking to two people, before heading home.

Forsyth said he hadn't driven very far when he received a text message from Det. Const. Alison Campbell, whose home was the site of the bonfire, indicating Roach was out of control and trying to fight.

He called Campbell, told her he would come back and get Roach and Palmer out of there "so nothing happened."

Forsyth texted Roach, asking if they needed a ride, and picked up the two women, whom he said had open bottles of beer when they got into his truck.

As they were driving to the women's home, Roach started talking about stopping at the Roadhouse for more beers, he said.

Forsyth told Willson he indicated he wasn't going to go there, and Palmer echoed him, saying she just wanted to go home.

The two women began to argue, Roach was "mean" to Palmer, calling her names and Forsyth said he thought it looked like a "typical domestic situation."

Roach calmed down, and wanted him to come in for a beer. He said he initially refused, but decided to go in to keep things calm.

The trio had a beer, and everything was normal, but when Roach got more beer, he refused to have any more and said he was going home. 

She began calling him names. "She was drunk. It was ridiculous," Forsyth said, indicating he didn't understand why she was threatening to beat up people.

When Roach said she wanted to go back to the party, he said both he and Palmer told her they didn't want to do that.

"Mel pushed Lindsay into a counter," he said. "Lindsay was upset and crying."

A "belligerent" Roach left the home, and Palmer asked him to go look for her, he said.

Forsyth said he went searching for his co-worker, telephoned and texted her, but she initially didn't respond.

At 2:39 a.m., she texted that she was getting yelled at and "I better come back."

He said he assumed she was back at the house and Palmer was yelling at her.

Forsyth drove back there, because "the way things were going that night I thought they were fighting."

"I went back to make sure everything was okay."

When he arrived at the home, Palmer told him Roach wasn't there and so he said he called Roach telling her where he was and to come home.

Palmer was upset, and told him every time Roach drinks she's got to fight, he told the court.

Forsyth said as he tried to calm Palmer down, he got a message from Roach, saying she was "going to punch me in the face."

The accused said he told Palmer he was leaving, asked if she wanted a ride somewhere, and when she indicated she was okay, he gave the woman, who was sitting on the kitchen counter, a hug. That's when Roach stormed into the room and the altercation ensued.

Forsyth told his lawyer he was "extremely upset" after he left the house. "It was probably the worst night of my life" and he didn't know what to do. 

He said when he left a voicemail message for another officer, he was feeling terrible, was crying and upset because Roach was a good friend of his.

"This shouldn't have happened. It was just a nightmare," he said. 

"I considered Mel a sister. I've never punched a woman in the face and I felt terrible about it," he added.

"She misinterpreted what happened when she came home and flew off the handle."

During cross-examination by assistant Crown attorney Kaely Whillans, he indicated he was probably Roach's closest friend among the group of the people at the bonfire, and agreed he was happy to help her out and take her home. 

She suggested he had done nothing after he left, to report what he had termed as "a typical domestic situation" involving the two women to police.

The Sudbury prosecutor referred to a text he sent Roach's supervisor 45 minutes after he arrived home.

The message used a derogatory term for women and suggested the supervisor "get rid of her."

"You didn't say go to her house and get Lindsay," Whillans said, to which he responded no, later agreeing he never said anything about a domestic situation or officially told anyone about assaults on Palmer.

The court also heard from Det. Const. Robert Pauli, who was at the bonfire.

He said he was laughing and joking with Const. Lindsey Pilkington, who is a speed skater, about racing each other.

Roach, who was sitting on the other side of the fire, began "chirping" and swearing, saying, "this is bulls**t. A f**king woman can do anything better than a guy," Pauli said.

The 23-year police service member said Roach stood up, said she doesn't run from anyone, that "I'll take on any f**king guy., I'll take on any white boy."

Pauli said he was disgusted and everyone was in shock.

"She was angry, belligerent and it was obvious she was looking to start something."

During cross-examination by the Crown, the defence witness said he "was extremely offended when she started making racial comments."

Campbell, who along with her husband, hosted the party, said she commented that as a runner she had found that sometimes women aren't as physically strong as men.

The officer, who grew up in the same neighbourhood as Forsyth, has known him for 28 years, and been friends with him for 10 years, said Roach retorted that cops don't run, or chase people. "You f**king punch them in the head."

Pilkington testified that she didn't recall hearing Roach saying anything.

The lawyers will make their closing arguments Tuesday. 

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About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 45 years.
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